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of the
Mediterranean World
Blog Archive
Volume 6

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The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

William Caraher

Volume 6

Recommended Reading
Below is a sample of writing for the bloggy-blog this year to guide your reading
An Archaeology of Care ........................................................................................................... 164
Visions of Substance: 3D Imaging in Mediterranean Archaeology:
The Book .................................................................................................................................... 493
The War with the Sioux: Open Access Teaser ..................................................................... 178
Writing for a Non-Academic Audience is Hard ................................................................... 86
The War with the Sioux: The Book........................................................................................ 174
Sacred Places and Landscapes in the Early Christian World.............................................. 499
Mobilizing the Past Workshop Review, Part 1 ..................................................................... 434
Some thoughts on the Bakken Boom Exhibit at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo ....... 476
The Real History of Assessment ............................................................................................. 199
More Early Byzantine and Late Roman Cyprus ................................................................... 491
Responses to Writing for a Non-Academic Audience is Hard .......................................... 84
How to Attract New Audiophiles........................................................................................... 531
Carl Blegen in the Warm Greek Sun ...................................................................................... 410
Mobilizing the Past Workshop Review, Part 2 ..................................................................... 431
Always Touch the Art............................................................................................................... 347
Objects and Artifacts ................................................................................................................ 456
Changing Landscapes of Rural Cyprus .................................................................................. 311
Key Tech in an Archaeologists Tool Kit ............................................................................... 474
Teaching Tuesday: The Lecture Problem.............................................................................. 100
Bacon Mac and Cheese, Entitlement, and the End of the Universe................................. 114
The Long Dark Tunnel of Sabbatical .................................................................................... 525
Pierre MacKay ........................................................................................................................... 275
In Praise of Parking................................................................................................................... 338
Atari: Game Over: Movie Review .......................................................................................... 536
Some Thoughts on Archaeology Beyond Postmodernity .................................................. 194
Summer Reading List................................................................................................................ 336
News from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota .................................... 232
Audiophiles, Sciences, and Democracy ................................................................................. 442
Byzantium and the Public Sphere ........................................................................................... 379
The Future of a More Public Byzantium ............................................................................... 350
Late Roman Pottery on Kythera and Middle Byzantine Pottery
from Thebes and Chalkis ......................................................................................................... 486
Early Byzantine Pottery from Kenchreai .............................................................................. 157
A Weekend Walking and Talking Man Camps ..................................................................... 417
Memory of Hittite Monuments in Asia Minor ..................................................................... 529
Toward an Ottoman Archaeology .......................................................................................... 231
Slow Archaeology and Local Context .................................................................................... 464
Objects, Clones, Context ......................................................................................................... 45
Defining an Early Christian Archaeology .............................................................................. 374
The Present State of my Punk Archaeology ......................................................................... 88
Alt-Ac in Archaeology .............................................................................................................. 108
iPadless Archaeology ................................................................................................................ 408

The Historian and the Greek Crisis ....................................................................................... 241

A Brief Contribution to Archaeogaming: Zombie Games ................................................. 166
Books and Libraries .................................................................................................................. 321
An Open Access Archive for North Dakota Quarterly ...................................................... 121
The Fleas .................................................................................................................................... 286
Some Thoughts on Grade Inflation ....................................................................................... 483
Ruins and Memories ................................................................................................................. 450
An Open Letter to the Empire Theater ................................................................................ 176
Storage Wars .............................................................................................................................. 403
Funding Academic Publishing ................................................................................................ 180
Beyond the Book....................................................................................................................... 376
Abandonment and Commemoration in the North Dakota Bakken ................................. 225
Narrating Archaeology ............................................................................................................. 502
Modern Archaeology in Classical Contexts .......................................................................... 472
A Weekend Walking and Talking Man Camps, Part 2 ........................................................ 412
Some thoughts on Archaeology after Interpretation........................................................... 142
Working on Workforce Housing in the Bakken .................................................................. 522
Summers are for Ideas .............................................................................................................. 306
Some more thoughts on assessment ...................................................................................... 90
Some Thoughts on Writing a 21st Century History Textbook.......................................... 80
The Church at Merbaka ........................................................................................................... 155
More on ISIS and the Destruction of Antiquities................................................................ 159
Lessons from a Sabbatiquoll ................................................................................................... 357
Final Sabbatical Report ............................................................................................................ 214
Media Archaeology and Archaeology of Media ................................................................... 144
Reflecting on an Ethics of Circulation................................................................................... 186
A Guide to Byzantine Greece ................................................................................................. 239
Traveling through Non-Place? ................................................................................................ 302
Off-the-shelf Technology in Archaeology ............................................................................ 462
Articulating Atari ....................................................................................................................... 360
Agency and Object Biography ................................................................................................ 295
Industrial Archaeology and Student Resistance ................................................................... 258
Speed and the Academy ........................................................................................................... 448
Archaeogaming, Red Mars, and Future Archaeology .......................................................... 20
Harvest Value: Reprinting North Dakota Quarterly ........................................................... 453
More on Slow Archaeology ..................................................................................................... 439
New Work on Churches in the Peloponnesus ..................................................................... 140
What if I Recorded a Podcast? ................................................................................................ 482
The University of North Dakota and the Great War:
The First North Dakota Quarterly Reprint .......................................................................... 64
The Soon and the Summer ...................................................................................................... 381
Slow Archaeology: Another Draft .......................................................................................... 206
First Snow .................................................................................................................................. 71
Teaching Tuesday: First Day of Class Film Strip ................................................................. 189
From North Dakota Quarterly on Slow and Peace ............................................................. 467
Sabbaticals, Study Guides, and the Man Camp Dialogues ................................................. 440
Polis Notebooking Season ....................................................................................................... 315
Booking at the Speed of Blog ................................................................................................. 507

Three Unrelated Things:

the Homeshow, Lemonskinheads, and the UND Writers Conference ............................ 388
Surviving Sabbatical: Tourism, Landscapes, and The American West ............................. 401
Weeks of Wonder...................................................................................................................... 364
An Update on The Tourist Guide to the Bakken ................................................................ 220
Managing the Modern in Intensive Survey ........................................................................... 299
The Greek Crisis........................................................................................................................ 241
Efficiency .................................................................................................................................... 252
Revisions of Slow Archaeology ............................................................................................... 53
Some Notes on Recording a Podcast ..................................................................................... 334
The Tourist Guide to the Bakken: A Preface ....................................................................... 212
Duluth, Two Harbors, and Lake Superior ............................................................................ 66
Slow Archaeology, Publishing, and Collaboration ............................................................... 345
Travelers Accounts and Formation Processes...................................................................... 308
Archer, Atari, and Tourism...................................................................................................... 369
North Dakota Quarterly and Wormholes ............................................................................. 97
Two Short Things on Writing ................................................................................................. 31
A Literary Journal in the Digital Age ..................................................................................... 202
The Archaeology of Home in the Bakken Oil Patch .......................................................... 14
Notebooks .................................................................................................................................. 254
Oversleeping .............................................................................................................................. 287

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

December 18, 2015
The semester is almost over (but for the grading), the footballing season is getting interesting, and
the boys of summer are at it down under. And there are the holidays with all that they entail.
I expect most of my loyal readers will be watching the epic Richmond Spiders vs. North Dakota
State Bizon (thats how they spell it, folks; and, yes, its strange) tilt this evening, but for those who
arent heres a little list of quick hits and varia:

Some views of Constantinople from the Trinity College Library, Cambridge.

Agatha Christie and archaeology in Montreal.

More on the throne of Agamemnon (or his basin). Heres the backstory in links from
Dimitri Nakassis: start here, then read this, and then this.

Ongoing work at Lecheion.

From Kostis Kourelis this morning: Greece was Syria.

Congrats to all the good folk who earned NEH grants this year, but special congratulations
go to Andrew Reinhard at the American Numismatic Society,the folks at Open Context,

Emily Guerin writes about money based on her time in the Bakken.

A short story based on the Atari dig.

Reasons that we cant teaching writing in college.

North Dakota Quarterlys nominations for the Pushcart Prize: The Best of Small Presses.

Go check out Concordias fine little journal called Ascent.

And I cant tell you how excited I am about the Elwyn Robinson memoirs project.

Everything about the Omega Speedmaster.

What Im reading: Saskia Sassen, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global
Economy. 2014.

What Im listening to: Frank Sinatra, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra; Nat King Cole,
The Christmas Album; Bing Crosby, Merry Christmas; and, of course, Various Artists, A Christmas
Gift to you from Phil Spector.

Milo is a Spiders fan!

Revisiting the Elwyn Robinson Memoirs Project

December 17, 2015
Years ago, when I was working on writing my History of the Department of History at the University of
North Dakota, I stumbled across Elwyn Robinsons memoirs tucked away in the UND archives. It
was titled A Professors Story and offered a revealing glimpse of both Robinsons life and his work in
the Department of History and writing his landmark History of North Dakota. (For more on it, see
here and here.)
For the last few years, I had this idea that I could publish his memoirs in 2016 to celebrate the 50th
anniversary of his History of North Dakota. Ill admit that I didnt have a great plan for how to do this,
but I kept a slot open for the production in my capacity as publisher of The Digital Press at the
University of North Dakota.
This is when Prof. Sherry ODonnell and Michele Eifert entered the picture. I offered the
manuscript to Sherrys editing class in the English Department at UND to give them some practical
experience preparing a manuscript for publication. This class spent the semester working through
Robinsons manuscript, preparing focused introductions to each chapter, and even working on
format and type-setting. Yesterday, I finally got to see the fruit of their labor!
The result of their work is spectacular. The students pride and enthusiasm in discussing this project
reminded me of the importance of making in the academic process and gives me great hope that
the Robinsons memoirs will be published in 2016.

Practice and Process in Archaeology

December 16, 2015
Over the weekend, I read Mary Leightons Excavation methodologies and labour as epistemic
concerns in the practice of archaeology. Comparing examples from British and Andean
archaeology which appeared in Archaeological Dialogue 22.1 (June 2015), 65-88. The article
compares a British and an Andean archaeological project to demonstrate how excavation practice
plays a key role in understanding how archaeologists produce knowledge. Leightons argument
focuses on the disjunction between discussions of archaeological method (and methodology) and
what actually goes on during a dig. For Leighton, archaeological methods have become a black
box (to use Latours term) in which a wide range of different practices take place, but are occluded
from critical scrutiny. Leighton suggests that the variation in how projects implement established
practices and procedures influences the results that these projects produce.
Her two case studies demonstrate the differences in archaeological field practice in the Andes where
local communities provide unskilled and inexperienced labor for archaeological projects, graduate
students document the work, and experienced archaeologists manage the labor, work flow, and
results. In the U.K., Leighton looks at CRM practices that use the MoLAS model (Museum of
London Archaeological Service). This model features single context, open area excavation and the
archaeologists responsible for documenting work are also the primary excavator. The use of Franco
Harris Matrices ensures that the individual contexts align immaculately across the site (ok, I made
part of that up, but she does argue that the use of Harris Matrices to document archaeological
events allows for comparisons between areas at a single site.) In short, the British MoLAS model is
organized horizontally, whereas the Andean model is organized vertically.
Leighton draws some interesting conclusions about how these two forms of organization function
on the ground. For example, she argues that in the example from Andean archaeology,
archaeologists and excavators function as interchangeable cogs in a machine because the work of
archaeology is to reveal objects (however broadly construed) in the ground. In the more apparently
democratic system from the U.K., it is nearly impossible to separate the archaeologist from the
interpretative process that produces an archaeological event which is ultimately represented as a box
in the Harris Matrix. As a result, archaeologists appear vital to process. At the same time, the use of
standardized forms and practices in the British system hints at another reality: the professional gaze
of the archaeologist is focused on one particular area of the site, documented in a consistent way,
and lacks a larger, synthetic perspective.
Leighton concludes two things from an article rich in detailed observation. First, that the
micropolitics of fieldwork shape archaeological results outside of the prevailing conversation
about field methods, procedures, and processes. The result is that two projects with very different
field practices will appear to employ similar methods and to produce comparable results. The other
conclusions generalizes this situation by arguing that British and North American archaeology has
dominated conversations about methodology and expectations of best practices have been projected
across the global south (and, Id contend, the Mediterranean littoral). The process of black boxing
field practices occludes the variation across projects and the reasons for this variation. If the tools
we use shape the know that we produce, we should not underestimate the importance the
organization of labor, the individual excavator, and the implementation of methods on how we
understand the past.

December 15, 2015
Im totally enamored by the little series from Bloomsbury Press titled Object Lessons. The books
are small (and I have a thing for well done, small books). The feature eye-catching covers with
relatively simple graphic designs. The name of the series is printed at the top of each cover in all
caps, in a simple sans serif font with the word Object in white and Lessons in grey and no gap
between the words. The title of the individual books appears in a different sans-serif font, lower-case
letters below the graphic in bold white against the covers black background. The authors name is
below the title and shares the primary colors of the cover graphic.

Brian Thills book, Waste, is beautiful little essay on the role of waste in our lives. He documents
through vivid case studies some of the physical, digital, and chemical waste that we produce every

day and that infiltrates our lives. The chapter titled Million Year Panic caught my attention
because Im thinking a bit about a short chapter on the American West for our little book on the
Alamogordo Atari Expedition. Thill makes explicit the link between sites like the Waste Isolation
Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico and the dump of Atari games in Alamogordo. (His
work echoes many of the sentiments in Lippards Undermining, which I discuss here).
Thill locates WIPP and the Atari dump at the intersection of our desperate realization that when
were gone, our waste may no longer have meaning. He recounts how the designers of the WIPP
facility solicited suggestions from around the world on how to mark this site as dangerous and toxic
for tens of millions of years. The result was the Expert Judgement on Markers to Deter Inadvertent
Human Intrusion into the WIPP (.pdf) which produced numerous recommendations on how to
mark out the site as deadly. Conversely, the excavation of the Atari games looked to recover our
wasted youth and to determine whether it still held meaning.
Both the WIPP and the Atari dump fall in part of the world which contemporary society has tended
to see as a marginal. In the last 70 years, we have dropped atomic bombs, buried radioactive
material, and dumped high tech waste in the deserts of the American West (not to mention mining,
syphoning of water, and selling off of land), and this activity has generally neglected the delicate
ecosystems and, more importantly, disregarded the rights of indigenous communities in this area. In
other words, the discarding of waste in the southwest, reflects not just increasingly outdated views
of the desert ecology, but also views of race and culture propelled forward by the seemingly
inexorable pace and priorities of capitalism.

More Slow Archaeology

December 14, 2015
Over the weekend, I made more headway in revising my slow archaeology article. Addressing some
of this papers reviewers, I introduced some of the ideas of slow archaeology earlier in the paper and
also tried to situate my own position of privilege.
Slow archaeology draws upon ideas developed both amid a scholarly critique of speed and in the
more popular slow movement. Scholarly criticism of speed is most frequently associated with larger
critiques of modern capitalism. For David Harvey, for example, the speed of capital in
contemporary society has outstripped human conceptions of time and space, and led to the
annihilation of space by time through time-space compression (Harvey 1990). Marc Aug (1995)
recognized the speed of the contemporary world as a significant contributor to the serialized
production of non-places which exchange the distinguishing characteristic of place for the efficiency
of legibility. Paul Virilio, in his concept of dromology, has stressed the transformative aspects of
speed and perhaps more importantly acceleration in modern society. Beginning with the industrial
revolution the drive to make things and processes faster, more efficient, and more connected has
become an end unto itself. For Virilio, speed produces a distinct realm of experience and knowledge
(Virilio 1995; James 2007, 31-32). A traveler in a car both experiences and produces the landscape in
a way that is distinct from the experience of the landscape on foot (Virilio 2001). Hartmut Rosa
(2013), following Virilio and Aug, argues that the rapidly shrinking present has created a kind of
fluid, unstable, and unfamiliar world.
The popular media has explored a critique of speed through concepts like slow food which
celebrates the deliberate preparation of locally sourced food stuff as a challenge to the homogenized
and generic fast food experience. Initially championed by the Italian activist Carlo Petrini (2003), the
idea of slow has offers a way to summarize a wide range of criticism of the speed of contemporary
life. Carl Honor (2004) and others have extended the Petrinis idea of slow to a wide ranging
critique of the cult of speed in the modern world. These writers have endured criticism, of course,
especially from those who see the opportunities to slow down as only possible because of prosperity
provided by the inhuman efficiency of the industrial world. Despite these critiques, these authors
have offered practical advice on how to slow down individual engagements with the world. Petrini,
for example, celebrates local food ways. Honor advises that we set aside time to unplug and to
savor the pleasures of experience without interruption or mediation.
Slow archaeology calls upon archaeologists to recognize the influence of speed on archaeological
practice. This paper will not call on archaeologists to discard their digital tools or reject the
remarkable benefits of technology for a romanticized past. Instead, I will offer a critique of both
certain digital practices and, perhaps more importantly, the way in which these tools are described
and promoted in the scholarly discourse. I remain skeptical that archaeology will benefit from tools
that offer greater efficiency, consistency, and accuracy alone, and my hope is that this skepticism has
particular significance at a time when a new generation of digital tools are entering the field.
Unpacking the implications of our use of digital tools and the adoption of streamlined practices
require some attention to the intersection of scientific and industrial practices in archaeology. At the

same time, the recent growth of contract, salvage, and rescue archaeology has made the influence of
speed and capital on archaeological work particularly visible. While similar pressures have long
existed for academic archaeologists, the pressures of development and the efficient management of
heritage as a resources have provided ample reason for the enthusiastic adoption of digital tools and
practices. The goal of slow archaeology is, on the one hand, to recognize archaeological work and
the particular emphasis on efficiency, economy, and standardization in digital practices within the
larger history of scientific and industrial knowledge production. This chapter also seeks to carve out
space within the proliferating conversation about digital archaeology for practices and tools that
embrace the complexity of archaeological landscapes, trenches, and objects. In this way, slow
archaeology recognizes that the presentation and publication of archaeological tools and arguments
tends to simplify the impact of technologies and the often-messy relationship between evidence and
argument. In this way, slow archaeology finds common cause with Eric Kansas recent interest in
slow data, which recognizes and embraces the complex, dynamic, and profoundly human
character of archaeological datasets.
My position as a tenured, academic archeologist provides a distinct professional context for slow
archaeology. I recognize that my arguments for a slow archaeology come from a position of
privilege. I am an academic archaeologist who relies on his research for professional advancement,
but not professional survival. I have tenure, and as a result, I can be more deliberate in the race
against the clock to produce publications. I also have the good fortune to work on archaeological
projects with the manpower, time, and funding that align closely with our research objectives. These
luxuries have allowed us to consider a wide range of archaeological documentation processes
without particular concern for efficiency. We have deployed range of digital tools and practices from
the use of iPads and structure-from-motion (SfM) 3D imagine to now standard reliance on
differential GPS units, relational databases, and GIS. This article then is not the frustrated
expressions of a Luddite outsider, but an argument grounded in familiarity with digital field

Friday Varia and Quick Hits

December 11, 2015
As the semester winds down and the holidays loom lustrously around the corner, The Archaeology
of the Mediterranean World begins to put its house in order and try to regain some of its focus (or
maybe that just the author of the Archaeology of the Mediterranean World). Now is the time when
academics catch up on those shelved writing projects, read those dusty books and articles, and
concoct their syllabi for next semester.
We also sit back and watch some cricket, look frantically for unique gifts, and trudge from one
holiday party to the next.

In the meantime, here are some quick hits and varia:

Melonkarona for the holidays.

More archaeogaming.

Byzantium is Everywhere. Star Wars as saints.

Byzantium is even in Google Maps.

Keep an eye on North Dakota Quarterly next week (and every week).

The violent life of recycled plastic.

Digital Revolution in Rural Womens Studies.

Washingtons letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport.

Lots of new books in the humanities. Keep reading.

Conversion by Twitter.

Microsoft Live Writer lives on!

Bare shelves (and bare lives), but who has time to read when there are so many new books.

What Im reading: Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke 2010.

What Im listening to: Neil Young, On the Beach.


North Dakota Quarterly 80.4-82.4

December 10, 2015
Im pretty excited to announce that a rare, time-spanning, wormholing issue of North Dakota
Quarterly is back from the printers and heading to your mailbox soon. (If you dont subscribe, dont
panic. Do nothing for about 4 days and then go and subscribe when we have our new online
subscription service set up next week!).
This is a hint stay tuned.
Heres my draft of a press release. Ill post the finalized version over at when its
It is with great pleasure that we announce the publication of North Dakota Quarterly 80.4-82.4:
Welcome to the Wormhole. This combined issue was guest edited by Lucy Ganje, Nuri Oncel, and
Eric Wolf and uses the image of the wormhole to celebrate the THEMAS movement. THEMAS is
an acronym for Technology, Humanities, Engineering, Mathematics, Arts, and Sciences and it is
poised to replace STEM as the shorthand litany of skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century
economy and society.
The cover illustrations of a swirling NDQ Wormholes draw the reader into the issue. The poetry of
Sarah Eliza Johnson, Anna Leahy, Katharine Coles, and others demonstrates that the ancient
traditions of scientific and ethical in verse remain very much alive. Coles reflection on the body
scientific and Leahys embodied reading of her fathers exposure to uranium provides an almost
perfect epilogue to Tom Leskiws essay on the arts and sciences as twin siblings. Cindy Hunter
Morgans poetic engagement with the fading Rothko Harvard Murals nudges the reader toward
Nathan J. Bols essay Flint Hills Lost which reflected on the aged, fading grandeur or the Great
Plains. The arresting images of Nuri Oncels and Betsy Thadens Nano Art converse with Sarah
Eliza Johnsons Nanomachine sequence of poems. There is much more to explore and sample.
The tte-bche binding of this double issue evokes distorted time-space of the wormhole and the
forgotten tradition of binding pairs of science-fiction novels together in the golden age of dimesstore fiction. Kenneth Kings essay reminds us of the potency of the past and future crossroads,
Kimberly Millers poetry evokes ancient days (Duria Antiquior), and Paisley Rekdals verse takes
us further back to the Paleo. In keeping with this recursive attitude, Sharon Carson invokes the
almost-lost reviewers art and introduces a group of compelling review essays. There is little doubt
that the innovative THEMAS movement finds in venerable genres new paths to the future. We
think this captures the spirit of North Dakota Quarterly as well.
Be sure to check out for selections in this volume and more!


Rejiggering Slow Archaeology

December 9, 2015
This week I began in earnest the process of re-writing and rejiggering my slow archaeology article
(and Ive started talking about this rejiggering process here and comparing these two posts is fun. I
wrote one before I started working on revisions and the post today comes after a few days of work).
Ive been looking forward to this task with equal parts excitement and dread. I think a couple of
weeks of work will either make this paper look much better or like Tom Cruise in vanilla sky.
After a few days of work on it, I think that I have three mains things that I need to sort out without
doubling the length of the paper or adding complications where none are necessary.
1. Streamline. One of the things that Im really struggling with right now is how to summarize two
key trends in discipline of archaeology in the first 2000 words: the history of science and the history
of industrial practices in archaeology. The former establishes a division between archaeological
data which is collected in the field and analyzed later. The latter organizes the division of labor
around that distinction with the trench supervisor, field director, or project director taking on the
role of analyst or interpreter and workmen, student excavators, or less experienced archaeologists
being responsible for data collection.
The history of science is an overwhelmingly vast and complex topic and the dichotomy between
data and analysis may parallel the division between nature (i.e. data in the raw) and culture
(i.e. the lens through which we interpret the data) that scholars like Bruno Latour have sought to
demonstrate derives from an intentionally distorted view of practice. For Latour, practice even in
the hard sciences reveals that data and analysis, and nature and culture, are so deeply intertwined
that distinguishing the two concepts obscures the reality of both scientific work and our natural
This is significant for digital archaeology because it calls into question any approach that isolates
data collection as a process from epistemological and analytical priorities. While this might be a
strawman in the context of archaeological practice, Id contend that the recent interest in
archaeological technology often privileges the work of data collection as separate from larger
discussions of research methods, analysis, and goals. This is not to suggest that this hasnt always
been in the case in archaeology, but that we can do better.
More than that: I need to do a better job in my slow archaeology paper establishing the disconnect
between discussions of digital practice and analysis.
2. Anticipate. My first draft of the slow archaeology paper was naive. I neither anticipated objections
nor defined my terms well hoping that my audience would more or less buy into my big picture
arguments without scrutinizing the details too closely.
The paper has gone through two peers reviews and numerous critical conversations with friends and
colleagues. More than that, my ideas have been engaged in scholarly works that appeared over the
past year or are due to appear in the coming volume. What is clear is that my ideas have been too
frequently conflated with a kind of anti-technology Luddism rather than a critical approach to how
archaeologists talk about and use technology.

I also need to unpack the term deskill a bit. I used this term in various versions of my paper to
discuss how technology can undermine the development of certain skills among field archaeologists
which archaeologists developed in the analogue realm, but nevertheless had important benefits to
the process of producing archaeological knowledge in the field. The most obvious example of is
illustrating a trench plan. In recent years, the advantages of using structure-from-motion to capture
3D images of the trench has replaced the painstaking and time consuming practice of illustration (in
fact, we experimented with this on my project in Cyprus). At its most basic, this practice involves
taking a series of photographs of the cleaned trench which are then analyzed by software to produce
a 3D image. If necessary, a plan can be made from this image. Traditionally, the task of preparing a
trench plan for an excavation context requires the trench supervisor to carefully scrutinize the
trench and to prepare an illustration that captures the relationships between various visible features.
This is a skill, developed at trench side and deeply embedded in the interpretative process of
archaeology, that the move to digital practices will erode. The argument that the use of new tools
will encourage the development of new skills is reasonable, but the case must be then made that
these new skills will benefit the field.
3. Position myself. Both reviewers called me out on my privileged position within academia. In the
first draft of this paper, I acknowledge that Im a white, male, tenured professor who does not feel
any unusual pressure to publish the result of my field work (although I do publish regularly and at
what I think to be reasonable standards). I also have had the good fortune of solid funding, staffing,
and expectations on my projects. I have only rarely felt pressure to work more efficiently in the field
or race to finish our work before the end of a season. This may mark a certain lack of ambition on
my part, but I also think that it reflects a deliberate approach to field work that makes the push for
ever greater levels of efficiency, rates speed, and quantity of data unnecessary to accomplish research
I obviously recognize the difference between my approach to archaeological work and that of folks
who work in the CRM industry or scholars who are working in more difficult, endangered, and
limited environments where political, economic, or even military pressures require rapid work to
document archaeological remains. Im aware that many academic archaeologists have to meet
publication expectations and there is pressure within the discipline to do more, publish more,
document more. In fact, Im broadly sympathetic with those who argue that nearly all archaeology is
salvage archaeology pushed forward by the need to harvest the remains of the past for academic
advancement, publications, heritage, or to clear the way for development. My call for a slow
archaeology is unlikely to serve as a break on these pressures and is a product of a particularly
privileged position both in relation to the past and in my discipline.


The Archaeology of Home in the Bakken Oil Patch

December 8, 2015
A year or so ago we submitted a manuscript to a top-tier archaeology journal describing our North
Dakota Man Camp Project. It was a long manuscript 12,000 words, it was descriptive and report-y,
and tried to say everything at once. It came as no little surprise, then, when we received a revise and
resubmit request from the journal along with some really positive (and critical) comments. It turns
out that our article was far worse than our project (at least we hope). We hope this article is better.
I make a couple of maps yesterday using the really great data from the North Dakota GIS Hub.
A year later, were ready to resubmit, and this marks one of the few tangible results of my sabbatical
(so far?):
View this document on Scribd


Man Camps, Domesticity, and the Bakken

December 7, 2015
Over the past week, Capital Lodge near Tioga announced it was closing permanently. It was one of
the biggest camps in the Bakken and at its peak could accommodate over 2000 workers and had
infrastructure capacity including its own sewage treatment facility for 3000. News reports
indicate that it cost close to $30 million to set up.
The owners of the Capital Lodge suffered from the decline in oil prices and activity in the Bakken
and when the camp closed it had only around 100 residents. We visited Capital Lodge in August and
guess that many of those were employees of the lodge. The decision to close the facility came at the
end of some rather lengthy negotiations to try to rezone the camp either as an extended stay hotel or
to move at least part of the camp to another site in the region. The reluctance by the community to
allow the camp to be rezoned (and the economically unfriendly conditions attached to the setting
the camp up elsewhere in the region) represented as much market forces as the local media spun it
as decisions made by the local communities.
The decisions made by communities in the patch with regard to temporary workforce housing have
received national attention. The city of Williston, for example, has established a moratorium on new
camps and has a date for camps to depart from city limits. RV parks and the like are under pressure
as well as they try either to renegotiate their zoning or find ways to continue to generate revenue as
the boom slows to a crawl. Over the last few months, I have received calls from national and local
media and financial firms from across the US asking my thoughts on the man camp situation in the
This has led to me to think about how the communities in the Bakken are asserting their autonomy
during this lull (lets say) in the boom. First, many observers have critiqued the role that the state of
North Dakota has played in encouraging the rapid acceleration of oil related activity in the Bakken.
There is no doubt that lax regulation, low taxes, and various incentives made it appealing for
companies to invest in their Bakken operations and persist with them even as the price of oil has
declined. The state not only accelerated the impact of the boom in the Bakken, but also prolonged
the boom even as it became clear that the price of oil could not longer support the more costly
extractive processes used in the Bakken.
Under these circumstances, local communities often struggled to accommodate the rapidly growing
workforce, the infrastructural demands of the oil industry, and the social pressures associated with
the boom. Since local communities had very little control over what goes on outside their limited
territorial jurisdiction, they often sought extra territorial authority from the counties or to expand
the city boundaries and by-and-large were granted these rights. Even these expanded rights,
however, did not impact the state policies that dictated the extent and pace of oil work in the region.
City and county authority can influence the inventory of workforce housing, however, and recent
decisions by both counties and city councils have demonstrated a growing reluctance to allow
temporary workforce housing to expand or persist unfettered in their communities.
To be clear, Im skeptical whether these communities decisions to limit temporary workforce
housing is the right one. Since most work in the oil field is temporary, expecting short-term oil field
workers to sign leases or purchase housing in a community is unrealistic. At the same time, I do

recognize the strategies used by these communities represent a kind of control over the processes
associated with the oil boom. Cities and counties have virtually no control over the extractive
process, but they do have control over the social impact of these processes.
Efforts to limit the extent of temporary housing is not just about making it harder for oil companies
and related industries to expand the number of workers in a community. While there are tax
implications associated with permanent housing either in apartments or houses, Id argue that this
isnt simply an economic decision on the part of these communities.
In the Bakken, man camps and workforce housing stand as a challenge to traditional notions of
domesticity. Traditional domestic space accommodates family life whereas temporary workforce
housing serves single individuals, typically men, who live in dormitory style rooms and dine in
communal space. Traditional domestic space is stable and permanent, whereas workforce housing
whether prefabricated and mobile man camps or RV parks are inherently mobile and temporary.
The investment in permanent housing recalls the investment in the traditional family and the
importance of property and fixity in both the myth of American life and in the economic and social
life of local communities. Finally, traditional domesticity continues to play a key role in the dominant
discourse of morality. The fixity of domestic life and the presence of the family reinforces
accountability in the context of traditional morality.
Managing workforce housing, then, presents an opportunity for local communities to exert control
in a situation that is largely dictated by the state and by transnational corporation. They do this by
appealing to traditional domesticity and the economic, social, and moral controls inherent in these
long-standing structures.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

December 4, 2015
Its been a while since Ive corralled various links into a quick hit and varia post.
In my defense, Ive been busy. Go check out my most recent podcast or read what Ive been doing
over at North Dakota Quarterly.
So without further ado:

A new editor for the American Journal of Archaeology.

A new book on Late Antique spolia by an Isthmia alumnus, Jon Frey.

A new journal of archaeology.

A new Chuck Jones project.

A new(ish) book by Shawn Graham.

History Matters.

More and more heartbreaking stories about the refugee crisis in Greece.

An award for my friends over an Open Context.

The fate of Ashgate.

Apparently Greek anarchists take their political views very seriously.

Internet Archaeology on digital heritage. is taking some heat lately. Heres a discussion on staying with
Heres a statement by Cals Office of Scholarly Communications.

The Mighty Capital Lodge near Tioga has closed. This was our base camp for quite a few
trips to the Bakken.

Refugee camps are the cities of tomorrow.

Rose quartz and serenity are the soothing Pantone colors of the year.

Animated Nina Simone.

The clock of the long now.

Check out The Bitter Southerner.

Climate and colonialism and against the anthropocene.

British Rail Corporate Identity Manual.

NASCAR and Terry Gilliam.

A nice little piece on Grado headphones. If youre looking for a Christmas gift for someone
who loves music, these are the way to go.

What Im reading: Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke 2010.

What Im listening to: Paquito DRivera, Portraits of Cuba; Gloria Ann Taylor, Love is a
Hurtin Thing.


Line Drawing of an RV in the Bakken

December 3, 2015
When you work on enough projects with Kostis Kourelis, you invariably start to do things like line
drawings of RVs (and associated features) from the Bakken.

(a) grill; (b) cooler; (c) camp chairs; (d) propane tank; (e) table; (f) shipping pallet; (g) built platform.


Adventures in Podcasting: Seasons 2, Episode 4 talking ISIS, salvage archaeology, and

landscapes with mr Harmanah
December 3, 2015
This months Caraheard podcast is really good. Richard and I talk with mr Harmanah about a
wide range of topics from ISISs destruction of antiquities to salvage archaeology in the Near East.
Theres almost no excuse not to drop everything and listen to our podcast immediately.
Season 2, Episode 4: Richard and I talk with mr Harmanah
In some ways, this podcast was a follow up from an earlier conversation that Richard and I had in
Episode 4 of season 1 (and which Richard on his blog explored here) but mr brought to our
conversation a more subtle perspective drawn in part from his recent publication in Near Eastern
Archaeology, ISIS, Heritage, and the Spectacles of Destruction in the Global Media. For more of
his work, check out his page.
mrs perspective is quite distinct from the widely circulated Atlantic Monthly article by Graeme
Wood which sees ISIS as a Medieval state. We discussed the very modern and very capitalist realities
of ISISs involvement in antiquities trade and the destruction of antiquities.
We are also critical (albeit not in an entirely negative way) of ASORs Syrian Cultural Heritage
Initiative, mr introduces us to the work of Severin Fowles especially his An Archaeology of
Doings: Secularism and the Study of Pueblo Religion (Santa Fe 2013), and we explore the idea of
political ecology in the anthropocene (with special reference to Lucy Lippards Undermining which I
blogged about here).
As evidence for this ranging conversation, we discuss the intersection of religion and capital in Saudi
Arabian attitudes toward sacred and historic landscapes, attitudes toward various pasts in Beirut,
and the Georgian monastery at Yiallia on Cyprus which I blogged about here. No Caraheard podcast
is complete without a reference to E.P. Thompson.
mrs project is the Yalburt Yaylas Archaeological Landscape Research Project. You can read
more about Tim Matneys project at Ziyaret Tepe here.


Archaeogaming, Red Mars, and Future Archaeology

December 2, 2015
Last spring, Richard Rothaus and I had a few conversations with with Andrew Reinhard about the
idea of archaeogaming. Andrew has loosely described archaeogaming as archaeology in and of video
games and talks about it at great length on our podcast here.
This past month, Ive done the unthinkable. I decided to read a novel. I know, this is usually
something I do in the summer, while trying to fall asleep after a long field day, in an unfamiliar bed,
surrounded by the sounds of a Greek or Cypriot village. This mid-year departure for my normal
routine was prompted by the announcement that Kim Stanley Robinson would participate in this
years University of North Dakota Writers Conference. So I decided to pick up his Mars trilogy and
(re?)read the first book Red Mars over the last couple of weeks.

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, it details the first human efforts to colonize Mars in the
early 21st century. The main characters are the First Hundred of permanent human residents of
Mars who established the first colony there, argued about the future of human habitation on the red
planet, and continued to shape Martian politics and policies once the planet became open to more
extensive immigration and exploitation. This drama is set against a well-researched and engaging
topographic and scientific backdrop which convincingly establishes the potential character of
Martian colonization (within the constraints of mid-1990s technological imagination. in other
words, very little internet, but rather extensive use of robots, artificial intelligences, and transnational
corporate influences). The book covers the first 20 years of life on Mars.
Reading Robinsons detailed descriptions of Mar got me thinking that his novel could represent a
nice venue to extend the idea of archaeogaming. Robinson take immense care in his description of
the Martian landscape. A number of the main characters spend weeks at a time traversing the
sparsely populated planet and describing both natural and man-made features on their trips.
Moreover, the 20 year span of life on Mars and the rapid development of technologies necessary to
establish sustainable and permanent settlement there left behind a significant quantity of objects.
Robinson clearly has archaeological sensitivities in his work. Certain objects appear periodically even
after they no longer feature in the plot of the book. For example, Sax Russells solar-powered
windmills (scattered across the planets surface in a failed attempt to increase surface
temperatures) continue to appear in the book long after their initial purpose (both in the plot line of


the book and in the Martian landscape) had lapsed. The first settlement on Mars, Underhill,
undergoes formation processes as larger settlements with more amenities arise across the planet. The
apartments that the First Hundred occupied at Underhill are turned over to storage and sections
of the settlement are repurposed as research, habitation, and industrial sites spread across the
Martian landscape.
Red Mars will undoubtedly resonate with folks in North Dakota as a major aspect of the plot
involves the exploitation of the planet by transnational companies who bring thousands of short
term workers to Mars. The living conditions for these workers are functional, but modest, and most
workers (at least initially) accept these conditions because their goal is to work hard, make money,
and return to an increasingly restive Earth with the additional security of wealth. At the same time,
there are those among the First Hundred who have grave reservations about those who are
exploiting the Martian environment and work the thwart efforts to turn Mars into a massive
industrial zone.
The idea of archaeogaming is that the objects and landscapes present in video games represent a way
to engage with challenging ideas in archaeological method, ethics, and practice. Documenting
fictional artifacts in a novel as detailed and panoramic as Red Mars is not substantively different
from exploring a fictional world of a film or video game. Whatever autonomy is lost because the
reader has to follow the authors narrative (rather than the relatively more user-centered experience
of a video game) is made in Robinsons use of subtle detail that presents an elaborate backdrop of
archaeological detail without quite allowing the reader to engage fully with objects or the landscape.
The elusiveness (and allusiveness) of Robinsons landscapes feels far more real than the detailed,
cartographic, and hyperreal landscapes of video games. This does not discount the potential of
archaeogaming, but perhaps expands its scope to include the textured landscapes of the science
fiction novel as the immersive realm of pixels.
Go read the book and mark the UND Writers Conference on your calendar.


Teaching Tuesday: A Scale-Up Up-Date

December 1, 2015
Its week 15 of our 16 week semester and Im beginning to reap the results of the energy that I put
into revising my History 101: Western Civilization class taught in our increasingly threadbare ScaleUp classroom. The Scale-Up room organizes the class into 20, 9-student round tables, making it
easier for collaborative work and discouraging straight lectures. For more on my adventures teaching
in this class, go here.
At the start of the semester, I decided to make a few changes to the class including encouraging
more individual writing, speeding up the pace in which I expected the students to immerse
themselves in content, and providing quicker and more feedback on work.
The results have been pretty good.
1. Individual Writing First. In past semesters, I eased students into the expectations of the class with
lots of little assignments completed by either 3-person pods or the entire table. This term, I required
each student to work on 3 assignments of 500 words each at the beginning of the semester. Each of
these assignments encouraged students to focus on (1) making an argument, (2) using evidence, and
(3) different types of history (political/military, social/economic, cultural). The results of these
papers were uneven, but they did introduce students to the expectations of the class and to various
types of historical analysis.
Unfortunately, this introduction did not appear to carry through the entire semester. Students
struggled to understand the different types of history (which admittedly overlapped) and found it
difficult to identify and deploy evidence in support of an argument. On the one hand, these skills
take time to develop and no amount of explanation can substitute for practice. On the other hand,
students seem to regard each assignment as a stand alone project, unrelated to other assignments in
the class. This problem is my fault. I need to emphasize the coherence of the class better and
reinforce how each assignment, both individual and group, contributes to the learning goals in the
2. Faster Feedback. I was quite enamored with a system that would allow us to give students very
rapid feedback on their writing assignments this semester. This involved having a couple of the
teaching assistants evaluate papers during class and then, allowing them to present general trends in
these papers to students on the same day that the students turned in the work. I figured this would
be useful in a one-day-a-week class because it allowed students to do weekly assignments without
having the grading lag between the papers.
I was hoping this would accelerate student learning and performance, but it didnt really work very
well. Students made the same mistakes in the second paper as they did in the first. I think the biggest
issue was that general comments on student work do not translate very effectively to individual
students. Since part of what my 100 level history class teaches is the skill of moving from general
observations (and arguments) to specific examples (and evidence), it was perhaps a bit optimistic to
think that students could easily take generalized comments and apply them to their specific work
within the intervening step of individualized remarks on individual student papers.


3. Routine. The last nine weeks of the semester focus on each table writing its own chapter for an
imagined Western Civilization textbook. Every three weeks, the class goes through three steps to
produce a 3000 words chapter section: outline, rough draft (with peer review), final draft. This is a
comforting and productive routine for most of us who write for a living, but for students, in a class,
this routine is a system to be gamed. Clever groups immediately begin to figure out how much effort
to put into the various parts of the writing project to ensure the maximum feedback for the least
work. Undergirding this is the idea that assignments are not the successful completion of a task that
is fundamentally independent of the classroom experience, but rather what I want as the teacher.
In this scenario, the goal is to position the group to get as much information about the assignment
from me (or my teaching assistants) as possible because I am the ultimate arbiter of success (rather
than successfully completing a task independent of my assignment).
While I do everything that I can to discourage this behavior, it remains difficult to disabuse students
of the notion that the goal in the class is not to get a good grade (i.e. make me happy), but to learn a
skill. As long as the students imagine the class as a grade-getting game, they will look for ways to
subvert the system and any routine will do less to reinforce good habits and more to offer an
iterative game to overcome. The challenge, of course, becomes how to keep the assignments in the
class changing to keep students engaged, encourage attention to good practices, and to undermine
efforts to game the system, while reinforcing the idea that research and writing are practices best
learned and refined through repetition.
This is the challenge for next fall!


Undermining the Global in the American West

November 30, 2015
Over the long weekend, I relaxed a bit and read Lucy Lippards newest book, Undermining: A Wild
Ride through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West (The New Press 2013). The book is
quite wonderful and thought provoking and brings together art and argument in visually appealing
ways. Lippards book considers the political ecology of the American West by focusing on the
intersection of the local and global.
The book begins with gravel pits in New Mexico and considers the role these pits play in the
production of roads. Road, in turn, open up the settlements, sacred landscapes, and delicate
ecologies of New Mexico to development. At the same time, gravel provide a source of prosperity
for isolated communities which frequently have limited resources, but also involves engaging those
communities with a global economy that shows little interest in the local. Lippards use of gravel as
her first case study evoked images of gravel pits across the Bakken and reminded me how important
gravel has been to creating the infrastructure necessary for extractive industries in western North
Lippards New Mexico shares many characteristics with the Bakken. Indigenous communities, small
towns, and natural resources lace a sparsely populated and geographically and economically
marginal landscape. Extractive industries, industrial development, and discard reflect patterns of
use for marginal landscapes as local residents negotiate integration with the larger economy.
Ironically the appeal of integration is that it can often provide access to resources necessary to
preserve local ways of life. In New Mexico, gravel provides roads for the extraction of uranium,
water, coal, and exploration for gas and oil.
Lippards book also provided some parallels and local context for events like the dumping of Atari
games in the Alamogordo landfill. Lippard discussed the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) near
Carlsbad, New Mexico where radioactive waste from reactors around the US is deposited and ideally
isolated for 10,000 years. The radioactive history of New Mexico extends to the earliest days of the
nuclear warfare as the Trinity site at White Sands witnessed the first detonation of an atomic bomb.
The radioactive plume from that detonation billowed northeast up the Tularose valley contaminating
the air and the soil. The rural West with its isolated, poor, and minority communities seems
particularly susceptible to dumping toxic material beyond the gaze of the urban world. In the
documentary made about the dumping and excavation of the Atari games, Zak Penn, the director,
asks the mayor of Alamogordo if hed be willing to open the citys landfill to another dump of video
games. He answered in the affirmative, making explicit the link between local attitudes and global
Lippard concludes her book with a meditation on the role that art can play in negotiating the fraught
political ecology of New Mexico. While she recognizes that art also participates in the global market
especially spectacular landscape works, she hints that local artists, embracing DIY approaches might
find ways to leverage their access to specific landscapes, communities, and experiences to offer
distinctly local solutions to global problems.


Finding ways to mediate between the specific and the global remains a key challenge for articulating
a political ecology that is simultaneously sensitive to the specific and generalizable to the global. My
effort at writing a tourist guide to the Bakken oil patch fits into this larger project of making a
distinctive landscape part of the universal, modern experience of tourism.


Oil Patch Photos

November 28, 2015
I had to pull together some of my photographs from the oil patch.






Two Short Things on Writing

November 25, 2015
Ive been thinking a bit about writing (and reading) lately.
On my flight out to Atlanta this past week I read Helen Swords Stylish Academic Writing (Harvard
2012). Ill likely assign it to my graduate methods class next year. Its a nice summary of how
different disciplines write and offers some substantial tips on how to make academic writing more
accessible to a wider audience without losing its intricacy, depth, or distinct tone and voice. Most
readers will have heard her recommendations before: vary your writing, avoid substantive nouns, use
jargon sparingly, reconsider disciplinary orthodoxies (e.g. using the first person), engage the reader
early in the piece, and avoid noun-style, adverbs, and passive voice.
While anyone who takes writing seriously should check out Swords book, she does little to unpack
why academic writing has developed such an idiosyncratic style. On the one hand, I think it is safe to
assume that academic style begets academic style. In other words, academics write as they do
because we spend a good bit of our formative years reading academic writing. If reading good
writing helps writers write better, then reading academic writing almost certainly encourages
academics to write in a particular style. The problem, then, is as much with how academics read as
with how academics write. Making tweaks to our style is one approach to refining academic
language, but to make a real change to how academics write we have to change how (and what)
academics read.
I was bummed out to read Andrew Henrys guest blog post at The Way of Improvement Leads
Home. According to his post, a panel on blogging at the Society for Biblical Literature/American
Association of Religion conference discouraged graduate students from blogging. Henry doesnt
provide much detail (but James McGrath does), but apparently the panelists considered the risks
associated with graduate students blogging outweighs potential benefits (I suppose to the student
and to the field). The Twitters came alive with comments on how blogging helped folks get their
tenure track jobs and expand the audience for the various disciplines represented at the SBL/AAR.
One thing that struck me about their conversation is how much more active the SBL/AAR blogging
community is. My blog has been running for over 5 years and I rarely get more than a couple
comments per post. I have received some charitable mentions in scholarship and across social
media, but my general impression is that my blog has a limited (if loyal) audience which is not
inclined to troll, debate, or even comment on my musings. From what I gather about the SBL/AAR
blogging culture, there is genuine and active debate across these public platforms and a graduate
students participation in these debates has real risks and benefits for their career. Scholars
associated with the SBL/AAR must read in a different way from those in more conventional silos
associated with ancient history, Classics, and Mediterranean archaeology. These different reading
practices must shape how and when and where scholars write.


Proposals for New Grant Programs

November 24, 2015
I spent part of yesterday morning contributing to an email discussion of digital humanities and
virtual reality with the good folks at the North Dakota Humanities Council. This was both fun and
productive. One result of these conversations is that I was encouraged to propose some new grant
initiatives to the NDHC. These are just proposals, but I wanted to think out loud here on the
bloggie-blog to gets some feedback from as wide an audience as possible. As with any grants, the
outcomes are only as good as the program will allow. Poorly articulated grant programs produce
poor projects.
The first of two new programs that Id propose would be called Digital North Dakota Grants.
These grants have three goals:
1. Extending the Reach: The state of North Dakota has long suffered a diaspora of sorts as people
with strong North Dakota ties have moved elsewhere for a better climate, more opportunities, and a
different life. These individuals often retain a strong sense of connection to the state and its
communities. The energy and remittances from this diaspora community has had an impact on life
here in the state. The Digital North Dakota Grants would be a way to engage the North Dakota
diaspora in the vibrant, local humanities scene.
More importantly, perhaps for the NDHC is that these folks have resources, and as the NDHC has
turned its attention toward development to ensure that our programs can weather upheavals in
federal funding, we need to expand the impact and reach of the NDHC to the diaspora who have
typically remained active in state initiatives.
The population of the state has historically trended older, but recent trends have shown that the
state is, in fact, getting younger and the media age of ND residents is now below the national
average. Our younger constituency typically lacks the financial resources of the North Dakota
diaspora, but should nevertheless be a target audience for humanities programing. Digital North
Dakota grants would help bring a generation of citizens more familiar with digitally mediated
discussions into the conversation.
2. Celebrating the Local. The National Endowment for the Humanities initiated its Office of Digital
Humanities in 2011. This office has funded a wide range of grants that they recognized as having
national and international impacts. They have been somewhat less interested in digital projects that
have local impacts or reflect the more focused priorities of local communities. As we approach the
20th anniversary of the 1997 Red River flood or the 50th anniversary of the publication of Elwyn
Robinsons influential History of North Dakota, we encounter local events that speak directly to
history of the region, the state, and our communities. Funding to support digitally mediated projects
that engage these events (as examples) is unlikely to come from a federal sources (and even if it
does, the NDHC brand should be associated with work to preserve, celebrate, and reflect on these
memorable events).
3. Preserving the Conversation. The NDHC is remarkable in its ability to stimulate conversations.
All too often, however, these conversations, discussion, and engagement are ephemeral. Digitally
mediated conversations offer a way not only to expand the conversation but also to preserve it

allowing future generations of North Dakotans to reflect on how certain events or encounters
transformed their ways of thinking or even their communities. For example, the recent tumult over
the new University of North Dakota nickname provides a fascinating perspective into the
relationship between UND stakeholders and Native communities, ideas of North Dakota identity,
and the politics of race in the state. Creating a digital application where members of the community
can contribute their reactions to this process, while it remains energized by emotions, polemic, and
conversation, presents an exciting way to document and capture the local history of the state at a
particular moment in time.
With these goals in mind, my proposed grant would encourage applications that (1) extend the reach
of traditional humanities programming, (2) focus on local concerns, issues, collections, and
conversations, and (3) feature robust data management plans to ensure that both the program and
conversations are preserved. Successful proposals must stimulate discussion, focus on local groups
or communities, and encourage and preserve dynamic and thought provoking engagement with the
humanities. Purely archival or access based initiatives will not be funded unless they foreground
dynamic opportunities for reflective and reflexive engagement with collections. Whenever possible
proposals should involve open source software and encourage free, open access materials.
In my formal proposal, Ill include case studies funded by other state humanities councils like
Washingtons, DC Digital Museum or Vermonts wonderfully simple, Civil War Book of Days serial
The second proposed new grant program would focus on the North Dakota Humanities Councils
already successful GameChanger Series. One of the most exciting things about this series is how
effectively it stimulates discussion and brings together a diverse and dynamic group of speakers and
from the community to engage with the most pressing issues of the day. The first GameChanger
focused on conflict and culture in the Middle East, the second focused on the challenges and
opportunities of the digital world, and next years series will celebrate 100 years of the Pulitzer Prize.
The disappointing thing about these events is that the energy of the conversation tends to dissipate
rather quickly as the attention of the small NDHC staff ramps up for the next years event. As a
result, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether the game has, in fact, changed (or just the
playahs). The KeepChanging Grant Program would support programs and projects that continue
the momentum and themes of the GameChanger series in the three years following the event. Each
year at least three grants would be available with at least one grant set designated to support a
project related to each of the previous three years of the GameChanger. (Wow, thats hard to
articulate in a clear way!).
The goal of the KeepChanging program is to extend the impact of the GameChanger series without
taxing the small NDHC staff. It will also provide us with an informal measure of the impact of the
GameChanger in on the humanities in the state. Presumably more engaging events will spur ongoing
As per usual on the blog, Im interested in any and all feedback on these ideas. They are, as I said,
just proposals; just my thoughts, man right or wrong.


Atlanta and ASOR 2015

November 23, 2015
I had a great week attending the 2015 American Schools of Oriental Research conference in Atlanta.
The panels that I managed to attend were interesting and crowded, the committees to which I was
obliged were productive, and impromptu meetings with friends, colleagues, and strangers were fun
and useful.
I even learned some things. So in the interest in bringing order to a complicated few days, heres a
little list summarizing my encounter with the 2015 ASOR meeting:
1. Bathrooms. I dont, generally, spend much time reflecting on bathroom design, but at a
conference fueled by coffee and endless pitchers of water in every room, regular visits to the
bathroom punctuated my day at steady intervals. The mens room that I visited most regularly had a
small vestibule (around 3 m in length) between the door to the hallway and the door to the
bathroom proper. Through this second door was a doglegged passage of 7-8 m in length featuring a
bank of four or five sinks. The standard bathroom fixtures were set further into the bathroom
around a partition wall.
This arrangement may sound typical, but it means that a visitor to the facilities moves through about
10 m of passage between entering the space from the external hallway and encountering the most
important features of the bathroom. This space was genuinely liminal for the visitor and preyed
directly upon our common, human anxieties associated with moving from the public space of the
hallway to the gender-defined space of the bathroom. Is this really the mens room? Am I in the
wrong place? 10 meters is a significant distance to travel betwixt and between, and made every trip
to the facilities involve some design-induced angst.
2. Nice Cars and Traffic. This was my first time in Atlanta outside of an unplanned night in an
airport hotel after some botched travel arrangements a few years back. A few friends with Georgia
roots tried to explain to me the urban landscape of the city which seemed to me to be an East Coast
version of West Coast urban sprawl and truly a fitting anchor for Gibsons Boston-Atlanta
Metropolitan Axis.
The one thing that Atlanta is famous for is traffic (and streets named Peachtree). I was enchanted
(see below) by the bustling traffic of Atlantas byways and trip to from Buckhead to the
Cabbagetown neighborhood for dinner took us on vibrant and traffic-filled highways through
Downtown and Midtown.


The spectacular array of exotic and imported cars on the roads of Buckhead and on Atlantas
highways reminded me that I truly live in Pontiac and Plymouth Country (TM) and created a
moving montage of social and economic display. While eating lunch at a little burger place, I
watched no fewer than three Bentleys roll by and was shocked to realize that Mercedes only sells SClass cars to Atlanta residents.
3. ASOR and CAARI and The Digital. There were sustained and productive conversations about
The Digital both on the ASOR committee on publications and at the board of trustees meeting of
CAARI (the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute). The former is embracing the need
to at least experiment with open-access digital publishing and linked data and the latter is starting to
think more critically about its web site as more than just a billboard for the institutes existence. Im
increasingly optimistic that Pyla-Koutsopetria I: Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town
will appear next year as a digital, fully linked, revised edition and Pyla-Koutsopetria II: Excavations
at an Ancient Coastal Town will be born as a linked digital book in 2017.
As for CAARI, theres much work to do, but weve made some progress. Moving the CAARI site
from a hand-coded page to a WordPress template would make updating the site easier and facilitate
links with social media. The conversations at the trustees meeting also suggested that people are
increasingly interested in using the website for something. It may be that the website emerges as a
place to solicit contributions or to market scholarship opportunities or even to publish old
photographs of Cyprus. Its clear that the board is not quite sure how to align the web with
CAARIs broader mission.
As I sat there listening to the conversation (and the many generational protests), I started to think
that CAARI could use the web to disseminate scholarship perhaps in conjunction with the reopening of the expanded library. A digital occasional paper series modeled on the ISAW Papers
series might anchor the CAARI web presence in a familiar medium scholarly publication, celebrate
the benefit of the new library by linking CAARI with academic production, and provide a new outlet
for publications on Cyprus now that the Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus is on
The key thing, to my mind, is to revamp the website with a strategy (and goals) in mind. We have
work to do!
4. Slow Archaeology. I was thrilled to hear the term slow archaeology appear in several papers at
ASOR and even more thrilled to realize that some of these mentions were not directed at my work
but indicative of parallel work with the same ideas. Eric Kansas work on slow data distinguishes
the deliberate and careful work of publishing, linking, and using published archaeological data from
the compliance based data dump and suggests that a slow approach to data publishing will both
yield far more important results and require a change in attitudes among archaeologists, institutions,
and funding agencies.
Independent of my work, mr Harmansah has explored the intersection of archaeology and
development, neoliberalism, and the modern academy to suggest that, today, almost all archaeology
is salvage archaeology pushed by an array of pressures inherent to late capitalism. As an antidote to
this trend, he has proposed approaches that embrace an intentional engagement with complex
landscapes including a kind of slow survey that attempts to resist practices associated with the
commodification of archaeological space, objects, and heritage in the name of documentation.

Im exited to explore more of his ideas with him and think there is real potential for a clearly-defined
slow archaeology to offer substantive critique to the discipline.
5. Objects and Enchantment. I participated in a panel on object biography where folks used the
word enchantment more than Ive ever encountered at an academic meeting. The papers were
good and generally well-received, although I detected a consistent skepticism that object biography
represents a productive way forward for understanding of the place of objects within the broader
archaeological project.
My paper was met with skepticism including a comment that my approach to archaeology (and
digital artifacts) would cause children to go running from the discipline whereas the opportunity to
handle an excavated object would lead to enchantment. This may be the case, although I suspect
children and students these days have a greater willingness to be enchanted by digital objects than
our generation does.
Despite that critique, my time at the ASOR annual meeting was enchanting, exhausting, and though
provoking. Im looking forward to next year and following up some of the conversations that I had
over the course of the meeting.


Overslept, At a Conference, Someone Wrote Something Better

November 19, 2015
Since I overslept, and Im at a conference (heres my paper) and someone wrote something better
over at the North Dakota Quarterly website, Ill just direct you there.
See you next week!


Books by their Cover

November 18, 2015
You cant open Facebook these days without seeing a profile picture superimposed with a French
flag. A year ago, profile pictures had multicolored hues in support of equal marriage rights or gay
marriage. At various times of year, social media profiles sport pink for breast cancer, mustaches for
prostate cancer, or various other regular designs to demonstrate solidarity or sympathy with this or
that cause. Invariably, there are columns that comment or complain about a particular practice, the
uncritical and uncomplicated adoption of potentially fraught symbols, and the deleterious effects of
slacktivism. Most worry that a changed profile picture will substitute for political or social action
and superficial expressions of sympathy, solidarity, or awareness will replace genuine engagement
with issues. These concerns are so pervasive that they constitute part of the discourse of
representation on social media and are in no ways less hackneyed or superficial than the practice that
they critique.
Personal branding on social media is no less complicated than personal branding in any medium and
criticizing its simplicity is, in itself, a failure to understand the complications associated with
branding and interpretation of branding across various media in our image rich society. My
November mustache might be ironic, it might show Im participating in Movember, or it might be
that I genuinely like how I look with a mustached lip. Or it might be all these things. Most of us
recognize the ambiguities present in these simple personal branding exercises (and even relish the
potential for an un-ironic mustache!) and even appreciate the earnestness of peoples efforts to
celebrate a cause, negotiate the political landscape, or just to show preference for one brand over
When it comes to branding a larger enterprise, we are less tolerant of this kind of ambiguity. Im
waist deep in type-setting a new book from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota
right and beginning to think a bit about cover designs. Ive been fortunate that my collaborators on
this project have offered images and designs for the cover and these designs are all visually arresting.
The book is titled The Bakken Goes Boom and it should appear early next year, but the cover
design project represents another chapter in the larger Branding the Bakken project. From Alec
Soths black-and-white images of the oil smeared worker to Sarah Christiansons The Skogens
bedroom window, images have dominated our apprehension of the Bakken boom. It is hardly
surprising that my own work documenting workforce housing in the Bakken has generated over ten
thousand of photographs and videos.
The image-driven nature of our engagement with the Bakken means that selecting the cover of the
first book-length academic study of the Bakken boom takes on particular significance. Each cover
represents a different aspect of the Boom and a different point of emphasis in the book (as well as a
different style).
My co-editor Kyle Conway created an arresting cover image that shows a drill rig situated near his
families property in Williston.


Photographer Kyle Cassidy who has worked with our team in the Bakken and has a contribution in
the volume offered several fantastic cover designs:






Comments and feedback are appreciated!


Objects, Clones, Context

November 17, 2015
On Thursday evening, I give a short paper at an ASOR panel called Object Biography II: Object as
Magnet. Im not entirely sure what to make of the panel. Last year the papers spurred some
interesting conversation, so it didnt take much to convince me to submit something this year.
When I sat down and started writing my paper, I initially wanted to write something about agency,
then a critique of the entire concept of object biography (which I generally find to be an
unhelpful), and finally, I decided to write something breezy and fun (for me to write, at least). My
talk will be after 5pm on a day that starts with a 8:30 am meeting. Ill be tired, I think, and my
audience will almost certainly be tired. So a breezy talk might be a better way to start some
conversation or at least keep people from shifting restlessly in their seats as the minutes tick toward
their evening plans.
This paper also gave me a chance to make some groovy slides.
Anyway, I was more or less set on the paper below before receiving an email that part of the goal of
our papers and these sessions was to begin to move toward creating a protocol which one of the
panel organizers articulates as a way of doing things that the field can actually use as we analyze and
interpret objects. Im not sure that my paper does a very good job at producing usable knowledge.
At best, I provide a slightly boring critique.
Heres the paper and the groovy slides:

Objects, Clones, Context

William R. Caraher, University of North Dakota
R. Scott Moore, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Delivered at the
Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research Atlanta, Georgia Thursday,
November 19, 2015
The idea of an object as a magnet is attractive. It evokes the idea of the object as a node in a
network of attractions and relations that draw together objects, associations, individuals, institutions,
meaning, and even events and time. In fact, some scholars have suggested that objects are more than
isolated nodes, but actually represent the network itself. In other words, the object does not attract
meaning to it, but is meaning itself. It may be that magnet and the effects of magnetism are
The idea of the object as magnet also got me thinking literally about magnetism and the creation of
digital objects (even if magnetic storage is giving way to solid-state technologies which are not a
magnetic medium). Instead of messy magnetic metaphors, my paper today will consider a wide range
of digital archaeological objects. This is particularly important both because digital objects have
come to play a central role in archaeological practice, and they challenge how we think about object
Digital objects are ubiquitous in archaeology today and archaeologists regularly produce thousands
of digital objects each season. Unlike excavated or collected artifacts which may only seem to
proliferate, derive some of their significance from being unique, and tend to remain close to their
archaeological provenance, most archaeologists take active steps to ensure that digital objects are
copied and distributed widely. In keeping with a sense of biography, we can call these copied and
distributed objects clones. These clones, while similar to point of being identical, nevertheless exist
in particular networks of technology, practice, and space.
From Artifact to Digital Object

Despite the prominence of excavated or collected artifacts in archaeological publications and

arguments, most artifacts receive relatively little attention from the archaeologist. They get

uncovered or recovered, washed, identified, sorted, counted, recorded, and stored in trays or boxes,
dumped, or on rare intentionally destroyed. The archaeologists with whom Ive worked on Cyprus
refer to these most common artifacts as sherds (and it must be said with a dismissive sneer). In
Greece (and on my project), we refer to them problematically as context pottery. I suppose this
is meant to indicate that this pottery is so ordinary that it only offers context for the really important
stuff or perhaps it should be regarded contextually along with other features in the trench like
architecture or stratigraphy. As a survey archaeologist with a bit of a quantitative bent, I always felt
sorry for these sherds and most of my real archaeological work has focused on recovering these
objects from the enormous condescension of most archaeological practice.
In our work, these sherds tend to be the smallest and most granular objects recorded in
archaeological practice and the most common objects assigned archaeological significance. As an
aside, Ill overlook the work done to document the chemical make up of sherds which while
important remains quite rare in Mediterranean practice and is particularly unusual on a large scale. It
is interesting, however, to note that scientific study of artifact whether through thin sections, XRF,
or neutron activation, does recognize that archaeological objects exist on the molecular level. A
sherd, in this sense, is merely an assemblage of archaeological molecules, just as a deposit is an
assemblage of sherds. I dont have much familiarity with these practices, but I introduce them as a
little bit (see?) of critique on the idea that an object is a magnet. To my reading, this might imply an
unnecessary division between the object itself and meaning (that is attracted to it from elsewhere?).
It might be simpler to understand an object as only existing with meaning. Without meaning (or
relationships) objects may well exist, but not in a useful or recognizable way.

Whatever the specifics, any process used to document these sherds involves the creation of at
least one digital object. Our project at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria, for example, recorded each
sherd first as a record on a sheet of paper and then in a relational database. At Polis-Chrysochous,
we skipped the paper phase and recorded directly into the laptop computer. The entry in the
database involves creating a record of the objects weight, color, and place in established or local
typologies. In some cases, this record is accompanied by another digital object, a photograph, and in
exceptional cases, we use a series of photographs to create a 3-D image of the artifact. The 3D

image is itself made up of a series of digital objects including photographs, a point cloud, a
wireframe, and a textured 3D object. Each these individual parts of the 3D image represent
individual digital objects that each have particular archaeological values.
At the end of the recording process, the archaeological artifacts go back into their trays or boxes, are
placed on shelves in massive storerooms, and return to relative obscurity. In all, an archaeologist
might spend 20 seconds handling, identifying, and recording a sherd on one of these trays. For the
sherd as an object, the process (and in many ways the utility of the object) is over, but for the digital
object that comes from this interaction, its usefulness has just begun.
Digital Object as Artifact

Over the course of my surveys, excavations, and study projects, we have produced tens of
thousands of these digital objects in relational database as well as digital photographs each inscribed
with vital metadata and assigned a file name meaningful in our recording system. This is standard
These digital objects have innumerable advantages over the fired clay objects. These digital objects
can be sorted instantly. They can be duplicated almost flawlessly. They can be transported over
national borders and appear in multiple places at the same time. They can be published on the web
and in books, and linked to from other books and sites to form new networks and relationships.
Finally, the conservation and storage of digital objects in the short term is relatively inexpensive
compared, at least, to the expenses and challenges associated with the so-called storage crisis in
archaeology. In so many practical ways, the digital object is more useful to the work of the
archaeologist than the excavated or collected object.


In conceptual ways, digital objects can be more useful as well. The digital world in which we work is
in some ways simpler than the messy world of field archaeology. The digital universe relies upon
ontologies that make at least some relationships and definitions explicit and it cuts through the
unsightly messiness associated with archaeological artifacts. In some ways, digital objects are the
most obvious manifestations of the tidy black boxes that form evidence for arguments. For a
digital object to have meaning, it requires a legible network of relationships that define not only how
a digital object is expressed, but what it expresses. Moreover, the network of useful relationships
that allow digital objects to represent archaeological knowledge tends to be visible especially in
contrast to cloudy network of associations generated by archaeological artifacts. The linked data
relationships follow defined pathways either within a data set (for example linking two similar
objects together within the same dataset) or between datasets (an artifact to a location in GIS for
example or two objects discovered at different locations).
Physical Digital Object Digital


objects rely upon more than merely bits and bytes to communicate meaning. They exist within a
networks of physical objects as well, and here they manifest a bit more of the messiness typically
experienced at the edge of the trowel or amidst the survey unit. Hard drives are every bit as hard (in
physical terms) as solid state drives are solid. The cloud may seem ethereal, but it too is made up of
routers, servers, storage, racks, chips, wires, and buildings. The devices we use to access our digital
objects are made of silicon, aluminum, rare-earth, and plastics and function best in enclosed spaces
with solid surfaces and comfortable chairs. Problems with the various material interfaces with digital
objects will, of course, compromise the utility of these objects for archaeological analysis.

The physical media upon which digital objects depend are a complex and vital component of the
material culture of archaeology. These archaeological objects which have quite literally a
magnetic relationship with objects produced in the field have only recently received significant


scrutiny as objects. The use of iPads in the field and their innovative, yet familiar, interface has
renewed conversation regarding the material form of digital recording devices. Archaeology of the
contemporary world and the allied field of media archaeology have likewise showed renewed interest
in material form of digital media. The most recent volume of the Journal of Contemporary
Archaeology explored these intersections in a most productive way. An NEH sponsored conference
titled Mobilizing the Past and sponsored by ASOR members at the from the Athienou
Archaeological Project encouraged critical reflection on the intersection of digital and material tools
used in archaeological field work.
Digital Objects as Magnets

The focus of todays panels was on objects as magnets. I have taken this a bit too literally in
reference to the myriad little magnetic charges that constitute so much of our digital world. At the
same time, I hope my paper brings to the fore some simple examples of how archaeological work
and archaeological artifacts depend upon digital objects. These digital objects have their own
biographies that require us to adjust our understanding of life to allow for frequent cloning, periodic
reincarnation, spontaneous bilocation, and, as with so many objects, lengthy periods of suspended
animation. Every archaeologist ought to fear the prospects of zombie media which lurches across
our screens in a semi-living states like so many Geocities webpages and Lotus123 spreadsheets.
Digital zombies reveal the risk of disrupting the social lives of our digital objects. Bereft of proper
hardware, software, and other technological infrastructures and protocols necessary to be useful for
contemporary inquiries, these half-dead zombie objects, reveal our dependence on various
economic, political, and institutional entities for our discipline to function.
Of course, not every digital object has equal value (so some are unlikely to return as zombies). And,
I suspect, we all know of digital objects that have died unmourned on a faulty hard drive, a
decommissioned server, or with the obsolesce of a particular application.
Despite the anonymous sacrifice of the forgotten digital object, their passing nevertheless disrupts
part of the network of relationships that connect our analysis to the archaeological artifact. This is

not a call to keep every related digital object alive on indefinite life support, but to recognize that for
every poor, marginalized, sherds, there is an equally vital digital object playing its part in our


Revisions of Slow Archaeology

November 16, 2015
Over the weekend I spent some time coming to terms with some recent comments to the most
recent version of my slow archaeology article. As per usual, I worked out my thoughts on the blank
page and this is what I cam up with as a framework for revising my thoughts.
One thing is clear, I was wrong about my characterization of digital practices in the field. We need to
trust technology to lead us to a bright new future. We have to trust industrial practices to produce a
more thorough, sophisticated, and structured understanding of the past that is consistent with our
place within the 21st century university.

A Revised and Revisited Slow Archaeology

Earlier versions of this paper lacked nuanced and identified contemporary digital practices as a
highly visible extension of the tradition of industrial practices in archaeology. I worried that the use
of digital tools marked a tipping point in archaeological practice. In my polemic, I imagined digital
tools as transforming archaeological field practices into data collection and removing the work of
analysis from the side of the trench to the laboratory, office, or computer center. In positing this, I
suspect I fell victim to the rhetoric of digital practice that celebrated increases in efficiency, accuracy,
and consistency of structured data collected at trenchside and downplayed the continued presence of
messy, unstructured, and irregular data that continues to emerge from archaeological fieldwork. Our
tendency to black box both archaeological evidence occludes less systematic and structured data
and practices the continue to thrive despite the emphasis on efficiency in the discipline. Earlier
drafts of this paper viewed slow archaeology as a return to pre-digital practices that resisted the
industrial organization. This draft offers a more subtle call that celebrates the productive
inefficiencies that complement longstanding push for greater efficiencies, consistencies, and
regularity in existing archaeological practice.
Slow archaeology emerges at the intersection of the messy realities of archaeological practice and the
intentional and complementary ways that archaeologists recognize the limits of systematic data
collection in the field. It is a complement and critique of digital archaeology inasmuch as it focuses
field practices that support integrative analysis of archaeological landscapes, trenches, and objects.
To be clear from the onset, my interest in slow archaeology comes from a position of privilege. I am
an academic archaeologist who relies on his research for professional advancement, but not

professional survival. I have tenure, and as a result, I do not need to race against the clock to
produce publications. I also have the good fortune to work on archaeological projects with the
manpower, time, and funding that align closely with our research objective giving us the luxury to
consider a wide range of archaeological documentation processes without particular concern for
efficiency. This has given us the opportunity to explore a range of digital tools and practices from
the use of iPads in the field to reliance on differential GPS units, 3D imaging technologies, relational
databases, and GIS. This article then is not the frustrated expressions of a Luddite, but an argument
grounded in familiarity with digital field practices.
Industrial History
Archaeology is a discipline steeped in industrial practices. From the earliest days of the discipline,
archaeologists drew upon industrial practices to improve the efficiency of moving large quantities of
earth from sites. The organization of the workforce along hierarchical lines further reflected both
industrial work-discipline as well as the influence of the military on archaeological practices. As one
reviewer observed Pitt Rivers and Wheeler both drew on their military experiences as much as
Schliemann drew on his experiences as an industrialist.
Of course, the industrial influences on archaeology go beyond simply the experiences of the earliest
excavators and intersect with the position of the archaeology as a modern academic discipline. The
modern academy reveals the profound influences of industrial principles of management and
organization. The desire to produce new research more efficiently and more quickly has led to
pressures on academic researchers to streamline their documentation practices in the field and to
emphasize their ability to collect data and produce results in a systematic and consistent way.
Data and Discourse
To suggest that industrial practices in archaeology or even the latest neoliberal iteration of the
academic industrial complex has driven a preoccupation with data collection in the field would be to
overlook the influence of New Archaeology. New Archaeology strengthened an explicit
commitment to using robust, often quantifiable, datasets to reconstruct ancient practices. The rise of
intensive pedestrian survey in the Mediterranean introduced rigorous data collection practices to
landscape archaeology in the Aegean. This marked a shift from practices grounded in less systematic
and often individual efforts to explore and document sites on a regional scale across Greece to a
more rigorous and eventually intensive method for documenting artifacts on the surface at a
increasingly high level of spatial resolution. At the same time, excavation practices in Mediterranean
shifted from traditional trench notebooks to various forms of context recording forms. A growing
commitment to not only stratigraphic excavation practices, but also Harris Matrices marked an
increased interest in defining depositional contexts at as high a resolution vertically as intensive
survey documents horizontally. Harris Matrices represent stratigraphic deposits in a formal and
generalized way and offer a tidy way to present the relationships between deposits now documented
at a highly granular level.
Archaeological publications, then, present the data produced through these systematic approaches to
field work and link them explicitly to archaeological conclusions. This clear link between
systematically produced archaeological data and conclusions is commendable and so consistently
presented as to be expected procedure for almost all archaeological publications.


Field Practice
The contexts offered by industrial practices in archaeology and the rise of New Archaeology
offers little room for a slow archaeology. The use of digital tools in the field streamlines the
movement of data from trench side to publication especially as the publication of data has slowly
become part of the expected routine of archaeological dissemination. My own publication of an
intensive survey on Cyprus grounded our arguments directly in a substantial body of published data
in keeping with archaeological conventions. Latour refers to the tidiness associated with the
publication of data and scientific arguments as black boxing which like the neatly arrange Harris
Matrix, occludes the distracting and messy details of the field or laboratory practices. One result of
black boxing in archaeology, is that it emphasized field practices that produce tidy data as a way of
demonstrating the efficient adherence to scientific methods (broadly construed). The tendency to
present neat, clearly defined, and often quantitative datasets in publications also serves to
demonstrate efficiency in field methods and procedures. In other words, the publication process
itself has led to the privileging of certain kinds of documentation processes in the field.
It is hardly surprising that scholarly attention has focused on the development of a new generation
of digital tools well-suited to collect the kind of data traditionally associated with published
archaeological results and ongoing methodological conversations. For example, the use of tablets to
collect information at trench side that efficiently populates and syncs with databases hosted on
secure servers emphasizes the collection of information that can easily be sorted, aggregated, and
projected spatially. The gains in efficiency associated with the trench side collection of data and its
aggregation and dissemination would seem to assume the kind of analysis that depends upon the reassembly of relatively granular data. In early 20th century excavations, by comparison, it would be
possible for a project director to document the excavation of an entire site in a single notebook. In
late 20th century excavations, each trench had a notebook. Today, a trench might have dozens (if
not more) context forms and hundreds of fields in a database.
My view of slow archaeology has consistently called for greater attention to practices that encourage
and document analysis at the trench side or amid the survey unit. To my mind, these practices focus
on the production of analyses that both resists efficient granularity and embraces integrative and
synthetic documentation of archaeological thought. This contrasts with at least the rhetoric of
archaeological data collection from the field that characterizes trench side and survey unit based
practices as documentation rather than analysis.
Critiques of slow archaeology have emphasized that their interest in collecting more granular data
from each trench does not exclude the recording of more traditional forms of less structured data. A
trench-side iPad is not just a window to a database, but also a digital notebook, a digital sketch pad,
and a tool that can even collect a new range of relatively unstructured and unconventional data from
audio recording to video. Indeed, there is little intrinsic in digital tools (except perhaps at the level of
the microprocessor) that requires us to collect archaeological data in a more granular way.
Moreover, some have criticized how I have characterized the deliberate and integrative approaches
associated with traditional archaeological practices as intentionally inefficient or privileging the
collection of less-structured data. In reality,the industrial and scientific influences on archaeology
pre-date by a over a century the widespread adoption of digital tools. As a result, practices that may
appear today as drawing on pre-industrial practices associated with craft production like manual
drafting of trench plans were, in their own time, regarded steeped in scientific and industrial rigor.

In early excavations the daily or regular trench dairy was not a synthetic alternative to the database,
but its direct predecessor. What I have characterized as trench side analysis was, in fact, efforts to
document the process of excavation at a level adequate for future publication.
Following on my misunderstanding of past archaeological practices, critics of slow archaeology have
suggested that streamlining data collection using digital tools actually holds forth the prospect of
allow more time in the field for reflective analysis. Technologies have increasingly freed excavators,
trench supervisors, survey team leaders, and field directors from the tedious routine of
documentation and provided them with time to reflect, analyze, and interpret ongoing field work.
The need and opportunity to do this in the field is less fundamental to archaeological work and
more a new critique of longstanding industrial practices in the discipline. Slow archaeology is not a
form of resistance to digital field practices, but at least a crucial byproduct, and perhaps its
Needless to say, these critique have given me pause. My arguments for slow archaeology have
focused on the intersection of technology and archaeological with the idea that the tools we use in
fieldwork shape the arguments that we make. While this may well be true, it is also possible that the
tools we chose, reflect our ideological, methodological, and disciplinary commitments. This line of
argument smacks a bit of a kind of idealism that has driven and justified the growing efficiency of
industrial practices throughout history, and while it is hard to deny that technology has improved the
quality of goods produced by the assembly line, it is more difficult to argue that industrial
technology has improved our quality of life.
Industry and science have exerted a pervasive and expansive influence both on contemporary
archaeological practice and the publication of archaeological arguments. Pressures to produce more,
in less time, and in a more transparent way has pushed archaeological practice to embrace digital
technologies as a tool document (or collect) archaeological data in a rigorous and efficient way. As a
tenured professor with little pressure to publish quickly and a critical appreciation of the limits and
potential of digital tools, it is relatively easy for me to consider the importance of reflexive practice,
to spend time on analysis in the field, and to challenge the value of digital recording techniques. My
projects enjoy robust digital infrastructures, skilled trench and field team supervisors, and colleagues
who are willing to embrace less conventional field practices as part of an effort to understand
landscapes and sites at the level of experience. Whether this more deliberate and slow approach to
field work manifests itself in our final publication remains to be seen.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

November 13, 2015
Its been a pretty exciting week at Archaeology of the Mediterranean World headquarters. We saw
the first sustained snow, I started pecking away at a long overdue project, wrapped up a conference
paper (next week!), published a collection of reprints from North Dakota Quarterly, and watched
the start of David Warners mighty double century.
Despite all the excitement, I have had some time to grab a gaggle of quick hits and varia.

New and Improved (and updated) Punk Archaeology.

A 3D plan of the theater (thats theatre from you commonwealth types) at Paphos.

Theodoros Rakopoulos and Heath Cabot discuss Solidarity in Greece.

Efforts to use digital technology (beep, boop, boop, boop) on the Herculaneum scrolls.

Disturbing news concerning the Studios Monastery in Istanbul.

TED prize for archaeologist tracking looting from space.

Philip Marlowes Los Angeles.

Mike Wittgraf takes you on a ride on his motorcycle.

Humanities majors still earn more than people who dont got to college at all.

Flyway is a gorgeous online literary journal from Iowa State.

Future Forms is an online catalogue of industrial design. (Its a form of micromuseology.)

Omega Speemaster Dark Side of the Moon.

Lots of buzz on this: The Decay of Twitter.

What Open Access publishing actually costs. More interesting stuff published during
University Press Week here and my thoughts over here.

What Im reading: Helen Sword, Stylish Academic Writing. Cambridge 2012.

What Im listening to: Ork Records: New York, New York; Allen Toussaint, Southern
Nights; Life, Love and Faith; (and the surprisingly good) Bright Mississippi.




University Press Week

November 12, 2015
While The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota does not conform to the characteristics
of most real university presses, I think its probably fair that we celebrate a little at the margins of
the event. To get into the spirit of the week, be sure to check out the American Association of
University Presss blog tour with particular attention to Tuesdays posts on the Future of Academic
Anyone who has read this blog over the past couple years knows Im incredibly sanguine about the
future of academic publishing. Like many of the folks at university presses or mainstream academic
publishing, I recognize the first decades of the 21st century as period of tremendous disruption to
academic publishing with the rapid growth of digital outlets and technologies reshaping the
publishing landscape on a regular basis. The nimble character of many university presses has made it
possible for them to position themselves at the cutting edge of academic publishing and to find ways
to leverage productively both digital media and the growing expectations of open access movement.
Further hurdles await, of course, as universities race to adopt 20th-century business models
(dominated by an image of the efficient assembly line) in their effort to convince legislative and
popular stakeholders holding 19th-century attitudes that theyre ready to take on the 21st century.
The expectations that all parts of the university bring in revenue (which is often narrowly defined)
willfully ignores the tremendous impact that 21st century companies like Google, Apple, and even
IBM have wrought from creative enclaves, skunk-works, and policies that divorce innovative from
profitability (at least in the short-term). University publishing runs the risk of being squeezed out, at
the very moment when its potential to contribute both to the intellectual and, as much as were loath
to admit it, financial the life of the university and community is greatest. A nimble, adventurous,
risk-taking university press can probe the edge of media economy. This is unlikely to be a revenue
neutral endeavor, but if we see universities as 21st-century organizations, we realize that ideas have
an equal part in the production of value as products.
A few more observations:
1. Collaboration and Cooperation. A number of the established university presses have celebrated
the collaborative spirit of the university press. As the academic world has come more and more to
embrace collaborative and cooperative work, the university press represents an appealing model.
The shading of professional skills (editing, design, marketing, et c.) into craft allows for individuals
to move from the production of content (for example, in a traditional scholarly mode) to the design,
layout, and editing of a volume with minimal disruption. This allows for a press to scale quickly
from a few people to a larger group of folks for a project because so many of the basic abilities are
shared across academia.
2. Grounding the Global in the Local. As big presses look more and more to big books with big
audiences, they have left room for local presses to develop. Unlike big presses with established
overheads and global reach, small presses can cultivate niche audiences, collaborate with local
institutions, and produce meaningful books that help transform big ideas into local realities. This is
where the rubber meets the road, and local presses play a key role in this.


3. Dynamic. Anyone who has paid even a little attention to the publishing industry knows that it is
in a tremendous state of flux right now. Books, blogs, ebook, open access, open peer review, price
gouging, pirates, and print-on-demand services have transformed how we think about disseminating
content. Small presses have an advantage in that they can pivot quickly, experiment with new media
types and processes, and focus on media as much as delivery methods. This is especially the case
(see my point 1) as the tools for engaging the publishing industry have democratized over the past
two decades. It is now possible to produce high-quality, visually interesting, media on a laptop
computer, sell it without a storefront, market it over social-media, and disseminate it across multiple
platforms from a comfy chair in front of a fire.
4. Fun. As I have become more and more engaged in the world of academic publishing (as both a
producer and a publisher), Ive become more and more interested in the potential for academic
publishing to be fun. When I go to an academic conference or work on an archaeological field
project, I have fun. This doesnt mean that I dont take it seriously, but I find the interplay between
scholars, students, and ideas exciting and entertaining. I sometimes fear that the business side of
publishing with deadlines, formalities, and budgets robs the process of some of the joy
associated with moving interesting content to completed publication. I think small presses provide a
space to cultivate a shared sense of mission, energy, collegiality, and fun. The absence of institutional
structures allows small presses to develop the same energy as any number of zines, doomed record
labels, and academic projects. Theres something about the DIY spirit that makes any undertaking a
bit more of an adventure.
Do take some time this week to click over to your favorite University Press website, and please
check out our friends at the Institute for Regional Studies Press at North Dakota State University,
and be sure to go and download something for free from The Digital Press at the University of
North Dakota!


Atari Artifacts and Assemblage

November 11, 2015
Over the last month or so, Ive been continuing to work on an excavation report, of sorts, for the
Atari dig in 2014 in New Mexico (or as Im calling it the Alamogordo Atari Expedition). The task
has been challenging. First, Ive had to pull apart the intersection of our work documenting the site
and our role in the documentary. I also had to produce some kind of narrative surrounding the work
planning the excavations, which started in 2011, if not earlier. Finally, I had to try to unpack and
organize what we saw, recorded, and documented on the two days of excavation.
As I have blogged about in the past, the hyper-abundance of modern material makes any effort to
document a modern period assemblage overwhelming if we rely on traditional, fine-grain,
archaeological documentation practices. Bill Rathje famous Garbage Project contracted the
assemblages that they studied through rigorous sampling practices and did most of their
documentation in laboratory conditions rather than on site. They sampled discard primarily at the
level of household and prior to the trash being moved to a sanitary landfill. Their work documenting
the discard was done not at the curbside, but at an on-campus site where the analyzed household
trash could be sorted, documented, and discarded. This takes nothing away from the important of
their work, both to the discipline and to how we understand garbage, but they structured their work
to accommodate the challenge of modern abundance.
Compared to the Garbage Project, the landfill excavation at Alamogordo was chaos. On the first day
of work at the site, the excavators removed a vast quantity of material from the site, but it was done
very quickly. Safety concerns prevented us from having direct access to the material being removed
from the landfill, but we had an observation point close enough to the trench that we could easily
see the type of materials being removed. For example, we were able to recognize that the landfill
contained but domestic discard ranging from movie posters, lawn clippings, and coffee grounds
as well as objects that spoke to the distinct character of the regions economy. At one point, the
excavator struggled with a parachute that billowed in the wind when removed from the trench to
remind us of the local aerospace and military installation in the area.


On day two, we were able to examine more closely material from the lowest levels of the landfill
which were primarily domestic in character. We used a 5-gallon bucket to sample loads removed
from the trench by the excavator and recorded our observations on a digital audio recorder. The
trash from these samples included well-preserved paper documents, Christmas decorations,
cardboard boxes, beer cans, magazines, lawn clippings, and diapers. These samples, however, were
neither large enough nor systematic enough to produce distinct observations on the character of the
Alamogordo landfill.
Finally, we recognized that not all of the assemblage present at the Alamogordo landfill was visible.
As we dug through the documents leading up to the 2014 dig, we came across the reports from air
and soil testing at the landfill. These tests demonstrated that the decomposition of organic material
and discharges from potentially toxic chemicals in the landfill produced measurable quantities of
various compounds. These compounds are not naturally occurring, but the direct result of human
discard patterns in the area.


As archaeologists, we typically regard the visible, material artifacts from a site as constituting the
sites assemblage. The more technologically and scientific of us might sample artifacts for residue or
do some thin sections or petrology of ceramic objects from a site, but I cant recall the chemical
compounds that constitute either objects or evidence for use being generalized on the scale of air
and soil testing at a landfill. The modern archaeological assemblage includes more than what we can


The University of North Dakota and the Great War: The First North Dakota
Quarterly Reprint
November 10, 2015
Today drops the inaugural volume in North Dakota Quarterly Reprint Series. It is a collaboration
between NDQ and the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota. The goal of this series is to
bring some of the back catalogue of North Dakota Quarterly to public attention again and we
started with a series of articles that deal with the Great War in North Dakota and on UNDs
This reprint series had the added benefit of serving as a little design study as I continue to work on
my layout and editing skills. To that end, I used a recently reconstructed, digital version of The
Doves Type to add a bit period-appropriate gravitas to reprints. I also had to negotiate the absence
of a bold or italics for The Doves Type, through the use of a small-caps for titles (recognizing that
this is not a true small caps, but just the same upper-case letters in a smaller font).
(For those who dont know The Doves Type story, it was an Arts and Crafts typeface initially
designed for The Doves Press that was dumped unceremoniously in the Thames River after a
dispute between partners at the types foundry in 1916/1917. Heres a little video about the fonts
recovery. Note that the diver is wearing some kind of sweet diving bell helmet, and the recovery of
this font has an unmistakably archaeological vibe to it. We also thought it paralleled the recovery of
parts of NDQ from obscurity as well as the modernist vibe of the little magazine movement of
which NDQ was a part.)
I tried to keep the pages quite vertical with rather large margins to allow Doves Type some room to
stretch out and enough space to breath. Despite this attention to the font and the page, I still see
plenty of little infelicities that I need to create systems to eliminate in future efforts.
Its not entirely about design, of course. The articles in the volume are good especially Wesley
Johnsons 10,000+ word recollections of his time in the fields and trenches of France and Hazel
Nielsons experiences in France with a cadre of North Dakota nurses. The volume also documents
historian Orin G. Libbys flip-flop from being an opponent of the war to the chair of UNDs War
Committee. It is not difficult to see in his work the brewing controversy with UND President
Thomas Kane who Libby accuses of mismanaging the influenza outbreak on campus which resulted
in the death of several cadets. In any event, the entire volume makes for interesting reading and
brings to life the style, perspective, and spirit of UND in the era of the Great War.
Finally, Id be remiss if I didnt note that this is part of my larger (and growing) role as North
Dakota Quarterlys Digital Editor. My job at least as I see it is to expand NDQs presence on the
web and to enliven how people interact with this venerable landmark in North Dakotas cultural
landscape. So, in a very limited way, publishing this volume is designed to draw people to the NDQ
website and, perhaps more importantly, to get them to sign up for periodic emails from NDQ which
highlights new content, delivers some interesting and timely links, and allows us to spread the word
about the Quarterly to a new, online centered, audience. We have no plan to get away from print any
time soon (and I think well likely produce a print version of the University of North Dakota and the
Great War at some point.)

If you want to download a copy of the University of North Dakota and the Great War, go here for
the Digital Press or here for North Dakota Quarterly. And to get more stuff like this delivered right
to your email inbox, subscribe to NDQs email newsletter (tentatively called NDQ5 get it? A 5th
volume of a quarterly?) here.


Duluth, Two Harbors, and Lake Superior

November 9, 2015
If you read the news lately you might think that Grand Forks is a pretty depressing place. Heck, Ive
even argued that we have the worlds most depressing dog park.
Last week, I spent a few days enjoying the spectacular hospitality of the history department at the
University of Minnesota Duluth. Duluth is a great town with good beer, an attractive and
interesting downtown, and the lake.
At the same time, theres something particularly this time of year melancholy about the lake and
the communities that rely on the lake for their livelihood. This week is the 40th anniversary of the
sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior as it sought safety from a storm.
While visiting Duluth, we went up the coast to Two Harbors, Minnesota. Its one of the larger
taconite ore depots on the lake.

When we arrived, a group of middle aged folks were walking out on the breakwater, despite the
blustering cold wind.


We got to the end of the breakwater and saw a ship in the distance. We asked the folks standing
there (explaining that we were from North Dakota where large things in the distance tend not to
move): is it worth standing out here in the cold to watch that ship come in. They said, without any
hesitation, YES.

So, we hung out and watched the ship come in. One of the old timers on the breakwater mentioned
that he sailed on the SS Arthur M. Anderson out of Two Harbors. In its day, the Arthur M.


Anderson was one of the largest ships on the lakes. She was never the Queen of the Lakes, but she
was famous for shadowing the Edmund Fitzgerald on that fateful night 40 years ago. I didnt ask if
the guy we met on the lake was on the Arthur M. Anderson that night.
We hung out and chatted with the folks there and watched the SS Edgar B. Speer approach. She
was, briefly, the Queen of the Lakes in 1980, and at 1000 feet, she is a massive ore ship. The folks
on the breakwater entertained our naive questions about how a ship this big would navigate between
the breakwater and the taconite piers. The maneuvering involved front thrusters and several
thousand horsepower.
They told us that this will be the last ore ship into Two Harbors. They stressed that it did not have
to be the last ship. The Soo Locks remained open until January 15, but it would be the last ship
because no one needs taconite (which is a kind of palletized iron ore) right now. The Edgar B. Speer
was heading to Gary, Indiana with its load.
We watched as she came into port. I cannot emphasize enough how large this ship was and narrow
the space was between the breakwater and the taconite piers.


After the ship made her way to the rusty piers where she would spend 12 hours being loaded with
taconite, we walked back along the breakwater. The clouds were low, the wind was cold, and we
were pretty quiet. We chatted about how cool it was that the folks at the end of the breakwater were
willing to share what they knew about this ship, how it would dock, and their own time on the lake.
At that moment, we understood why the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald was such a big deal.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

November 6, 2015
Its snowing back home in Grand Forks, but only damp and cool here in Duluth where the sea and
sky cover us with a grey blanket. I think this weather will provide lovely backdrop for a little
exploration of coast of Lake Superior. (To be honest, Ive never spent much time near the Great
Lakes other than a couple of visits to Chicago. Who knew they were so big?).
This weekend looks full of interesting sport with Ohio State and the Eagles having evening games. I
was initially worried that these might conflict with the last two days of the Australia New Zealand
test match. The way it looks now, I might be wrong.
Whichever side youre pulling for (unless its the Cowboys) this weekend, enjoy this little gaggle of
quick hits and varia:

Excavations at Pyla-Kokkinokremos on Cyprus. This site overlooks our site of PylaKoutsopetria and is a neighbor to our Hellenistic site of Pyla-Vigla.

Punk Archaeology and Man Camps on Vice Motherboard.

The shipwrecks of Fourni in the Aegean.

Robert McCabes photographs of and around Mycenae.

Jack Davis on Carl Blegens last years.

A neuroscientist is pretty sure that the pyramids were built to store grain.

North Dakota now that the boom is over.

The dreaded NPR voice which is related (in some ways) to the Secret History of Podcasting.

Does Spotify depress record sales.

RIP Edward Soja. I encountered the idea of third space and the work of Henri Lefebvre
through Sojas writings.

The end of Grantland in the context of Philly sports radio.

What Im reading: E.P. Thompson, Warwick University Ltd. London 1970.

What Im listening to: Floating Points, Elaenia; Tapper Zukkie Man Ah Warrior.

Ill just wait here until supper.


First Snow
November 5, 2015
The last seven years, Ive posted a photo of the first snow (or what I considered the first snow).
Here they are: 2014 (November 8), 2013 (Oct. 20), 2012 (Oct. 4), 2011 (Nov. 10), 2010 (Nov. 21),
2008 (Oct. 28), and in 2007 (Sept. 11).
Unfortunately, Im out of town, but a member of our household stood in for me and recorded the
first snow with scientific patience:


Punk Archaeology in the Media and a Trip to Duluth

November 5, 2015
Just a short post today as Im headed to Duluth for the weekend to give a couple of talks at the
University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Here is the info on those talks.
Today, Im giving an updated version of this talk, which will draw heavily on a soon to be submitted

Tomorrow, Im going to talk about punk archaeology:


If you still cant get enough, check out this article on our work in the Bakken on Vice Motherboard.
It appeared, briefly, above the fold:


Of course, Ill be keeping my eye out for a dog with a rabid tooth while Im there.


Digital Objects at the ASOR Annual Meeting: A Draft of a Paper

November 4, 2015
In a few weeks, Im giving a paper at the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting.
Im giving a paper in the Object Biography for Archaeologist Workshop which this year focuses on
objects as magnets. The abstract for my paper and the panel is here. If last year is any indication, this
should be a fun panel with some good papers.
Last year, the papers went a bit long and that cut into our opportunities for conversation. This was
too bad because the conversation seemed lively and, in some ways, more engaging than the papers.
Even worse, my paper is the fourth of five papers and Im set to go on after 5 pm. In other words,
my paper will happen during cocktail hour.
To compensate for this, Ive decided unilaterally to keep my paper short hopefully ceding a bit of
time for conversation, and to keep my paper relatively simple. My target length is about 1500 words
and I hope I can bring that in at around 12 minutes.
Heres the first, roughedly-rough-ruff draft:
Objects, Clones, and Contexts
The idea of an object as a magnet is compelling. It evokes the idea of the object as a node in a
network of attractions and relations that draw together objects, associations, individuals, institutions,
meaning, and even events and time. In fact, some scholars have suggested that objects are more than
isolated nodes, but actually represent the network itself. In other words, the object does not attract
meaning to it, but is meaning itself. It may be that magnet and the effects of magnetism are
Of course the idea of the object as magnet also got me thinking about the role of magnetism in the
creation of digital objects (even if magnetic storage is giving way to solid-state technologies which
are not a magnetic medium). Instead of messy magnetic metaphors, my paper today will consider a
wide range of digital archaeological objects. These digital objects play a vital role in archaeological
practice and occupy a unique place in how we conceptualize object biography.
Digital objects are ubiquitous in archaeological practice. Archaeologists regularly produce thousands
of digital objects each season and unlike excavated or collected artifacts which may only seem to
proliferate, most archaeologists take active steps to ensure that digital objects are cloned and
distributed across a wide range of locations and contexts. These objects exist in dense networks of
both technological relationships, practice, space, and the archaeological discourse.
Despite the prominence of excavated or collected artifacts in archaeological publications and
arguments, most of these objects enjoy relatively little attention from the archaeologist. They get
uncovered or recovered, washed, identified, sorted, counted, recorded, and stored in trays or boxes
or maybe even dumped. The archaeologists with whom Ive worked on Cyprus refer to these most
common artifacts as sherds (and it must be said with a dismissive sneer). In Greece (and on my
project), we refer to them problematically as context pottery. I suppose this is meant to indicate

that this pottery is so ordinary that it only offers context for the really important stuff or perhaps it
should be regarded contextually along with other features in the trench like the stratigraphy. As a
survey archaeologist with a bit of a quantitative bent, I always felt sorry for these sherds and most
of my real archaeological work has focused on recovering these objects from the enormous
condescension of most archaeological practice.
In our work, these sherds tend to be the smallest and most granular objects recorded in
archaeological practice and the most common objects assigned archaeological significance. As an
aside, Ill overlook the work done to document the chemical make up of sherds which while
important remains quite rare in Mediterranean practice and particularly unusual on a large scale. It is
interesting, however, to note that scientific study of artifact whether through thin sections, XRF, or
neutron activation, does recognize that archaeological objects exist on the molecular level. I dont
have much familiarity with these practices, but I introduce them as a little bit (see?) of critique on
the idea that an object is a magnet. To my reading, this might imply an unnecessary division between
the object itself and meaning (that is attracted to it from elsewhere?). It might be simpler to
understand an object as only existing with meaning. Without meaning (or relationships) objects may
well exist, but not in a useful or recognizable way.
Whatever the specifics, any process used to document these sherds involves the creation of at
least one digital object. Our project at the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria, for example, recorded each
sherd as a record first on a sheet of paper and then in a relational database. At Polis-Chrysochous,
we skipped the paper phase and recorded directly into the laptop computer. The entry in the
database involves creating a record of the objects weight, color, and place in established or local
typologies. In some cases, this record is accompanied by another digital object, a photograph, and in
exceptional cases, we use a series of photographs to create a 3-D structure from motion image of
the artifact that is itself made up of a series of digital objects including photographs, a point cloud, a
wireframe, and a textured 3D object. Each these individual parts of the 3D object represent stand
alone objects that each have particular archaeological values.
At the end of the recording process, the archaeological artifacts go back into their trays or boxes, are
placed on shelves in massive storerooms, and return to relative obscurity. In all, an archaeologist
might spend 20 seconds handling, identifying, and recording a sherd on one of these trays. For the
sherd, as object, the process (and in many ways the utility of the object) is over, but for the digital
object that comes from this interaction its usefulness has just begun.
Over the course of my surveys, excavations, and study projects, we have produced tens of
thousands of these digital objects in relational database as well as digital photographs each inscribed
with vital metadata and assigned a file name meaningful in our recording system. This is standard
These digital objects have innumerable advantages over the fired clay objects. These digital objects
can be sorted instantly. They can be duplicated almost flawlessly. They can be transported over
national borders and cloned so that they appear in multiple places at the same time. They can be
published on the web and in books, and linked to by other folks to form new networks and
relationships. Finally, the conservation and storage of digital objects in the short term is relatively
inexpensive compared, at least, to the expenses and challenges associated with the so-called storage
crisis in archaeology. In so many practical ways, the digital object is more useful to the work of the
archaeologist than the excavated or collected object.

In conceptual ways, digital objects are more useful as well. For example, the digital world in which
we work is so much simpler. It relies upon ontologies that make at least some relationships and
definitions explicit and it cuts through the unsightly messiness associated with archaeological
artifacts. In fact, for a digital object to have meaning, it depends upon a dense, but legible network
of relationships that define not only how a digital object is expressed, but what it expresses.
Moreover, the network of useful relationships between various digital artifacts tends to be more
visible as well. For example, in contrast to cloudy network of associations generated by an
archaeological artifact, the associations linked data relationships follow defined pathways either
within a data set (for example linking two similar objects together within the same dataset) or
between datasets (an artifact to a location in GIS for example or two objects discovered at different
Digital objects rely upon more than merely bits and bites to communicate meaning. They exist
within a networks of physical objects as well. Hard drives are every bit as hard (in physical terms) as
solid state drives are solid. The cloud may seem ethereal, but it too is made up of routers, servers,
storage, racks, chips, wires, and buildings. The devices we use to access our digital objects are made
of silicon, aluminum, rare-earth, and plastics and function best in enclosed spaces with solid surfaces
and comfortable chairs. Problems with the various material interfaces with digital objects will, of
course, compromise the utility of these objects for archaeological analysis.
At the same time, the physical media upon which digital objects depend represent a vital component
of the material culture of archaeology. These archaeological objects which have quite literally a
magnetic relationship with objects produced in the field have only recently received significant
scrutiny as objects. The use of iPads in the field and their innovative, yet familiar, interface has
renewed conversation regarding the material form of digital recording devices. Archaeology of the
contemporary world and the allied field of media archaeology have likewise showed renewed interest
in material form of digital media. The most recent volume of the Journal of Contemporary
Archaeology explored these intersections in a most productive way. An NEH sponsored conference
titled Mobilizing the Past and sponsored by ASOR members at the Atheinou Archaeological
Project encouraged critical reflection on the intersection of digital and material tools used in
archaeological field work.
The focus of todays panels was on objects as magnets. I have taken this a bit too literally in
reference to the myriad little magnetic charges that constitute so much of our digital world. At the
same time, I hope my paper brings to the fore some simple examples of how archaeological work
and archaeological artifacts depend upon digital objects. These digital objects have their own
biographies that require us to adjust our understanding of life to allow for frequent cloning, periodic
reincarnation, spontaneous bilocation, and, as with so many objects, lengthy periods of suspended
These objects have important social lives as well. They depend upon hardware, software, and a widerange of other technological infrastructures and protocols to be useful and understandable to each
other and to archaeologists. These objects, in turn, rely upon the support of economic relationships,
political and institutional structures, and ideological commitments to have value. Not every digital
object has equal value and we all know of digital objects that have died unmourned on a faulty hard
drive, a decommissioned server, or with the obsolesce of a particular application.


With the passing of a digital object, we lose part of the network of relationships that connect our
analysis with the archaeological artifact. This is not a call to keep every related digital object alive on
life support, but to recognize for objects like our poor, marginalized, sherds, the continued vitality of
the digital artifact is more important than baked clay.


Agency, Ontology, and Archaeology of the Recent Past

November 3, 2015
A couple of weeks ago I posted a draft of a review essay that I prepared for the American Journal of
Archaeology on a gaggle of recent books that deal with the ontological turn in archaeology,
agency, and archaeology of the recent past or contemporary world.
After the paper was written, I was asked to enshorten it by about 1,000 words (or so). So I hacked
away at it, took into account critiques from colleagues, and tried to generate a bit more focus.
The result is posted here.
If I had to do it over again, I would have made it an essay on the growing interest on those three
topics in archaeology rather than a clumsy attempt to review 6 books over 4000 words! That being
said, I think my review (despite itself) provides a basic overview of some key trends in archaeological
thinking and demonstrates the significance of recent work on the archaeology of the contemporary
world. If historical and industrial archaeology have historically been rather traditional in their
approach to material, archaeologists interested in the very recent past and contemporary world have
located themselves more on the edge of the discipline. Prehistorians have always pushed the field
forward, so its hardly surprising that two of the books draw on similar prehistoric material as case
studies. Traditional Mediterranean archaeologists, for better or for worse, continue to enjoy a rather
more insulated existence from recent theoretical trends.
Anyway, I hope theres something useful in the review! A revised version of this review essay will be
published sometime next year.


Some Thoughts on Writing a 21st Century History Textbook

November 2, 2015
The posts last week on writing for a non-academic audience and some textbook editing this
weekend got me thinking about what a 21st century textbook should look like. Im also thinking a
bit more actively about a longstanding textbook project that I have simmering. Its a Western
Civilization I textbook based on my podcast lectures. Its 85% written, but only 30% done. Finally,
Ive had a conversation with a couple of people about working up an open access sequence of
Western Civilization textbooks for my press.
This blog post will focus on introductory level courses and textbooks. These are just a bunch of
notes and theyre not meant to be proscriptive, but hopefully theyll get me thinking in a more
structured way about what the next generation of history textbook will look like.
1. Content is not King. Im old enough to remember when the textbook was the most important
source of information on a topic. In fact, I kept textbooks for important classes and even used
textbooks as a guide to basic narrative in graduate school. Today, of course, things have changed.
There are an infinite number of more or less reliable online sources ranging from the ubiquitous
Wikipedia to more specialized digital source books, encyclopedias, and sites. For basic questions on
content, the textbook will no longer be the sole source of information for even a specialized class.
In place of content, a textbook can offer authority. There is little need to reproduce readily available
content on the web, but there is a need to offer students guidance on what is good content and what
is crap. The stability of of online sources is also important. Wikipedia offers a good stable
foundation for most basic historical topics, geography, and names and dates.
2. Modeling Methods and Transparent. If textbooks are no longer fonts of basic content, then there
role of the textbook particularly for introductory level courses is to introduce students to the
basic approaches to producing historical knowledge. To my mind this means that a textbook has to
introduce students to historical methods in a systematic way as well as to model these methods
throughout the text.
To do this, the textbook needs to be a transparent document that reveals how the author constructs
articles from primary sources as well as relates these arguments to existing debates in historical
literature. Obviously, a textbook cannot present all the complexities of historical thinking that leads
a scholar to a particular argument, but some of the intricacies of historical reasoning should be
revealed to the students. This not only models the historical process (at a level suitable for
introductory level students), but also offers a basis for students to critique a scholars historical
As much as we need the textbook to carry a certain amount of authority in the approaches and
evidence, we also need to make sure that the textbook is open enough to critique to encourage
students to flex their own historical muscles and think critically. The authority of the textbook is a
great foil to critical thinking.


3. Coherence. When I was in graduate school, Ohio State edited a series of modular document
readers for their American and European History survey course called Retrieving the American Past
and Exploring the European Past. I used these modules as a graduate teaching assistant and found
many of them to be well thought-out and useful in the classroom. The problem was that these
modules only occasionally overlapped neatly with the larger narrative in the classroom. As a result,
these modules felt isolated or methodological excursions that graduate students led in separate
discussion sessions.
A formal textbook has to offer some methodological or even topical coherence to make it useful
companion to a traditional history class. The goal is to locate the sweet spot for a text that makes it
useful to the most classes and scenarios while keeping it coherent and distinct enough to get the job
done over the course of a semester.
4. Dynamic. One of the advantages of a text that is digital is that it can engage the reader in ways
that traditional paper texts cannot. For example, it is possible to dig down through a digital textbook
to primary sources and it is possible to adjust the content of a digital textbook to correct errors,
adjust for new information, and to explore new areas of interest.
Of particular importance for historians is the ability of a digital text to allow a reader to drill down to
the primary and second sources and to establish relationships between arguments in a text and
additional information available elsewhere.
I suspect that an annual or at least regular versioning process will emerge to avoid having to make
constant changes to the text. Id also hope that users of the open version will make their work
available and this will influence regular changes to the official version of the text.
5. Stable. At the same time, our teaching habits often depend on incremental change through
multiple iterations of a class, and this relies on a certain degree of stability for a textbook. As great as
it would be to produce a new textbook every year, responding to new sources available online and
new approaches to problems, such a book would quickly become a frustration for faculty who rely
on textbook readings and assignments grounded in a consistent body of course material.
As much as the appeal of a dynamic and constantly adapting textbook is, a certain degree of stability
is necessary to make a book of maximum utility.
6. Open. Finally, it goes without saying that the idea digital text is open allowing a faculty member to
take whatever it is that we put out on the web and to adjust it to their needs. Ideally people can use a
stable version of our text perhaps one that gets regular official updates or they can download a
version that they can manipulate, adjust, change, tweak, and revise however they want under CC-By
license. Id like to make a version that is as unconstrained by formatting as possible so that users can
do whatever they want with the text. Id also like to foster a community of users who share their
insights and work on the text to make it a better volume for everyone.
Part of me sort of wished to make my textbook my NaNoWriMo project (even though its not a
novel), but Im afraid that other things have popped up in its place. But I do hope that I can get to
this project over the next 6 or 8 months. It would be great to trial a beta version of my new
textbook next fall!


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

October 30, 2015
The long, last legs of summer have finally run out, and today is genuinely a fall Friday with highs in
the 50s and blue-grey skies. Weather like this will provide a nice evening for trick-or-treaters and
make it just a bit easier to clean up the last of the fall leaves from the backyard this weekend.
If youre one of those varia and quick hit only people (we call them viquickihos), you might want
to roll back and see the interesting conversation and comments on the last two blog posts on writing
for a non-academic audience.
If youre only here for the archaeology, check out the nice work from the folks at Open Context
who have a snazzy new front-end and (Ive been told) a fancy new back-end (not that Im looking).
Heres how our PKAP data now looks.
Hope everyone has a spooky and autumnal weekend!

The news of the Mycenaean warriors grave from Pylos has taken the world by storm and
gives us a feel for the sensation of Schliemanns discoveries at Troy. Heres the Cincinnati magazine
story. Here it is in the old grey lady.

Theres always someone around saying me too!.

Minoan DNA.

If you need more Mycenaeans and More Nakassis, check out his recent podcast

Hobby Lobby purchased antiquities to support ISIS. (h/t to Morag Kersel)

A new book series on Early Christianity from Penn State.

Rowan Williams on the forgotten stories of Eastern Christianity.

Its never too late to stop worrying and learn to love archaeology!

This could be the last thing you read on

An anarchist plan to re-imagine the house museum.

The University of California System really knows how to celebrate Open Access week.

Lovecraft and Archaeology.

Catalogue bot!

An archive of cookbooks.

One fewer excuse not to change the oil.

Guns on campus at UT. In North Dakota, this movement lost momentum when we asked
whether the legislature really wanted to encourage an army of armed liberals.

Just add this to my Christmas list.

Im a pretty good Facebook troll, but not even in this guys league.

What Im reading: T. Gallant, The Edinburgh history of the Greeks, 1768 to 1913: the long
nineteenth century. Edinburgh 2015.

What Im listening to: Built to Spill, Theres Nothing Wrong with Love; Antonio Carlos
Jobim, Wave; Deerhunter, Fading Frontier.



Responses to Writing for a Non-Academic Audience is Hard

October 29, 2015
I was really pleased to see the thoughtful responses to my post yesterday, but there are a few things
that I feel like I probably need to clarify.
It seems like the prevailing attitude is that academics are obligated either ethically or contractually
to write in a way for the general public. It would seem that there are two main arguments for this.
First, this is an extension of our responsibility to teach. Second, there is a direct obligation for all
scholars to make their research accessible to the public because they (at least some of them) receive
public funding.
These are both fair critiques, but I wonder whether they both labor under certain misunderstandings
of how academic knowledge production works. First, teaching is only a part of my contractual
obligations and it is, for better or for worse, distinct from research (and various service obligations
to the university my contract, expressed in this way suddenly sounds quite Feudal in character).
This distinction between teaching and research is both artificial (in that we are generally expected to
teach what we research) and real (teaching uses different muscles than research). There are
absolutely brilliant researchers who advance knowledge immeasurably, but cant teach themselves
out of a paper bag. At the same time, there are committed, inspired, and effective teachers who cant
or dont research. In my experience, I will point out that the former seems more rare than the latter
and this may be because teaching at the modern university requires regular research into teaching
In any case, the distinction between teaching and research follows what I think to be the division
between work that is outward facing (to the public) and work that is inward facing (to my discipline),
and the university shares and encourages this split in responsibilities.
There is, of course, the larger question of whether scholars have a responsibility to make their
research accessible especially at a state university. On this, Im pretty ambivalent for a few reasons:
First, academic production has already anticipated this problem and there are plenty of folks who
work in the world between the vast body of research literature and the general public. Textbooks are
the most obvious manifestation of their work. The best textbooks reflect the latest research filtered
through peer review, copy and style editors, and focus groups of faculty. Academics also receive
help from professional writers ranging from journalists to popular non-fiction authors who
synthesize, summarize, and interpret academic work. Textbook producers and non-fiction authors
are professionals who spend considerably time honing their craft. The idea that an academic could
devote the time and energy to articulating their work at the same level while also committed to
teaching, research, and other responsibilities on campus, takes away from the professional
commitment and craft of these writers. I know that I have turned a skeptical eye toward modern
divisions of labor in the past on this blog, but in this case, I think it works.
Second, I wonder why we feel comfortable committing scholars in the humanities to writing for a
public audience, but we are less willing to subject say, law or medicine or engineering, to these
responsibilities. In fact, Amalia Dillin, who commented on yesterday, actually gives a pass to lawyers

who are expected to know legalese as part of their profession. Legalese is exactly the kind of poor
writing that people recognize in academic work: its full of jargon, unnecessarily opaque, and
stylistically turgid. In fact, it is so boring and dense that most of us do not read EULAs or other
legal statements that are directed to ordinary folks as an audience. Academics writing to other
academics get pilloried, but for some reason legalese gets a pass.
The reason for this is pretty simple. Over the past 60 years or so, academics have fought to maintain
their professional status whereas lawyers have not. Law has been seen as a profession since the turn
of the 20th century, whereas academic work in the humanities has often been seen as something that
anyone can do given the time, access, and resources. After all, anyone can write a history book
without any special training or qualifications, but to represent a client in court, one needs to pass the
bar, complete law school, and have a license. I think doctors and engineers and other professions
who also teach have received relatively less pressure to communicate to a general audience. We
respect the need for doctors to refer to that dangly thing in the back of my throat as a palatine
uvula even though I think most people would understand us without the technical jargon.
Just like doctors and lawyers, academics write in a way that is effective for communicating to other
academics. As Craig pointed out in the comments, this comes from both the socializing process of
graduate school where our writing is subjected to continuous critique in seminar classes and at the
hands of faculty and continues into our academic careers where our advancement is tied, at least in
part, to the success of our ideas among our professional colleagues. If we write in a way that is not
compelling even to our colleagues in our discipline, we will not get published, we will not advance
our ideas, and we will neglect our responsibility to our field.
So pushing academics to write for a general audience both overlooks the professional commitments
of accomplished, professional writers as well as the commitments of academics in the humanities.
Finally, good writing is a good thing, but the criteria for good writing and a general audience is pretty
vague. Things I find accessible and clear are opaque to my students. Disciplinary work that is
effective for me, is not nearly as accessible to scholars outside my discipline. In short, context is a
key aspect for understanding the success or failure of writing. A successful and effective academic
article must contribute to a debate, but this debate might be obscure to a non-academic audience.
This isnt to suggest that writing well doesnt exist in some kind of basic way, but the practice of
writing well depends on audience and context. What is good writing for one group is not good
writing for another. I think that many of the harshest critics of scholarly writing fall far outside its
intended audience. Criticism of academic writers for their style must be contextual.
In the end (after the finally), pushing academics to write for a broader audience will put the quality
and quantity of research at risk. As the academy does more to make professional, research scholars
(especially in the humanities) into teaching employees, I hope the public will recognize that
university and college teaching without research is not higher education at all. Teaching matters, the
public matters, and writing matters, but without the hard work of research, all of that is worth just a
little bit less.


Writing for a Non-Academic Audience is Hard

October 28, 2015
It seems like every year someone pipes up with the suggestion that academic writers particularly in
the humanities should write in a more accessible style and try to engage non-academic readers.
Often the suggestion comes from frustrated graduate students in my graduate historiography class
who have just had to endure some or another theoretically or conceptually demanding text. (In fact,
I once had a class mutiny over just this issue.) Other times, the observation comes from the
Chronicle of Higher Education or some other mainstream publication that cant resist taking a shot
at perceived academic shortcoming. Some have even identified the causes and offered solutions.
As readers of this blog know, Ive been playing around with writing for a non-academic audience for
a few years. I contributed to this article on The Atlantics website, Ive wrote a few things for North
Dakota Quarterly, and I have a book called, A Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch under review.
Im not very good at it (yet), and I think I know why.
1. Its hard. Non-academic writers work very hard for years to develop a personal style and get work
published. However hard it is for academics to get work published in respected places, its much
harder for non-academic writers. They not only have to come up with good story ideas, but also
write them in an engaging way. Then their work has to run a gauntlet of ruthless editors and hope
that their work reaches an appreciative (or even just interested) audience.
By comparison, academic writers have it easy. I write for existing audiences, encounter relatively
little editorial resistance, and have yet to witness any culling of the ranks of academic writers based
on their ability to write. In fact, we are rewarded as much for the quantity of work that we produce
(or at least the quantity of thoughtful work) than the quality of our writing. There are almost no
external incentives to write better.
2. I dont read much creative non-fiction. I barely read at all these days outside of the typical line-up
of academic monographs and articles that my research requires. Many of these works are filled with
exciting ideas, complex prose, and useful information and arguments, but few of them are well
written when compared to quality non-fiction. I suspect that many of these works also deaden my
reading (and writing) palate and loosen the limits on what is acceptable forms of expression.
3. I dont have time. Finally, I dont have time to write, and more importantly, I dont have time to
write and revise and write and revise. Most of my academic writing gets at most three or four
revisions which mainly focus on argument. At best, I manage a single reading for style, and it usually
comes toward the end of the revision process, immediately before the article is due for publication.
This is hardly an ideal time to think critically about larger compositional issues. I mostly look for
glaring infelicities (adverb parties, redundant words, or sentences with similar introductory clauses).
With competing priorities from endless meeting to teaching (and, of course, critiquing my students
writing), I cant imaging having the time and attention necessary to hone my style into something
approachable for a non-academic audience. I certainly cant imaging competing with authors who
write for a living, full-time, and without other priorities.


I dont mean to say that its impossible for all academic writers to write in a way that is more
engaging for a non-academic audience, but I suspect that my experiences are not unusual among
academic authors.
In the meantime, you can read my latest efforts at trying to write non-academic prose here. Its the
revised version of my Wormholes and North Dakota Quarterly article that I originally posted
here. Its slated to appear in NDQ 80.4.


The Present State of my Punk Archaeology

October 27, 2015
Its only been a year since The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota published Punk
Archaeology. Since that time I havent given it much thought. In fact, Ive relied on the relentless
enthusiasm and energy of Andrew Reinhard to carry the punk archaeology touch forward toward
new frontiers.
For some reason, I offered to give a lecture on punk archaeology in a couple of weeks at the
University of Minnesota Duluth in conjunction with a showing of the Atari: Game Over
documentary. Fortunately, Ive only been asked to give a 15 or 20 minute talk and to keep it
informal, breezy, and accessible. This is good because Im a bit at a loss for what to say.
I titled the talk: The A, B, Cs of Punk Archaeology and figured Id talk about some of my work in
the C(orinthia), the B(akken), and with the A(tari) project. So I have case studies, but I feel like I
need to frame these case studies in a more meaningful and substantial way.
In the eponymous edited volume, I noted that Punk Archaeology did five things: (1) It was reflective
(and reflexive), (2) embraced the DIY, (3) expressed a commitment to place, (4) embraced
destruction as a creative process, and (5) was spontaneous. As I look back, though, I wonder how
many of these things could be said for most archaeology. What makes these things worthy of a
distinct definition?
In addition to the five dubious characteristics of punk archaeology, I got to think about three
additional aspects of punk. First, I am becoming increasingly interested in thinking about
archaeology as socially responsible practice. Our work in the Bakken has convinced me that the
tools developed through archaeology can collect data that informs policy as well as documents our
encounter with the contemporary world. Related to this is the interest of punk archaeology in the
contemporary world. Punk rock merged traditional music forms (pop music, folk music, even the
venerable waltz) with contemporary instruments, concerns, and observations. Archaeology can do
the same. Finally, I think punk archaeology has a particular concern for archaeological practice that
extends from the edge of the trench or the survey unit to the publication process. Since the
publication of Punk Archaeology, Ive begun to think more about how the systems we use to collect,
analyze, and publish archaeological evidence (and arguments) and wonder whether we can be more
critical of these practices and be more open to experimentation.
To return to my presentation for Duluth, I think Ill start with a brief overview of the history of
punk archaeology, from Kourelis and Caraher to Reinhard, with a brief stop in the Corinthia and
my work with David Pettegrew (a proto-punk archaeologist if there ever was one) at the 20th
century site of Lakka Skoutara. Here we confronted issues like the abundance of contemporary
material, a site where rapid and constant changes occurred, and the presence of living memories at
the site. These all required that we adapt our archaeological training to address the challenges of this
Without a doubt, my experiences at Lakka Skoutara in the Corinthia shaped my work on temporary
housing in the Bakken where we were similarly confronted with a contemporary, dynamic, and

hyper-abundant landscape. In the Bakken I also came to recognize that the practice of archaeology
mattered to the communities and people who we were working to document. People in the Bakken
boom recognized that it was a historical moment for the region, and saw in our efforts to
understand and document it, affirmation that people cared about their experiences. This motivated
us to work toward publishing the results of our work in the Bakken in free and open access (as
much as this is possible) forms.
Finally, theres Atari. Not only do our efforts represent an effort to deal with hyper-abundance of
the modern world, but also the explicitly performative character of punk archaeological work. We
were simultaneously props for the films directors and researchers attempting to glean as much
archaeological information as possible from the experience. This dual role of archaeologist and
performer makes the performative element of our discipline explicit and situates our work both as
archaeology of the contemporary world and within the contemporary world.
Now to transform this into a breezy and entertaining PowerPointer


Some more thoughts on assessment

October 26, 2015
I spent Saturday morning reading the first part of the George Kuh et al. edited Using Evidence of
Student Learning to Improve Higher Education for a faculty reading seminar on assessment. As
readers of this blog know, I have some pretty strong opinions about assessment and the rise of the
campus assessocracy. At the same time, Im not closed minded about refining the tools that we use
to evaluate our performance as faculty member and adjust our approaches to an ever changing body
of students.
Inkberry and Kuh set out in their introduction to understand the growth of assessment in recent
years in higher education and the sometimes unrealized potential of assessment data to change the
way that we teach and our students learn. They say all the right things. We need assessment for
political reasons, but for it to be useful as well, we have to move beyond an attitude of compliance
and embrace the potential of these begrudgingly assembled data sets. Assessment for the
contributors to this book provides the evidence necessary to make constructive and informed
changes to how we understand teaching and learning in the university classroom.
This introduces three chapters that look at various ways in which assessment data can be used more
effectively to improve learning in higher education. To be clear, these contributions are wellmeaning in their efforts to avoid the various elephants in the higher education room and to make
the best out of an approach to learning improvement that carries with it as many political
consequences as potential benefits.
The book begins with the idea that the quality of student learning at colleges and universities is
inadequate, and while its hard to disagree with calls for continuous improvement, it is also such a
generalized point of departure that it makes any specific response difficult. The transformation of
higher education over the past five decades has been so significant that such simple claims should be
avoided. Certainly higher education has changed and there will always be a need for faculty,
administrators, and students to engage our dynamic world in new ways, but this has always been the
case. Our generations crisis in higher education is no more pressing than in past generations and
identifying a dynamic system as inadequate does little to encourage the kind of collaborative
(rather than adversarial or obstructionist) approaches the book seeks to advocate.
Here are my thoughts:
1. Turning a Blind Eye. The elephant in the assessment room is that these practices have emerged in
parallel with the rise of a highly paid, administrative culture in higher education. The rise of highly
paid administrators tasked with improving efficiency, eliminating redundancy, and streamlining the
educational process has led to centralization of authority and the risk of transforming faculty for
specialized professionals to employees subordinate to a top-heavy administrative bureaucracy.
While Im not sanguine that most universities are capable (or genuinely interested) in changing
administrative culture any time soon, faculty will continue to chafe at the perceived loss of
autonomy. The various authors refer to initiative fatigue as part of the trend that transformed
assessment from an opportunity to a burden, but they dont seem to be willing to admit that


assessment represents a key manifestation of the tension between an administration probing the
limits of its authority and faculty autonomy.
2. Disciplinarity. The first three or four chapters in the book do little to recognize the significance of
disciplinary practice in student learning. Disciplines have long acknowledged that the vitality of their
fields of study depend upon continuous refinements in teaching and learning. These improvements
have tended to be incremental, embedded within disciplinary practices, and to draw upon
experiences across a wide range of campuses.
Unlike assessment, disciplinary discussions tend to be decentralized and grounded in craft
approaches to knowledge production. There is no doubt that conversations about teaching in the
disciplines generally lack the quantitative edge frequently embraced as the basis for evidencedriven improvements in student learning. At the same time, the failure to acknowledge the
presence of rich and ongoing disciplinary conversations about learning and teaching especially in a
book focused on making assessment data more useful on campus is significant.
If compliance culture bedevils the effective use of assessment data, it would perhaps behoove those
committed to campus wide assessment to expand the scope of assessment more fully to include
existing practices at the disciplinary level. Tapping these disciplinary conversation will be admittedly
difficult because they tend to be far more informal and irregular than structured campus-wide
assessment initiatives, but I suspect there would be great value to starting the assessment process
with the question: how do you improve teaching and learning in your discipline?
3. Research Design. One of the key problems with the vast bodies of campus wide assessment data
is that most of it is designed to track a rather elusive problem: how do we engooden learning in
higher education? With this or other similarly broad research questions largely driven by the need
to produce data for accreditation or other accountability programs it is hard to imagine their
immediate or regular utility at the level of a single class or even a departmental curriculum.
It seems to me that good research design is more focused in the questions that it asks and the data
that it produces. More focused research questions tend to involve more focused data collection
practices and do not typically require (or encourage) the kind of continuous data collection at the
core of most assessment strategies.
To be fair, University of North Dakota offers funding for focused assessment projects, but as far as
I can tell, this data is not recognized as part of the larger university assessment protocols. More
problematic still is that this data (or the analysis) is not particularly visible for use by the rest of the
faculty (although in some cases, specific faculty research is made available). We need a white paper
series that features specific research and makes data available for wider critique and use.
4. Where does this lead? My old friend David Pettegrew has a saying: Theres always more
archaeology. He usually pulls this out when Im ranting about the need to get back into the field
and collect more data. Davids quip is meant to remind me that collecting more data does not always
result in more knowledge. It also serves as a useful reminder that collecting data for the sake of
collecting data is not a very useful enterprise.
The broad idea of continuously assessment student learning is not bad, but the idea of continuous
improvement is difficult to sell in a culture where resources are increasingly scarce and diminishing

returns represent a real disincentive to ongoing research. Typical research design produces a result
and always more archaeology is a call to keep the goals of data collection in mind when doing
research. The ultimate goal of assessment may be continuous improvement, but this is hardly a
sustainable objective.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

October 23, 2015
After a spectacular week of warm temperatures and fall colors, were enjoying a rainy Friday perfect
for knocking the dust of harvest and autumn from the air.
The end of the week will provide some excitement as well with the North Dakota is Everywhere
poetry reading tonight, a new podcast dropped on Thursday, the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday
(regrettably opposite Talladega for the NASCAR guys). Richmond plays the mighty Dukes of James
Madison (with College Game Day on hand!), the Buckeyes get Rutgers on Saturday night, and the
weekend wraps up with the resurgent Eagles playing the undefeated Panthers on Sunday night.
Phew. Full slate of fun and games.
Despite the building up, I did have time to produce a list of quick hits and varia for your half-time,
yellow flag, safety car, reading enjoyment:

On Cyprus, the Department of Antiquities have responded to Pamela Gabers ungracious

comments in a recent interview in the Cyprus Mail.

A nice, short online movie for Byzantine Greece.

Epidauros from the air.

After the success of the Iliad, there will be a live reading of the Odyssey.

CFP for a conference on ancient history and GIS.

Lego Lewis Binford.

It is Open Access week, and this is how Digital.Bodleian will do it.

Need a map? USGS Topo Maps have you covered.

Lotsof talkabout active learning and the lecture (albeit earlier) on the web prompted by this
op-ed in the New York Times.

And if youre still not topped up on your interest in higher ed pedagogy, theres this.

The Long, Strange Demise of the Fighting Sioux.

WAIT, something on television and on the Bakken, might be wrong!

Why havent I walked (and mapped) every block of Grand Forks? Why hasnt this

David Byrne is not impressed by streaming audio.

What Im reading: Alfredo Gonzlez Ruibal, Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of
Modernism. Routledge 2013.

What Im listening to: Youth Lagoon, Savage Hills Ballroom; Beach House, Thank Your
Lucky Stars.



Adventures in Podcasting with a very, very special guest: Caraheard Season 2, Episode 3
October 22, 2015
Richard and I were excited to get our old friend and regular listener Dimitri Nakassis on the
Caraheard podcast this past week. He was a good sport and talked with us for well over an hour
about his research and Late Bronze Age Greece.
Season 2, Episode 3: Richard and Bill talk with Dimitri Nakassis

We began by teasing Dimitri (and me) about some of our famous car failures, including this
epic accident (no one was hurt).

To really understand his work, check out his book: Individuals and Society in Mycenaean
Pylos (Brill 2013). Here is some really basic information on Linear B.

Dimitri mentions Richards paper at the Metron conference many years ago, heres a link to

One of the places that this paper identified as a likely location for Mycenaean settlement is
the site of Korphos on the Saronic Gulf. It was published here (pdf).

If you want more Nakassis and dont feel like springing for the book, check out this
YouTube clip called, Rethinking the Mycenaean World, and this one, titled Cities and Thrones and
Powers: Rethinking the End of Mycenaean Civilization.

We mention Eric Clines recent book; it has a trailer. We also mention the work of Jared

We also mention the Patricia McAnany and Norm Yoffee book called Questioning Collapse
(2010) and Robin Osbornes book Greece in the Making 1200-479 BC (1996).

We discuss the artificial nature of the divide between the Mycenaean period (or the Late
Bronze Age) and the early Iron Age and refer to Sarah Morris and John Papadopoulos. This divide
is sometimes called the Greek Dark Ages. Heres what John Papadopoulos thinks of it and in this
article he says: What is a mirage is the Dark Age and the deliberate distance maintained between the
second millennium and the culture of classical Greece.

We talk about Alan Wace and Carl Blegen.


We talk briefly about INSTAP and the East Crete Study Center.
Finally, Dimitri talks about his work using RTI to document the Linear B tablets here.

Did we mention that Dimitri just won this amazing award?


North Dakota Quarterly and Wormholes

October 21, 2015
I was asked to write something on North Dakota Quarterly and wormholes, and this is what I wrote.
Its received lukewarm reviews probably because I dont really understand wormholes, but it was fun
to write so not a total loss!
North Dakota Quarterly and Wormholes
North Dakota Quarterly had a problem. At some point during the history of this journal, we fell
behind in the volume numbers and dates. Volume 79 had a date of 2011, but did not appear until
2012; volume 80 has dates of 2012 and 2013, but the last numbers did not appear until 2015.
Something had slowed time in the NDQ offices and interrupted the regular flow of volumes. We
recognized that the most likely cause of this time dilation to be rapid speed of change in the NDQ
office. Over the past two years, we have organized the editorial board, brought in a new poetry and
fiction editor, developed a more robust digital presence on the web, and released almost our entire
catalogue of back issues for the general public for free.
In 1905, Einstein predicted in his special theory of relativity and experiments have demonstrated
that times moves mores slowly for an object moving at a high speed than for one that is traveling at
a slower speed. For example, it is well known that a highly-accurate atomic clock orbiting the earth
on a satellite measures time more slowly than a clock stationary on earth. In fact, GPS satellites have
to correct for the slightly faster rate of time present on the fast moving satellite when
communicating with the almost stationary status of the terrestrial GPS receiver. In 1915, Einsteins
general theory of relativity, describes how gravity also influences the rate of time. A clock closer to a
source of high gravity, will record time more slowly than one encountering lower gravity. For
residents of the international space station, the difference in gravity almost counter balances the
increased rate of speed to ensure that time moves only slightly slower for them as it does on earth.
These two effects account for the dilated passage of time at North Dakota Quarterly where change
is propelling the journal forward at a very great rate of speed, and the public humanities imposes a
significant gravity to our work.
Unfortunately, this has had the effect of slowing time at the Quarterly in relation to the rest of the
world. As a result, we have to figure out how to reconcile the difference in time between NDQ and
our audience (although we suspect that for some members of our audience the difference in time is
not apparent; these people are quite literally fellow travelers.) To fix the issue of time dilation at
the Quarterly, we could either skip a couple of years (and not publish volumes with the dates of
2014 or 2015) or to fiddle with the volume numbers in such a way that it allows us to skip them
ahead without causing alarm (e.g. the next volume being 81-82 and have a date of 2014-2015). There
is ample historical precedent in the world of literary publishing to combine volume numbers or
simply the skip a year.
Of course, a long-time reader will know that NDQ had a jump in years between volume 23 (1933)
and 24 (1956), but this did not represent the Quarterly falling behind in relation to the regular world,
but a formal hiatus in publication. We also published a few combined volumes like in 2005 and 2006
where we combined the first two issues of volume 72 and 73, but this was a treatment generally
reserved for special issues on particular topics. Volume 72 1/2 was dedicated to Belles Letters and

Volume 73 1/2 to Hemingway. As far as I can tell NDQ has never combined volume numbers.
The closest weve ever come is in 1994-1995, when we combined years, but kept the same volume
(62). This knocked the volume and year numbers out of whack and was clearly not a tidy or
satisfactory solution to our problem.
The absence of a time-honored solution to this problem left us in a bit of jam. We had no real
precedent for skipping years or combining volumes, so those proved to be dead ends. And while we
could have followed the gradualist route of slowly combining issues, but the speed of change at
NDQ would likely lead us to confront the reality of Einsteins laws before we caught up. Plus, wed
have to find topics worthy of double issues but also to invest the effort to produce a double issue,
and this would risk putting us even further behind. In this hopeless situation, we returned to where
the problem started: theoretical physics.
Since the initial issue with time slowing down derived from the phenomenon of time dilation at high
speeds, we hoped that Einsteins general theory of relativity might also provide us with a solution. It
so happens that as physicists came to terms with Einsteins theories, they began to speculate on
phenomena like black and white holes. Both of these phenomena involve locations of very high
gravity surrounding very dense (and hence very small) non-rotating masses. From what we
understood, the high gravity of black holes distort timespace enough to allow for some basic time
travel. Time moves far more slowly for objects orbiting black holes than for those at a great
Objects sucked into a black hole would also experience timespace compression to a remarkable
degree. Einstein and other physicists, particularly Karl Schwartzchild, recognized that if black holes
were to exist and would ingest matter, then the matter ingested by a black hole could be ejected by
white holes. This provided the basis for the notion of wormholes which do more than distort
timespace, but actually punch a hole through two distinct location in timespace and allow matter to
pass from one place to another. Einstein and Nathan Rosen developed these ideas most fully and
they are sometimes called Einstein-Rosen Bridges in 1935. Some astronomers think that very small
wormholes probably existed at the Big Bang and might still exist. The work at the Large Hadron
Collider in Switzerland has sought to create these microscopic black holes, which, on the one hand,
could end the universe, and, on the other hand, might help us understand the origins of the
universe. Physicists have theorized that such wormholes could be created and held open with a
massive infusion of negative matter. It may be that the creation of these very small black holes, or
even wormholes, are useful to us because, we only need to travel a few years and the Quarterly is,
for now, quite small.
While it may seem a bit unorthodox for a journal dedicated to the public humanities to use a
wormhole to resolve the dating problem of their volumes, Id suggest that this is consistent with a
growing interest among scholars of the humanities to think about science as an approach to
traditional social, cultural, historical, and literary problems. I suspect that most humanities scholars
take their lead from such important cultural landmarks as Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure. This
imaginative documentary linked a scientifically advanced future to an equally sophisticated
understanding of the past. Despite its advanced science, the future of humanity needed Bill and Ted
to do well on a history presentation, and future generations did not hesitate to leverage time-space to
make this happen. In response to these remarkable revelations, scholars in the humanities have
gravitated to the works of Bruno Latour and Karen Barad. Barad and Latour, among many others,
have worked to unpack scientific thinking in ways that reveal the deep entanglement of objects,

institutions, people, and events. Science and the humanities draw upon the same imagination and
navigate similar institutional, economic, material, and historical limits to our work. Our idea of a
strict division between culture and nature has increasingly receded reminding us that we are part of
the natural world that our science describes. The inseparability of time, culture, space, society, and
matter in the world recognizes the potential for innumerable wormholes connecting even such
disparate places and times as the arts, humanities, science, engineering, and technology. These
wormholes exist despite the apparently dispersion of disciplines, institutions, and ways of thinking
into institutional silos with distinct histories and theoretical commitments.
The wormhole connecting Bill and Teds history presentation and the future is no more (or less)
absurd than the wormhole resolving the effect of temporal dilation in the sequence of NDQ
volumes or the entanglement of arts and sciences. We are increasingly coming to see the division
between the arts, humanities, and sciences as arbitrary and the mutual commitment to understanding
the universe is not the distinct domain of any particular set of approaches. At the same time, we
recognize that the worlds problems are as complex as they are pressing. From resolving a bit of lag
in the NDQ volume dates to ending the world at the Large Hadron Collider or resolving tension
between religious and secular views, the humanities and the sciences share a desire to use their
understand of the universe to create a better place. We hope that synchronizing the volume numbers
and dates of North Dakota Quarterly contributes in some small way to this common cause.


Teaching Tuesday: The Lecture Problem

October 20, 2015
3A longstanding problem in the discipline of history is the lecture. Looming over our field like a
ponderous, aging, typically conservative, uncle, people insist that the lecture deserves its place at the
table and, well, kids these days dont understand that ole uncle lecture has remained in our family for
as long as he has because uncle lecture is a valued family member. We then shake our fists at
people with their USB ports, active learning classrooms, and practice based teaching reminding them
that we all learned history from old, uncle lecture and what is more, WE LIKED IT.
To be clear, I like teaching lecture classes. I usually teach one every few years to upper level
students. I use podcast lectures in my online history survey, and I even use short, on-point, lectures
in my survey course in a collaborative learning classroom. Uncle lecture is a fine, old thing, as long
as you dont believe the stories about him being a war hero or single-handedly saving O.D.B. from a
burning limo.
In a recent article in the New York Times, by the historian Molly Worthen, trots out uncle lecture
and once again sets him up against all the recent crazes, from technology in classrooms to STEM to
active learning. The rhetoric of her article is defiant, she positions herself as a voice of conservative,
educational wisdom, and she manages to undermine some of the most significant contributions of
the discipline of history in less than 2000 words.
Here are my thoughts:
1. Begun the STEM War has. Worthen decides that the growing influence of STEM might be the
cause for the spread of active learning. The humanities, opponents of all things STEM, must double
down on the lecture to preserve their very identity.
Ugh. This is so wrong, of course. If anyone is the blame for active learning, its probably the
humanities. The 19th century seminar in history was the paradigm for humanities and to some
extent university education for much of the early 20th century. In the seminar, students did not
listen to a lecture, but analyzed primary sources to produce history. The production of history that
is the managing of historical information and the construction of historical arguments remains the
core value of education in the field. History is historical practice. The rise of rote memorization had
less to do with the importance of various fragments of historical information and more about the
construction of a mental database that would allow a student to build an argument about the past.
In fact, the lecture is valuable (for history) only in as much as it models historical practices. A
students who could recite a lecture verbatim (from, as Worthen tells us, detailed notes) is not a
successful student. The practices modeled in a lecture must be applied to evidence either gleaned
from the lecture and reorganized into a new argument or drawn from elsewhere.
Traditions of STEM teaching, in contrast, historically isolated the practice experience of learning
through the lab, field practice, or simulations (often presented via lectures). In other words, the rise
of active learning in STEM fields relates directly to their need to engage students in STEM practice
in the classroom, which is something that these fields have traditionally lacked or sequestered in the


lab component of the class or through field practica or other explicitly hands-on and active learning
Most criticism of active-learning in the humanities stems (heh, heh) from our awareness that all of
what we do is active learning because the product of a history class is the production of history.
Worthens association of active learning with STEM is a bit of pettiness that derives from
educational politics rather than historical realities. It was a weak sortie in the STEM Wars.
2. This contributes to SOTL and Assessment. My skepticism concerning SOTL and assessment are
pretty well-known to anyone who reads this blog. I see both of those practices as components in a
gradual deskilling of academic faculty and the sure transition of faculty from professional experts to
employees. The production of increasingly generalized and non-disciplinary criteria for what we
teach and how we evaluate disciplinary practice is part of larger project to undermine the
professional standing of disciplinary practitioners and make university faculty into teachers rather
than scholars.
Articles like this do nothing to advance our cause. The historical foundations for Worthens
arguments were, as I noted, questionable, her evidence for the value of lectures was squishy and
insubstantial (at best), and the relationship between lectures and particular disciplinary skills was not
clear. If historians value lectures, we should value them not because they keep students off
Facebook or they teach students to listen carefully, but because lectures lead to the production of
good history. As soon as we claim magical powers for lectures, we put ourselves into the realm of
SOTL and assessment which privilege in most cases practices broadly foreign to history and the
humanities (typically, although not exclusively grounded in quantitative or systematic, qualitative
practices of the social sciences) and non-disciplinary learning outcomes (like being able to sit still
and listen, dammit).
We need to stop doing that. The value of history is in practice. We offer the students a way to
understand the past. Historians demand that students demonstrate their ability to understand the
past using historical methods in our classes. (And lecture may or may not be a valuable tool to that
end). Our big picture hope is that by teaching students to understand the past based on historical
methods that they become critical consumers and producers of culture.
3. Blame technology. It is clear that technologies has changed how students and historians engage
the classroom, interact with their peers, and produce knowledge. Worthen was silly about
technology throughout this article. Im sure her lectures are handwritten ensuring that she is better
able to recall fine details while she presents in front of the class room. Studies have shown that
writing lectures out by hand improves retention and memorizing a lecture would obviate the need
for a lectern in the classroom and open up time for Worthen to pace around, wave [her] arms, and
call out questions to which [she] expects an answer.
The issue is, of course, how do students use technology. The kind of one-sided and, frankly,
simplistic view of students and technology in the classroom does not suggest a venerable Luddism
from Worthen, but rather conforms to the stereotype of an out-of-touch humanities professor who
does not understand the way technology fits into the lives of students. Using technology to take
notes, to find sources, and to engage course material reflects a tremendous opportunity and
challenges the role of the lecture as source of information. Modeling historical thinking through
scholarly articles or even textbooks, and pushing students to construct their own arguments and

disseminate them digitally offers many more opportunities than developing among students the
patience to watch a flailing history professor perform a prepared script. I have no doubts that
Worthen understands technology, but her rhetorical position in this article does nothing to help the
humanities in either the STEM Wars or in the court of public opinion. The contest in most cases is
not between lectures and distraction, but between lectures and the remarkable wealth of material
available on the interwebs.
As I said at the start of this post, I lecture and I respect the place of lecture in the history of our
discipline and profession. Heck, I even enjoy listening to an engaging lecture by a peer. Justifying the
place of the lecture within our discipline deserves more than the sophistry presented in this article.
Im not sure that Im ready to present an argument for why preserving the lecture in history deserves
its place within the university classroom, but Worthen has offered some conceits that Ill certainly


Late Roman Archaeology, Corinth, and Plagues

October 19, 2015
One of my favorite days of the year is when my copy of the Journal of Roman Archaeology arrives.
Its the only academic journal to whichI have subscribed for nearly my entire professional career.
There is something unmistakably punk rock about it.It comes out once a year in two thick volumes:
one is dedicated to articles and reports; the second volume contains substantial reviews of all the
books. The layout of the journal is remarkable. It is single column with narrow margins, and a
slightly awkward space between each, indented paragraph. Article titles are in bold, 16-point font,
and full footnotes in a slightly smaller font throughout. The font looks to be Garamond or some
other generic humanist font. If someone told me that the journal was laid out in Microsoft Word,
Id believe them. The journal has an irregular and, frankly, confusing online presence. I think now,
its officially distributed by Cambridge University Press, but as far as I can tell they dont have the
table of contents for the most recent volume available on their web site. For that, you need to go to
the official Journal of Roman Archaeology website which offers a pdf of the books reviewed and
table of contents. Whether the experience of the JRA is an exercise in punk archaeology or just a
kind of studied minimalism designed to draw attention to matter of substance over style, it
remains a one of a kind document.
This years volume is full of valuable contributions. So far, Ive three stand out.
1. M. McCormick, Tracking mass death during the fall of Romes Empire (Part 1). This is the first
part of a two part article that draws upon the first comprehensive catalogue of mass burials in the
Late Roman world. The catalogue will appear in the 2016 volume of the JRA (and, promisingly on
the Cambridge Journals Online website). McCormick offers a typology of mass graves that
distinguished between graves that received multiple burials over time and those and received
multiple burials at once. More importantly, he has taken the first steps toward demonstrating that
the plagues that swept the Roman Empire in the 6th to 8th century produced more mass burials that
in the preceding centuries and likely had a significant impact on the structure of the population
throughout the Roman world. Some of the remains in these mass burials tested positive for
Yersinia pestis which is a strain of the bacteria associated with the bubonic plague. McCormick is
careful not to overstate the significance of these findings, but they do offer a valuable first steps
toward understanding the change in public health during a period punctuated by invasions, natural
catastrophes and wide-spread social and political disruption. Far from seeing the transformation of
the Roman world as a result of disease alone, this work could soon contribute to our understanding
of social change during this dynamic period in antiquity.
2. E. , A Late Antique Fountain at Aphrodisias and its implications for spoliation practices.
This article sits at the intersection of two of important trends in the study of the Late Roman world:
the use of spolia and the use of water. examines in detail the use of spolia in the South Agora
Gate fountain and argues that some, selective defacing of images occurred to make spoliated parts
of the fountain more acceptable to a Christian audience. It appears that defaced deities were those
either that had recently received blood sacrifice, were closely related to the central cults of the
community (e.g. statues of Aphrodite) or those depicted in formally religious contexts (as opposed
to mythological narratives). At the same time, the fountain itself was not just an ad hoc structure,

but showed the deliberate elaboration including teh reconstruction of an elaborate pediment. Finally,
the widespread practice of constructing elaborate fountains in Late Antiquity might reflect the
growing importance of local water sources in cities where seismic events had disrupted regional
systems of aqueducts that had historically provided water to these communities. As local fountains
became more important in providing water for the city, they attracted the attention of the civic elite
eager to present themselves as patrons of the community.
3. M.E. Hoskins Walbank, Inequality in Roman Corinth. Any time you see the name of one of the
long-time Corinth excavation members reviewing a work on Corinth you expect a show!
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there was very little show in Mary Walbanks review of S.J.
Friesen, S.A. James, and D. N, Schowalter edited volume, Corinth in Contrast: Studies in Inequality
(Brill 2014). The book was the third produced from a series of conferences that brought scholars of
the New Testament together with scholars of the Corinthian archaeology, and Walbanks review was
largely positive, praising both this work and the previous two volumes for contributing to our
understanding of the Roman period at this important site.
The only paper that she was rather critical of was by William Caraher (who is he?), but her critiques
were largely fair. As long-time readers of this blog know, my paper looked for evidence for
resistance in Late Roman Corinth and pushed the existing archaeological evidence beyond what it
probably could sustain. Walbank suggested that my efforts to draw on theory to fill in for absent
firm evidence was unsuccessful. She might be right, but the paper was fun to write and present
So, go check out the most recent volumes of the Journal of Roman Archaeology, celebrate its punk
rock style, and enjoy the annual review of all things remarkable in Roman archaeology.


North Dakota is Everywhere

October 16, 2015
Make a date for next Friday at 7 pm at the North Dakota Museum of Art. Heidi Czerwiec will
coordinate readings from a group of poets recently published in a collection she edited, North
Dakota is Everywhere.
The event is sponsored by North Dakota Quarterly, the North Dakota Humanities Council, The
Institute for Regional Studies Press at NDSU, and The Digital Press at UND.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits (on a Thursday)

October 15, 2015
I know its only Thursday, but I couldnt resist sending out a small gaggle of Friday varia and quick
hits for your reading pleasure. Im booked into Prairie Foliage Tour tomorrow and will be out of the
no not really
Ill be at a meeting of the North Dakota Humanities Council in Bismarck.
Before the usual list, heres the link to John Olivers piece on North Dakota from his Last Week
Tonight show on HBO. I thought it was funny, but perhaps not as nuanced as it could have been.
The reality, of course, is both far more terrifying and not nearly as bad.

The work of the University of Sydney Archaeological Excavations at the Paphos Theatre.

A fancy gold wreath excavated near Soloi in Northern Cyprus. It always surprises me a little
that Archaeology Magazine will promote the results of excavations that many would consider illegal.
I recognize that its a complicated issue, and Im sure theyve given it careful thought.

Is it really true that periptera are going to be shut down in Greece?

Something on ruin porn. (Here were my thoughts on a related topic).

19th century Ottoman hats.

Oxford and Syrian academics.

Crowd-sourcing the ANZAC experience.

Patti Smith at the New Yorker Festival. (Heres the video).

The Computer Show.

The Achievement Beard.

The Pulitzer Centers most recent ebook: Refugee Stories.

Luminosa. University of Californias open access book initiative.

Even when filtered for the Republican rhetoric, this is a remarkable achievement in

50 K-mart shopping soundtracks from the 1980s and 1990s.

What Im reading: Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the
Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke 2007.

What Im listening to: Ahmad Jamal, At the Pershing, but not for me. Ahmad Jamal,
Ahmads Blues.


Milos View of NASCAR


Alt-Ac in Archaeology
October 14, 2015
Go over and check out the newest issue of the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and
Heritage Studies (JEMAHS) for their forum on alt-ac (alternate academic) careers (and you might
want to download it all now since I dont think itll be freely available forever). These are careers for
individuals who either shifted their attention from their graduate programs to other, typically related
careers, or received their Ph.D.s and either did not entire the academic job market or could not find
jobs. As the academic job market has become all the more constricted for Ph.D.s in the humanities,
alt-ac careers are becoming more common. This year is my first as our departments director of
graduate studies and Im paying a more attention to the job market as our Ph.D.s and M.A.s
graduate and find their way.
So after chewing on these articles for a bit, I had three thoughts
1. Ph.D. programs have to change. For a long time, Ive thought of Ph.D. programs (particularly in
history, but for archaeology too) as professional programs for historians and archaeologists. The
goal of a Ph.D. program is to prepare a historian for a rather narrow view of the academic job
market. This involves developing more sophisticated research methods, producing book length
arguments, managing long term projects, and balancing teaching and research responsibilities. I
contend that most Ph.D. programs continue to do a good job with these things.
It is another issue whether these things continue to be essential elements of professional
development in our discipline. For faculty who will teach more and research less, it seems reasonable
that we shift some emphasis toward not just teaching, but to integrating research and teaching in the
classroom. Id like to think that our D.A. program at UND which requires students to demonstrate a
broader chronological and topical foundation does a better job in preparing students for certain
types of teaching positions (and our almost perfect placement rate over the past decade would tend
reflect our confidence). In the D.A. program students are required to develop broad expertise in
both European and American history and teach under supervision both the Western (or World)
History survey course, the American history survey as well as to develop a more specialized course.
In place of a traditional dissertation, our D.A. candidates develop a research project that must
include a teaching component that explores how the candidate can integrate their research in either
teaching or public history environment.
2. Alt-Academia is a scary place. Reading the various contributions to this volume emphasized to me
how much the serene world of tenured academia relies upon a fragile world of alt-acedmic positions.
Sarah and Eric Kansas discussion of their situation as directors of the Alexandria Archive Institute
which supports the invaluable Open Access archaeological publishing platform made clear they their
position, both in financial terms and in terms of academic freedom is not as secure as a that of
faculty. Chuck Jones made clear that he made decisions to move because of the opportunity for
Im incredibly lucky to have the security of a tenured position, but I can say with absolute
confidence that I am neither as good at my job as Chuck or the Kansas (Sarah and Eric, not the
state or the band), nor is what I do as important to the field. (And this observation applies,
undoubtedly, to many of the other scholars who shared their experiences in this volume, but I know

these three better than most of the others). The contributions in this volume made very clear how
much key aspects of our academic work are not afforded the same protections (and freedoms) that
tenured faculty have. This is hardly a shock as the number of adjuncts teaching continues to rise
nationwide and universities continue to erode tenure protections through appeals to economic
emergencies, personal conduct, and imagined institutional futures. It is something that should cause
us worry, though. Our opportunity to pursue independent research is only as good as its institutional
context. Libraries and digital repositories (as well as granting agencies, publishers, and other
institutions that support and shape academic work) require the same protections as tenured
3. Disciplinary Deskilling. As I begin my term as director of graduate studies for our small graduate
program, I do worry about balancing the need to prepare our M.A., Ph.D., and D.A. students for
academic positions and alt-ac positions. On the one hand, I recognize that much of our traditional
academic training has some value to a candidate interested in alt-ac positions and our commitment
to professional education in our various disciplinary traditions has (often unintended) utility outside
our academic worlds.
On the other hand, I continue to worry that by looking to prepare our students for the potential of
alt-ac jobs, we run the risk of diluting our professional degree programs. For example, in discussions
of creating a Masters level public history track at UND, weve talked about requiring courses in
non-profit management, marketing, accounting, education, computer programing, web design, and
museum studies. These courses, of course, would introduce students to key skills vital to a career in
the world of public history. At the same time, requiring even a few of these classes will inevitably
squeeze out courses in disciplinary history.
As we think about what we can do to make the Ph.D. a more practical degree in recognition that
most of our Ph.D. students will not become tenured faculty, its hard to avoid the temptation to
start to shift what we emphasize in our Ph.D. programs to adapt to this reality. The problem is, of
course, that the alt-ac world is a much more diverse and dynamic place than academia and looking
to expand the foundation of Ph.D. education will always risk contracting the specialized,
professional training that remains the core of what a Ph.D. is. Were witnessing this on the
undergraduate level, albeit in a bit of a different context, where training in history has increasingly
taken a back seat to the development (and invariably assessment) of transferable skills. After all,
the opportunities in the field of history for a B.A. student are relatively few and history has long
established itself as useful training for a range of other kinds of work. The risk is, of course, if
history largely serves to train students to do things other than history, wouldnt it be more efficient,
affordable, and useful to just train students broadly to do this other kind of work? Why teach them
history as a way to develop skills rather than just training them in those skills? Because history is
interesting? Is the historical method and subject matter the spoonful of sugar (for the medicine of
workforce development)?
Im not sure that I know the answer to this question and how much any discipline should give in
their undergraduate or professional training to the realities of a changing workforce, institutional
cultures, and professional expectations. The careers of the people features in his volume of
JEMAHS offer some thought-provoking case studies that will continue to inform the conversation.


Teaching Tuesday: Half Way in the Scale-Up Room

October 13, 2015
Readers of this blog know that Ive been teaching History 101: Western Civilization to about 150
students in a Scale-Up style classroom this semester. I had great hopes of revamping this class in a
massive way, but decided close to the start of the semester to make a few little changes than a
substantial re-imagining.
These small changes focused on improving how I implemented three main areas. All these changes
have improved student engagement in the material and the quality of student product. Its too soon
to say that they are entirely successful (or will continue to be successful in future versions of the
class), but its been a good start.
The goal of this course is to have students write a textbook. They do this in 15 groups of 9 students
(or so) and each group is responsible for three chapters. Each chapter is researched, outlined, and
written by the students over a 3 week period. The course meets once a week at night in a Scale-Up
room room. Each student has a different textbook that they share with the group as a reference
work. They are also directed to online primary sources and allowed to use online resources to
supplement their texts.
1. More is more. When I taught this course in the past, I had a tendency to ease into chapter writing
phase which began the final 9 weeks of the semester (3 chapters written over 3 weeks each). The
first six weeks tended to emphasize basic team building to get the students familiar with the
classroom, a basic introduction to historical methods, and some short assignments designed mainly
to get the students writing and thinking.
This year, I ramped up my expectations for the first part of the class, and assigned three individual
writing assignments (300-500 word essay) that constituted 30% of the grade for the course. The
tables could work together to prepare the assignment by doing research together, outlining a paper,
and even constructing a thesis, but the papers themselves had to come from each student.
Each paper focused on a kind of history political and military, social and economic, and cultural
and religious history and that introduced students to the ways that historians divide up the past
and helps them understand these approaches when they write their chapters.
While Im not sure that the students have a stronger grasp of these various kinds of history, I do
think that making more work due at the start of the semester builds expectations for the course
more clearly and engages the students in the work of writing history from the first weeks of the
2. Fast feedback. One of the disadvantages of a one-day-per-week class is that it is hard to maintain
an ambitious writing schedule and provide the students with quick feedback on their work. I was
lucky this semester to have a few GTAs who were willing to do read papers very quickly during class
time and provide a list of key issues with the papers before the end of the 2.5 hour class. This gave
us a chance to provide immediate feedback to long form writing assignments.


Fast feedback has often been limited to the use of clickers in the classroom or other rapid response
type devices or applications which allow for instantaneous feedback on questions asked during class
time. The downside these devices is that they usually limit student responses to short answers or
multiple-guess kinds of queries. Ive found that giving students quick feedback on longer, written
work this semester has produced much improved results.
3. Go fast to go slow. The reason why rapid responses to student written work has produced
improved results is that it has allowed us to keep the pace of work high in the class. I know that Ive
celebrated techniques associated with slow learning (and other forms of the slow movement) on this
blog, but, with the Scale-Up room pace is everything. The space of the room is incredibly distracting
to students, lectures are impossible, and its all I can do to keep the students settled and quiet for 10
minutes quizzes at the start of the class.
In this environment, variables in attention span, work speed, and comprehension make it vital to
keep the class moving. To do this, Ive increasingly broken down the work of writing (and writing
history, in particular) into smaller parts which take less time to understand and practice. Focusing on
specific aspects of historical work from writing a single sentence thesis, to constructing an outline
with primary source evidence and specific historical details, to learning when and how to cite
formally allows students to grasp and work through various parts of historical writing process
without being overwhelmed.
These opportunities for attention to detail even if they involve only 10 minutes of sustained
attention per class provide a chance for students to focus attention on many aspects of the writing
process that often get overlooked when students are confronted by the complexity of even short
writing assignments.
As I introduced these little changes, Ive thought a bit more carefully about what I want to
accomplish in my History 101 class. In fact, Im participating in a faculty reading seminar on a book
about assessment. At UND (and I assume elsewhere) were often confronted with the idea that the
actual goal of the class (i.e. writing a textbook) is somehow separate from what we hope the students
learn (i.e. a learning outcome). This division allows us to separate grading the assignment (the actual
goal) from assessing student learning (the real goal). History (and Im sure other fields as well) has
seen this division as a bit of a challenge. After all, our discipline has long valued the production of
historical knowledge more than the process itself. Our methodology is underdeveloped and we lack
much in the way of an ethical, practical, or even philosophical foundation. As disciplinary practice
confronts the ironic view of the modern academy (i.e. teaching history is really teaching something
else citizenship, critical thinking, reading and writing, et c.) we are constantly pushed to figure out
what our discipline REALLY does and to assess that. I find that more confounding than helpful.
After all, one thing that historians are good at is recognizing good history.


Some Recent Works on Archaeological Theory: A Review Essay

October 12, 2015
If my blogging has been a bit sporadic lately, you can thank the review essay that Im previewing in
this post. It looks at a number of recent works that deal with archaeology of the recent past or
archaeological theory.
The article below runs about 5000 words, but it looks like Ill need to cut about 2000 more before
publication. If youre interested enough to read the piece, youll see that those 2000 words are there
for the cutting, but itll also make it a bit less of a review and probably a bit more of an essay.
Enjoy and as always, any comments, observations, or brutal assaults with logic or reason are greatly
View this document on Scribd


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

October 9, 2015
Its a fall Friday and homecoming week here in North Dakotaland and the leaves are changing and
the air is cool and crisp. We turned on our little gas fireplace yesterday night here at Archaeology of
the Mediterranean World headquarters.
Nothing is better than sitting in a cosy office on a fall Friday and avoiding work by reading some
varia and quick hits. (If you get through these quick hits too quickly, be sure to check out the newly
released North Dakota Quarterly archive or listen to our Caraheard podcast or check out the latest
interview on Prairie Public with the translators of K. J. Skarsteins War with the Sioux!)

Some people have asked for more Eric Cline on this blog. So heres an hour long interview
with the author of the award-winning, best selling book 1177 BC.

Heres an interview with MacArthur Fellow Dimitri Nakassis who refers to Eric Cline.

Byzantine Crete.

Early Christian church near Larnaka on Cyprus. This is useful and interesting because the
Early Christian landscape of Larnaka bay is oddly under documented.

Electric Archaeology has enjoyed a bit of a redesign. In a recent post he talked about an
elegant solution to digital open research notebooks. My father worked on a related (but not really
open) problem and got a patent for it back in the day.

A cute animule from Ur.

Other people have asked why we dont post more about Archaeogaming. So heres an
interview with Andrew Reinhard who heroically announced his retirement from Facebook this week.

Scale model of CBGBs.

The achievement beard is much like the post-sabbatical beard.

Photogrammar from Yale is a pretty cool way to explore the content of the Library of
Congress archive. I want to do something similar for North Dakota Quarterly.

Fear of diversity and fear of freedom go hand-in-hand.

What Im reading: George Kuh, Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher
Education. 2015.

What Im listening to: Christian Scott, Anthem; Christian Scott, Stretch Music.

Its fall, and the flokati beckons with the scent of a thousand goats.


Bacon Mac and Cheese, Entitlement, and the End of the Universe
October 8, 2015
Anyone who has been on the internet lately has new seen the crazy bacon-mac-and-cheese college
student video. When I first watched it, I was appalled, confused, delighted, and then sad before
being confused again. I thought that it must have been staged, then it couldnt have been staged. It
was simultaneously the worst thing and then the best thing. It might be the end of the universe, but
Im just not sure.
As one might expect, I wanted to drop everything and immediately work on a small edited volume
focused on this video. I even invited folks to contribute on the Twitters. No one has taken me up
on it which may be a good thing.
At the same time, I felt like I should share my thoughts on why this video is so great and terrible.
1. Entitlement. This is the easy explanation. The 19-year old student, whose name is Luke, felt like
he could just walk in there and get mac-and-cheese without even putting down his beer bottle. As an
example of student white, male, student entitlement or the entitlement of youth, this is worth of
outrage. After all, the internet outrage machine is not known for its subtlety and entitlement is low
hanging fruit.
2. Carnival. Before I admit to this video being an example of young white, male, college student
entitlement (which is almost certainly is in some ways), we should also consider how bizarre it is and
ponder the possibility that this even is a kind of ritualized inversion. If this student is entitled, which
he probably is, his entitlement did not succeed in getting him his mac-and-cheese. In fact, it seems
to have provided a moment of inverted social order where the lowly manager at the dining hall
who is there to serve the entitled, white, male, youth, refuses to serve the student, and becomes
belligerent. The manager hardly remains in his role of service employee (or does he?). The student,
on the other hand, has walked into a dining hall with an open beer. This is not only illegal, but
remarkably ill-advised (Im assuming that it violates the university alcohol policies). Now, its
possible that hes done this many times in the past and is appalled this time because he cant get his
mac-and-cheese, but the reaction of the crowd and the manager seems to indicate otherwise. The
main argument for why he cant get his mac-and-cheese is that hes been drinking.
In this context, there is a kind of ritual inversion. The entitled student who is in a position where
hes least able to enforce his rights to mac-and-cheese is confronted by the empowered employee
who refused to serve a student who is clearly not capable of serving himself. Strange days!
3. The Manager. The manager is the most bizarre figure in the entire video. On the one hand, we
can celebrate his unwillingness to bend when confronted with a drunk, belligerent, and hungry
student. He has policies and he is literally willing to go the floor to enforce them. He stands up to
abuse, keeps his composure, and only resorts to physical violence when he feels threatened.
At the same time, he is responsible for this scene escalating. First, he refused to give the student
mac-and-cheese which, we are led to assume, might immediately de-escalate the situation. Next, he
continues to engage the student. Anyone who has regular contact with students knows the two

email rule. Basically it states that if youre having an argument with a student (over email), it should
be limited to two emails. A third email will only result in escalation and will almost never produce a
mutually acceptable resolution to the conflict. (This is a version of the Mark Twains quip (who I
believe is quoting J-Zed in this instance): a wise man told me dont argue with fools because people
from a distance cant tell who is who.)
Finally, and he clearly recognized that the kid a 19 year old was intoxicated and walked into the
dining hall with an open bottle of beer. Ive been around college students to know that if a student
walks into a public space with an open bottle of beer, then opportunities for reasoned conversation
are likely to be very limited. Why this manager escalated this confrontation to physical violence after
he claims to have called the cops is beyond me (actually, its not, see below). It is interesting that the
manage may have bluffed and says that someone has been called at about the 1 minute mark of the
video and tells the student that he has 2 minutes before they arrive. The cops dont arrive until the
very end of the 9 minute video. At the same time, he keeps telling the student that he should just
leave. (In effect, run from the cops). There is clearly something more going on here, and I suspect it
speaks to the blurry lines between official justice (i.e. the police, the courts, and the laws) and
campus justice (i.e. administrative rulings, disciplinary boards, and policies). The first threat that the
manager issues was not jail, a fine, or even physical violence, but the threat of expulsion. Campus
has its own rules.
4. The Fight. Part of what is going on is that our carnival moment, the moment of ritual inversion
where the servers refuse to serve and the entitled do not get what they expect, breaks down the basic
set of social rules that dictate this kind of interaction. The Manager did not call the police, so the
student as much as he was functioning in a rational way at all recognized that he maybe could
still get his mac-and-cheese or it was at least possible for him to protect his role in the interaction.
When that reality became less and less possible, violence erupts and the student ends up being
pinned on the floor by a burly cook. The cook issued warning shots, though, yelling twice Dont
touch my boss. It would seem that the relationship between the manager and the cook involved a
remarkable degree of loyalty. If we consider the situation as having (a fraught and fragile) element of
carnival to it, then perhaps we can see a kind of class consciousness here erupting onto the scene.
The cook realizes that his boss is in danger, but doesnt see his boss. Instead he sees the limits of
their autonomy as service employees being overrun by this belligerent teen-ager. That might account
for why the manager or the cook continued to escalate the scenario while waiting on the police. This
was not a fight between the police and the student, or even civil society and the student, this was a
fight between those who serve and those who are served. With the fight we see the emergence of
class consciousness forged in the crucible of daily interactions with an entitled generation of white,
college, man-boys.
5. The Video. The arhythmic poetry (almost a dance) of the entire scene immediately made me
assume that this was an elaborate fake. It was something that a professor, someone like my clever
buddy Paul Worley, would produce for a class on performance, class consciousness, and colonial
engage (or something). (Worley once staged an mock confrontation during a research presentation
where students planted in the audience confronted a speaker (who was in on the act) during a
presentation to explore (among other things) the potential for shared authority between the audience
and the speaker. It was sweet).


The manager, the student, and the cook recognize that they are on video. In fact, at one point Luke
looks at the camera and says This is getting posted somewhere, and youre gonna look like a fuckin
tool. The manage responds Thats fine and both of them ham it up for a second for the camera.
For most of the engagement both parties know (as much as the student is capable of knowing in
his impaired state) that they are being filmed. To be completely fair, the manager and the student
had already appealed to the crowd a few seconds before by asking the crowd to support their
positions in the argument. Realizing that theyre being recorded, then, reifies their roles as
performers in the actual confrontation. Being filmed invariably limits the roles that these two
individuals can take. The rest of the video blurs the line between the actual confrontation and the
performance of the confrontation even after the exercised cook yells Shows over while pinning
the student to the floor. The audience is as much a part of this performance as the cook, the
manager, and the student. It is a show.
6. Community. Perhaps the performative aspect of the confrontation is what kept the audience
which appears to consist mainly of students off-camera from becoming involved. A couple
students attempt half-heartedly to convince Luke to leave and try to de-escalate the physical
confrontation, but their efforts are as weak as they are ineffective. If the cooks shout Dont touch
my boss, represents the moment class consciousness emerges, then the reluctance of other students
to become involved in the confrontation suggests that any unified understanding of entitlement is
not so clearly formed that it would motivate bystanders to defend a fellow entitled students rights.
Im not sure that this video makes clear a pervasive sense of entitlement toward which internet
commentators have directed their outrage. Or if there was a sense of entitlement, it was not strong
enough to motivate students to act to defend Lukes rights to mac-and-cheese.
On the other hand, the efforts by the audience to defuse the situation were weak. They watched, the
recorded, and they were clearly amused and shocked as things spiraled out of control, but they didnt
surge to the defense of the manager or grab their increasingly vulnerable bro and remove him
from the situation. This video is hardly an advertisement for bro culture.
7. The Police. Once the student is on the ground and the police intervene, then video gets even
more bizarre. The cop asks the student if the hand-cuffs are too tight and then unlocks and adjusts
the hand-cuffs. Clearly the cop knows that hes being filmed (or assumed it, as perhaps he should on
any college campus). This concern for the comfort of a belligerent, intoxicated, student is shocking
to the viewer. It both reinforces the sense that this student is a teenager and justice for those
struggling with adulthood should be gentler (unless, of course, youre black, then its swift and
violent). Even if we can argue that most of the video presents, at best, an ambiguous commentary
on student entitlement and privilege, the interaction with the cop certainly does. Until Luke spits on
the manager, who bizarrely was still standing by as if to ensure that the cop did his job, the cop was
firm, but polite. After the spit, the cop pushed the student roughly out the door.
The video is many more things, of course, and deserves a more thorough, theoretically informed,
and detailed consideration. It is also sad. The kid apparently was kicked out of the University of
Connecticut because of this (and perhaps other incidents). Apparently this was not the first time that
he behaved aggressively while drinking. There is every indication that these confrontations
represents bigger problems.


We dont know much about this student other than his arrest records and this video, and its easy to
judge him because many of us have seen similar confrontations fueled by alcohol and youth, and its
easy to reduce him to a type. I hope that he has a chance to sort himself out.


North Dakota Man Camp Project White Paper Prospectus

October 7, 2015
My colleagues Bret Weber, Richard Rothaus, and I started to craft a white paper concerning the
recent changes in housing policy and practice in the Bakken this month. Weve been prompted to
put together our research in a more formal after conversations with industry folks and municipal
administrators in the Bakken region.
This is the very first draft of a prospectus for our work. More to come!
Diverse Settlements in a Dynamic Economy
Prcis for North Dakota Man Camp Project White Paper
Charlie Hailey in his 2009 study of camps argued that camps were a quintessentially 21st century
space. Indeed, images of refugee camps, work force camps, protest camps, and even recreational
camp grounds fill the contemporary media with a kind of consistency that belies their temporary
status. Against the backdrop of camps as 21st-century space, this paper presents a summary of over
4 years of research in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota focused on the material and social
conditions of workforce housing.
Our work in the Bakken documented over 50 workforce housing sites with interviews, photography,
and text through multiple visits over our ongoing four year project. As a result, we can discuss and
analyze the relationship between the material conditions in workforce housing and the residents
attitudes toward their life in Bakken, their relationship with various institutions, businesses, and
communities that existed before the boom, and their own efforts to forge communities in temporary
settlements like crew camps and RV parks.
Short-term workforce housing represents a response to both long-term and recent trends in
development of the American West and the global economy. Camps provided temporary shelter for
miners, construction crews, and soldiers in the sparsely populated landscape of the 19th century
American West. By the late-20th and early 21st century, workforce housing had become a multibillion dollar a year industry with global logistics companies provided housing to a similar group of
people on a global scale. Fueled by the frantic pace of the global economy and the nearly-boundless
flow of capital, just-in-time manufacturing, extractive industries, and construction projects have
come to rely upon a substantial mobile workforce who lives and works at a significant distance from
their homes. In the Bakken, the workforce needs of the oil industry vary with drilling and fracking
requiring more labor than production. Likewise, preparing pipelines for waste water and oil both
involves significant labor at the time and reduces the need for truck drivers throughout the life of
the well.
The existence of a workforce as mobile as the flow of capital and the needs of various industries has
put new pressures on the more stable settlements which have come to host the rapid increase (and
sometimes rapid decrease) of these fast moving investments in local resources. Traditionally,
communities expanded housing stock, infrastructure, and investment to accommodate a growing
workforce with some expectation that the economic benefits and new populations were likely to
persist for long enough to produce a return on local investments. In the 21st century, a highly

mobile workforce, supported by global infrastructure companies, changing notions of home, and the
highly integrated character of modern markets, has changed the landscape in which community
investment takes place. Conversations with hundreds of workers in the Bakken across a wide range
of housing demonstrate that these changes in the economy shape the attitudes of workers who have
come to the region. Many of these workers regard their time in North Dakota as temporary, have
homes, family, and strong social ties outside the region, and as the economy slowed, began to
formulate alternate strategies that took advantage of their mobility.
The voluntary mobility of the Bakken workforce requires new approaches for ensuring that shortterm economic development associated with an oil boom becomes sustained economic growth. It is
important to distinguish between the various kinds of work force housing in the Bakken and the
populations that these workforce housing options serve. Large crew camps provided by global
logistics companies or major employers in the oil industry cater to a workforce with high
expectations of mobility and highly-specialized skills tied directly to extractive industries. RV parks,
which also represent another form of short-term housing catering to another highly mobile
population, but often with weaker ties to the oil industry and more generic skill sets ranging from
pipeline work, commercial drivers licenses, to service industry commitments. This group is less
directly dependent on oil industry work, more likely to include family members, including children,
and perhaps more likely to remain in the community after the boom related industry departs. They,
however, are also most likely to require new training or to compete with already existing workforce
for jobs in the post-doom community.
The fundamental challenge facing North Dakota communities during the most recent Bakken oil
boom is how to provide suitable housing for rapidly changing workforce needs. The initial period of
the boom witnessed workers camped in public parks, back yards, and the infamous Walmart parking
lot. In response, the municipalities William and McKenzie Counties issued temporary conditional
use permits (or special use permits) for crew camps and RV parks. This served to ease the initial
shock of the boom by providing housing designed specifically to accommodate the short-term needs
of the extractive work and the mobile character of the workforce associated with this industry.
Housing in these camps ranged from the functional and comfortable in well-appointed crew camps
to the ad hoc and informal in the many RV parks across the region. As oil prices declined, the shortterm population housed in crew camps also declined as there was less need for specialized oil patch
workers during the labor-intensive process of drilling and fracking new wells. At the same time,
residents in the patch who had formerly lived in RV parks found it easier to move into more
permanent housing made available and more affordable by the increasing in housing and apartment
inventories. The key to understanding the trends in housing in the Bakken is to understand that
different populations have different housing needs and resources in the dynamic economic and
social world of the Bakken.


Adventure in Podcasting: Season 2, Episode: 2: Domestic Space and a Very Special Guest
October 6, 2015
In the second episode of Season 2, Bill and Richard violate the spirit of Labor Day and get to work
on recording a podcast. Its okay, because our special guest is Bev, Bills mother-in-law. Since shes
from Australia, we can celebrate Labor Day in late winter, like they do in the southern hemisphere.
Our topic of discussion: the different houses we have lived in and how they shaped our daily lives
in North America, Australia, and Greece.
Season 2, Episode 2: Bill and Richard and a Very Special Guest talk about houses
Be sure to check out our sponsor this episode. Karl Jacob Skarsteins The War with the Sioux from
the Digital Press at the University of North Dakota.
The podcast begins with a discussion of Queensland, Australia, and in particular the Queenslander, a
house, traditionally built of timber, suitable for the hot climate of Australia. We drift into a
discussion of the American Ranch style house, with an oblique nod to the Four-square. Perhaps you
should buy a Field Guide to American Houses. You can find a typology on the web, of course.
Dont forget to learn about the Hills Hoist. And the awesome variety of Australian Pubs.
We referenced Greek Houses and Kostis Kourelis
Australian Place we reference: Queensland, Townsville, someplace called Beero. Townsville is also
home to these superheroes.
Its not Caraheard without a reference to mancamps in the Bakken, or their abandonment as the oil
boom turns down.
Toilet water does not drain counterclockwise in Australia. Quit asking.


An Open Access Archive for North Dakota Quarterly

October 5, 2015
Im very happy to announce that weve worked with the HathiTrust to release the first 74 volumes
of North Dakota Quarterly to the Open Access University under a CC-BY-ND license. The ND for
all you open access crusaders who saw that and immediately started to sharpen blades is an
unfortunate necessity because for much of NDQs history we published without contracts or with
very restricted contracts that only allowed works to appear in a particular volume of NDQ. We
know that its not idea, but it is better than nothing or a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
You can get access to The Archive, here.
I also made this little graphic to celebrate the dropping of The Archive.

Heres the press release thatll go out today:

On Homecoming weekend, alumni, students, faculty, and administrators take time to celebrate the
past and future of the University of North Dakota. North Dakota Quarterly is joining this
celebration by releasing over 100 years of back issues to the public for free. The Quarterly is among
the oldest academic traditions at the University, and the release of digitalized back issues is part of a
renaissance at the journal centered on an active editorial board, a vibrant new design, and a dynamic
web presence. By releasing these back issues, the Quarterly makes a world of content that could only
be read at libraries available to anyone with an internet connection.
Kate Sweney, the managing editor of NDQ, remarks: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to finally
see the many wonderful volumes of North Dakota Quarterly made available digitally and more easily
accessible by a wider audience. I have so many favorite articles, poems, and stories in these issues
and its tremendously exciting to open up the Quarterlys past to a wider audience.
Sharon Carson, editor of the Quarterly, responded: We are proud to be part of public humanities at
UND, in North Dakota, and in spaces beyond. We are delighted to make an archive of such
remarkable writing from NDQs past available to new audiences, and at no cost.


The Quarterly has long stood as a proving ground for writers across the country and world as well as
across campus. The diversity of the Quarterly has long set it apart from the crowded field of literary
journals. Sepia toned prairie reveries shared pages with scientific writing, political commentary,
history, literature, and poetry.
Bill Caraher, who managed the release of NDQs digital archive, noted: It is important to stress
that NDQ is not a stodgy old academic journal. The back issues reveal the tremendous vitality of the
publication as a place for thoughtful comment on the history of the state, the university, and the
world. This represents an important resource for teachers, for faculty across the country, and for
mindful readers everywhere.
The Quarterly explores topics as wide as the prairie horizon with thousands of contributions
touching on issue as diverse as how best to care for states natural resources, the political and social
culture of the region, American Indian history and literature, the history of the university, its faculty,
and administrators, and the various ways that the world intersects with life in North Dakota.
The back volumes of the Quarterly were digitized as part of the larger Google Book project and are
made available through an agreement between the University and the HathiTrust which maintains
parts of the Google Books archive. The back issues can be accessed on the website
and can be downloaded and shared under open access license.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

October 2, 2015
Fall has sprung this week in North Dakotaland with cool nights and mild days. Its a lovely time to
sell a car, struggle through a late summer cold, hurt ones back, or even contemplate the enormity of
the universe. It was also a good week for writing and preparing a list quick hits and varia.
Oh, its been quite a week for my good friend Dimitri Nakassis who finally became a MacArthur
Fellow. Dimitri is one of the really good people in archaeology, and I this prestigious award could
not have gone to a better person. Congratulations!

Unspoken (until now) tales from Olynthus. Read this.

A readers guide to Eric Clines fantabulous 1177 B.C.

Anti-Kythera Shipwreck news.

What is archaeology?

Old Cypriot spittin rhymes.

The Manar al-Athar Open Access Photo Archive,the Guggenheim makes 1600 works of
modern art available online, and you can download almost all of North Dakota Quarterly for free
from the HathiTrust (more on that soon!).

A free journal issue on cultural heritage in the digital age? Yes, please.

Archaeology and water politics.

Fonts and Eye-Charts.

The declining ebook experience.

Some great press coverage for The Digital Presss translation of The War with the Sioux.

Photos from Fukushima.

Having a bad day? Listen to a Ferrari.

Powerpoint is killing thought.

Congratulations to Steve Listopad (a student of mine this semester and faculty at VCSU) for
being honored at the Playboy Mansion.

The NEH at 50 from the Digital Public Library of America!

Why is my beard ginger?


A city with no cars.

Stop Googling and Lets Talk (what about if I cant check Google?)

Corporate culture coops mindfulness. We owe it to the world be less mindful.

What Im reading: Manuel Delanda, A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and
Social Complexity. New York 2006.

What Im listening to: The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn.


Its Milos world, and we are just allowed to play in it.


Writing Week: Final Bits of Chapter 1

October 1, 2015
Writing was brutal this morning, but I think Ive correctly assessed the edge of my understanding
(but like a good archaeologist, Im sure that Ive over-dug into less helpful levels).
The best stuff today comes at the end of the second paragraph.
For those of you who dont know what is going on, go and read this blog post. My typical blog is on
hiatus this week as I work to catch up on some writing.
Archaeology and Media (cont.)
If the excavated games are fragments of both the experience of playing the game and represent the
digital game itself, our own work as archaeologists likewise operated at the intersection of
representation and practice. There is no doubt that our presence at the dig and the remarkable
access that we were allowed reflected our status as props in the documentary (for archaeology and
the media see Holtorf 2007; Clack and Brittain 2007). In many ways, Joe Lewandowski did more of
the archaeological heavy-lifting through his creative efforts to identify the general site of the Atari
dump and his appropriate use of bucket augur to locate the deposit of games itself. The Alamogordo
Atari Expedition team, in contrast, largely worked around the documentary film crews and general
media frenzy to document the excavation of the landfill and the context of the games themselves.
Our formal place within the film, particular Andrew Reinhard who embraced his role as the public
face of the archaeology team and its director, represented our role as archaeologists, which at times
had to skirt the frantic work of the documentary filmmakers to coordinate both the filming and the
public spectacle that surrounded the excavation of the games. The peripheral status of any real
archaeological work hindered the consistent flow of information from the filmmakers to our team
and frequently left us guessing about whether we were witnessing actual excavations or staged
challenges, strategies, and discoveries meant to heighten the sense of triumph when the games where
ultimately discovered. At the same time, we did what we could to play our role and to deploy our
credentials as real archaeologists to legitimize the recovery of the games and to leverage our status
as props to attempt legitimate archaeological documentation.
The vibrant intersection of media and archaeology framed the entire Alamogordo Atari Excavation
and documentary project. The urban legends surrounding the deposition of the Atari cartridges in
the New Mexico desert initially gained a foothold on the internet in forums populated with fans of
Atari games. The storys popularity certainly benefited from the location of the Atari dump in a
remote New Mexico town mere miles from the White Sands Missile range where some of the first
atomic weapons were tested. Moreover, the New Mexico desert is part of a sparse, Western
landscape populated with strange and secret places ranging Area 51 to Roswell. It is only a slight
exaggeration to understand the New Mexico desert as the place where the Frederick Jackson
Turners Western Frontier intersects with the final frontier. A landscape filled with alien
encounters, top secret projects, and technological experiments presented a perfect setting for a
narrative featuring a technology company, a remote dumping ground, and a game based on a movie
featuring a lovable and hapless E.T. While many of the key narratives shaping this fantastic Western
landscape existed in traditional print media and films decades before the emergence of the internet,
communities interested in the various narratives converging in this landscape coalesced on the world

wide web and developed more intricate and detailed arguments. As we will argue elsewhere in this
book, the presence of archaeologists at the dig represented an effort by the filmmakers to appeal to
standards of truth present in forums where conspiracy theories, myth-busting, and suppressed
evidence tend to provide significant fodder for debate. Ironically, parts of the excavation process at
the Alamogordo landfill appeared to drew upon practices spoofed by the director, Zak Penn, in an
earlier mockumentary, The Incident at Loch Ness. In this film, Penn casts himself as a bumbling
producer who seeks to add drama to an otherwise earnest documentary film directed by Werner
Herzog by staging the appearance of the Loch Ness Monster during the film. This fictional film
about a film played upon Herzogs reputation for an earnest lack of irony even in the face of
relentless absurdity (Cronin 2014). Our appeals to archaeological standards and efforts to document
the excavation and recovery of the Atari games formed a similarly earnest foil against the frantic
bustle of stage-managed days at the Alamogordo landfill. It was never clear where the film ended the
dirty work of production began. In other words, the presence of archaeologists at this project was
both the product of our role of archaeology in documentary film, as well as the discourse and media
in which conversations about the Atari dump took place.
Archaeology of the contemporary world brings to the fore the challenges of archaeology in the
contemporary world. As such, archaeology and archaeologists form part of a dynamic assemblage of
objects, ideas, practices, and media that shape our everyday and academic life. The excavation of
contemporary trash carries on the tradition of archaeological work that recognizes both discard
practices and discarded objects as important parts of human life. Archaeological mediation
represents just one method by which discarded things acquire new value and enter into new
relations and forms of circulation. By locating these objects in larger assemblages of practices,
individuals, and objects, archaeologists are able to trace the impact of things on how we engage the
The use of archaeological methods to document the contemporary world is not without
complications derived from the interplay between modern objects and disciplinary, material, and
institutional limits. As we noted, the potential toxicity of the Alamogordo dump prompted the New
Mexico Environmental Department to limit the amount of time the trench was open. The instability
of the landfill itself, which is the product of both the objects in the fill and dumping practices
common at older and smaller landfills around the US, made entering the trench impossible. These
limitations, in turn, challenged traditional archaeological practice and required us to document the
excavations in unorthodox ways as will be more clear in subsequent chapters. Finally, the sheer
abundance of objects in a landfill made exhaustive recording impossible and even statistically
meaningful sampling a challenge. Archaeology of the contemporary world cannot escape or ignore
our profoundly entangled relationship with materials and objects.
The web of relations that made our archaeological work possible is not limited to institutions and
objects that intersected on a windy day at the Alamogordo landfill. In fact, objects at the center of
the excavation drew their significance from a expansive network of media encounters ranging from
the experience of playing the E.T. video game to the film that inspired the game, the internet forums
that incubated a provocative landscape of the American West, and the documentary filmmakers
themselves who sought to control the narrative of discovery and the process of work at the site.
Penns previous work ensured that any conscious efforts on our part to document the excavation
according to disciplinary standards ran the risk of making us the same straight-man dupes as played

by Herzog in the Incident of Loch Ness. Beyond the immediate opportunity provided by the
documentary film crew, the Alamogordo excavation relied upon the convergence of new and old
media far more than any dispassionate scholarly discourse (Jenkins 2008). The web of relations that
made the Atari games significant includes the physical character of the games themselves, the
experience of playing the games, the highly critical reception of the E.T. game when it was released,
the commitment of an online Atari fan base as well as views of the desert West as the realm of
conspiracies, aliens, and fantastic encounters at the margins of the American society. In the case of
the Alamogordo Atari Expedition, our work was deeply entangled in media which were
simultaneously the object of our archaeological documentation and a crucial element of the
assemblage in which our work took place.


Writing Week: More Chapter 1

September 30, 2015
For those of you who dont know what this is, go and read this blog post. My typical blog is on
hiatus this week as I work to catch up on some writing.
Enjoy the fragments and fruits of my labor all week, fresh from the tips of my fingers, and thanks to
everyone who has kept returning to my blog despite its recent myopic focus!
Archaeology of the Contemporary World and the Recent Past (continued)
Using archaeology to document and analyze the modern world has required archaeologists to adapt
their practices and methods. Issues of toxicity, complexity, and sheer abundance have pushed
archaeologists to work more quickly, at a distance, and at a smaller scale. At the Atari excavation in
Alamogordo, there was a strictly maintained safety cordon around the trench owing both to the
instability of scarps cut through the loosely-packed landfill and the operation of the massive
excavator. Moreover, the trench could only be open for a limited amount of time owing to concerns
about the release of toxic chemicals associated with household waste in the landfill and the real fear
of the wind blowing exposed trash into the nearby town. Finally, the excavated landfill material had
to be quickly moved to another landfill and dumped again offering almost no opportunity to the
careful scrutiny of upper strata of the landfill. Entering the trench for the careful documentation of
the levels present and any material visible in the scarp was obviously out of the question. Backfilling
of the trench began the day after excavations were complete as per New Mexico Environmental
Department (NMED) guidelines. As a result of these limitation, we had to document the progress
of the excavation from a safe distance that fortunately provided a satisfactory view of progress
which we then confirmed by occasional visits to the side of the trench. Only once levels near the
Atari deposit were reached did we have access to the material being removed from the trench, and
we have very limited time to document this assemblage.
The archaeology of the modern world offers new opportunities and challenges the discipline. On the
one hand, archaeological methods offers a new perspective on how we interact with the complex
assemblage of objects that constitutes modern life. An emphasis on the relationship between objects
and object and individuals has demonstrated that the human interaction with objects constitutes a
key facet in how we understand our world. On the other hand, modern objects offer particular
challenges for archaeologists and have pushed us to move beyond both the conventional method
and metaphor of excavation as well as practices originally developed to manage the scarcity of
material culture from past. Archaeologists of the contemporary world now must deal with a
sometimes seething mass of toxic artifacts, present in hyper abundant quantities, and often set in
complex networks of relationships with other objects, living people, and newly-developed and
ephemeral media forms.
Archaeology and the Media
The Alamogordo Atari Expedition was media project. Our access to the site was made possible
because we were playing a role in a documentary about the search for the famous dump of Atari
games in the Alamogordo landfill. The reason this kind of venture received funding likewise had to
do with the circulation of various urban legends and conspiracy theories across the internet. This

same connected web of computers was also positioned to disseminate the documentary via
Microsofts X-Box 1 gaming and media platform. At the same time, we digging in the Alamogordo
desert in search of objects best known not for their physical form, but for what that form contained.
The recognition that archaeology and the media have deep interconnection has garnered recent
attention from scholars who have explored the relationship between various media, from
photography and drawing, to television and documentaries, and the objects of archaeological
investigation. There are also scholars, often from the fields cultural studies, who have offered a
broadly construed archaeological critique of media that ranges from the careful examination of
now outmoded or obsolete media to the considerations for how technology has shaped the
production and consumption of media over time. While practitioners of media archaeology have
been quick to distinguish what they do from disciplinary archaeological practice, the shared in the
relationships between objects and concepts like the assemblage has led to a growing convergence in
methods and arguments (Piccini 2015).
Raiford Guins Game After: A Cultural Study of Video Game Afterlife (2014) typifies the growing
convergence between media archaeology and disciplinary archaeological practice. Guins followed
the tracks of video games from objects of desire to obsolete, and typically disposable, commodities
and then back to being collectable items that often confound the efforts of conservators to keep
them operational. He emphasized the materiality of cabinet arcade games contributed significantly to
the experience of game play and argued that even the more modest and mass-produced console
video games for home use sought to blend the aesthetic of cabinet gaming with the character of
domestic space. The elaborate labels evoking the art on cabinet games and contrasted with the faux
woodgrain present on the classic Atari 2600 console designed to fit into the cosy paneled family
room with wood-paneled television.
For Guins, who was present at the Atari excavation, the excavating of the game cartridges was more
than just the exhuming of obsolete media on which a video game was inscribed, but the recovery of
part of the domestic gaming experience for those present. While the game cartridges recovered from
the landfill were, in some ways, the equivalent of ancient transport vessels which derive significance
largely because they reflect the trade in wine, olive oil, fish sauce, or some other typically liquid
commodity, they were also inseparable from process of domesticating the arcade experience and the
fabric of the late 20th century family room. The games were both the material trace the digital game,
but also part of the larger experience. This interpretation was seemingly sustained by the willingness
of hundreds of people to pay money for games that, as far as we know, do not work.
If the excavated games are fragments of both the experience of playing the game and represent the
digital game itself, our own work as archaeologists likewise operated at the intersection of
representation and practice. There is no doubt that our presence at the dig and the remarkable
access that we were allowed reflected our status as props in the documentary (for archaeology and
the media see Holtorf 2007; Clack and Brittain 2007). In many ways, Joe Lewandowski did more of
the archaeological heavy-lifting through his creative efforts to identify the general site of the Atari
dump and his appropriate use of bucket augur to locate the deposit of games itself. The Alamogordo
Atari Expedition team, in contrast, largely worked around the documentary film crews and general
media frenzy to document the excavation of the landfill and the context of the games themselves.
Our formal place within the film, particular Andrew Reinhard who embraced his role as the public
face of the archaeology team and its director, represented our role as archaeologists, which at times
had to skirt the frantic work of the documentary filmmakers to coordinate both the filming and the
public spectacle that surrounded the excavation of the games. Our credentials as archaeologists

legitimized the recovery of the games and gave us the access necessary to attempt archaeological


Writing Week: Chapter 1 continued

September 29, 2015
Im taking a week off from blogging and dedicated my morning time to working on a book project.
Heres a more substantial explanation of whats going on with my blog here, and heres part 1 of my
writing week labors.
Archaeology and Trash (continued)
More recent work on our interaction with trash continues to make visible the complex way in which
we engage with discard as a practice and discarded objects as thing. Scholars like Joshua Reno and
Jeff Ferrell have explored the social dimension of discarded objects. Renos work (2009) explores
scavenging practices among landfill workers at a landfill in Michigan and situates discarded objects
as part of a larger discourse of value. In other words, the value of an object from a landfill is
embedded in the social, economic, and even political of both the individual and the community. For
Jeff Ferrell (2006), spending time as a scavenger on the streets of a Texas City reinforced the idea
that discarded objects can easily regain value in the proper social and economic circumstances. He
filled both his house, his shed, and his wallet (in some cases) with the rewards of cruising the streets
in affluent suburbs looking through piles of discarded objects set out for trash removal. Like Reno,
Ferrell recognized that the value of discarded goods is far from absolute and much more aligned
with the way individuals and groups see these objects. For both scholars, discard and reuse practices
rely upon complex networks of relationships defined by not only the objects themselves, but also
social practices, economic status, and various political commitments.
Archaeologists have long regarded trash as a source for treasured information in the past, and have
become increasingly aware of the various relationships that make archaeological objects valuable.
The presence of archaeologists at the Alamogordo landfill contributed in some small way to the
value of the Atari games located in this excavations lowest levels. Most of the value of these games,
however, derived from the longstanding urban legend associated with their deposition and the
interest of documentary filmmakers in their recovery and the story. The iconic status of Atari among
Generation Xres and a growing nostalgia for their childhood likewise added value to trash from
the bottom of an Alamogordo landfill. The recovery and celebration of these broken, dirty, and
discarded games granted everyday life in the 1980s a legitimizing, archaeological patina. Not only
were these objects important to individual memory from the 1980s, but they also had larger cultural
value. The disbursement of some of the recovered games to museums around the world further
validated a generations nostalgia as more than simply personal memories, but landmark moments in
the history of American culture.
Archaeology of the Contemporary World and the Recent Past
The discarded Atari games gained value from the intersection of the old and new media,
archaeological interest, and generational memory and nostalgia. Archaeologists have become
increasingly interested in the way that artifacts produce meaning both in the past, but also in our
world today. From this interest has emerged the archaeology of the contemporary world which
focuses on the place of objects in contemporary society. Like our reflection of the value of trash,
archaeologists of the contemporary world tend to view objects as existing within dense networks of
relationships which include other objects, individuals, and larger social relationships, political

commitments, economic forces, and even academic, interpretative paradigms. In other words,
objects exist and have meaning only as part of a larger network of relationships.
The greatest challenge facing archaeologists, however, is not finding ways to appreciate the
significance of objects in the contemporary world. After all, the fields ranging from material culture
studies, to history, architecture, anthropology, and design have all explored how we use objects and
buildings to produce meaning in the world. Archaeologists, for their part, have worked to consider
how to approach the study of contemporary objects with methods grounded in rigorous
archaeological practices. When objects are recovered from subsurface contexts, archaeologists can
fall back on archaeological practices and methods to document the significance of modern objects,
unfortunately, however, most modern objects do not derive from excavated contexts and do not
lend themselves to longstanding and common archaeological approaches. In most cases, archaeology
of the modern world does not involve documenting layers of historical deposition to produce a
stratified understanding of the past.
In the place of excavation and stratigraphy, archaeologists have come to deploy another common
archaeological term for their interrogation of the modern world: assemblage (Harrison 2011). For
archaeology, an assemblage represents a body of objects associated with a single archaeological
context. In excavation, assemblages are typically defined by chronology or a depositional event. In
other words, objects dating to a particular period constitute an assemblage from a site, or objects
found in the same deposit represent a bounded assemblage. In other forms of archaeology, such as
surface survey, assemblages can represent all the objects found on the surface over a set area and the
relationship between these objects constitutes a history of a region. In the modern world, a focus on
the assemblage allows archaeologists to emphasize the relationships between these objects and
individuals that interact to produce meaning. Exploring these relationships includes an expanded
awareness of the role of the archaeologist in the produces of analysis and description.
Archaeology of the contemporary world and historical archaeologist focusing on recent times has
also worked to emphasize methodological and procedural issues associated with the documentation
of recent objects. For example, the excavation of damaged vinyl long-playing records from the
commune famously associated with the Grateful Dead at Olompali encountered toxicity associated
with the fire that destroyed the site (Parkman 2014). This not only limited access to the actual
deposits associated with the finds, but efforts to decontaminate the records damaged the objects.
David Yoder commented on the hyper abundance of modern objects that can be formally
considered archaeological under federal archaeological policies has become a challenging obstacle
for archaeologists who often developed their collection and documentation methods in the context
of less materially abundant periods and groups (Yoder 2014). The abundance of modern material
has had an obvious impact on archaeologists involved in managing and maintaining cultural heritage
from the modern world (see Olsen and Ptursdttir 2013) as they work with communities struggling
to adjust their aesthetic values and historical narrative to accommodate objects associated with the
recent past. Sites like the Berkeley Pitt in Butte, Montana, which is a dramatic, toxic, and colorful
superfund site created from an abandoned open pit mine, push communities to reflect on how their
historic and archaeological landscapes fit into their future (LeCain 2009). Despite these challenges,
archaeologists have come to appreciate the ability of from the recent past to present insights into
production, consumption, and discard practices, the changing pace of life in the 20th and 21st
century, and the development of technology. Paul Graves-Brown documented a desk drawer full of
audio connectors that highlight how much simple tools have changed in the last three decades


(Graves-Brown 2014); Colleen Morgan and Sara Perry excavated an abandoned hard drive (Morgan
and Perry 2015).


Writing Week: Chapter 1 Archaeology of the Contemporary World

September 28, 2015
For those of you who dont know what this is, go and read this blog post. My typical blog is on
hiatus this week as I work to catch up on some writing.
Enjoy the fragments and fruits of my labor all week, fresh from the tips of my fingers:
One of the nagging questions behind our work on the Alamogordo Atari Expedition was whether
this constituted real archaeology. There were reasons for doubt. A documentary film company
had arranged to excavate the landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico to verify an urban legend which
claimed that a struggling Atari Company dumped hundreds of thousands of returned, unsold, and
otherwise compromised products into the Atari landfill. From the start, the project was not directly
driven by professional archaeologists. In fact, a gifted amateur archaeology and garbagologist, Joe
Lewandowski, identified the most likely location for the excavation and coordinated the logistics for
the dig.
The object of this work did not fit neatly into existing categories of archaeological artifact. An Atari
game cartridge was not over 50 years old, particular unusual, rare, or even culturally significant
according to traditional archaeological criteria. The role of the game in an urban legend of corporate
hubris and decline seems more fitting for a documentary than the work for serious archaeology.
We had only minimal influence over how the excavation was carried out. Richard Rothauss early
arrival at the dig site gave him access to the work of bucket auguring (and the location of a least a
few augur holes) that identified the most likely place to excavate for the games. A massive excavator
dug the trench which revealed the games and the instability of the landfill itself and the documentary
film crews desire to preserve an element of surprise limited access to the immediate vicinity of the
excavation. Despite limited access, the excavation revealed a predictably simple depositional history
that hardly warranted archaeological attention in its own right.
Finally, once excavation discovered and removed the artifacts, we had only limited access to the
material. In fact, our interest in documenting the assemblage was a far lower priority than the needs
of the documentary film crew to get footage and the various city officials in preparing an inventory
of the finds for their eventual sale. While we did manage to document the deposit where the games
were found, it was hardly at the level of archaeological scrutiny that one might find in either a
traditional excavation or over the course of the late Bill Rathjes Garbage Project excavations. We
did make recommends to city officials and set aside some games to be sent to museums, but we do
not know whether the city followed through on our recommendations.
As at least one participant in the project noted, the documentary filmmakers regarded the
archaeologists as props to validate their claims rather than as active participants in the work of
excavation, documentation, and artifact recovery. At the same time, our status as props gave us
access to a unique excavation and allowed us to observe and document a project that sat at the


intersection of several key issues relevant to recent interest in the archaeological engagement of the
contemporary world.
The Archaeology of Trash
Archaeologists have always been interested in trash. In fact, some scholars have recognized that
some of the earliest archaeological work focused on trash. Dietmar Schmidt, for example, argues
that preeminent German anthropologist Rudolf Virchows accidental discovery of rubbish pits in
Berlin represented a crucial moment in the understanding of archaeology as both a practice and
metaphor for modern social science (Schmidt 2001). In the late 1860s, Virchow thought he had
discovered the remains of an Iron Age pile dwelling in the middle of the modern city, but soon
realized that the deposit of bones, shells, and kitchen pots was discarded rubbish from the previous
century. Despite his disappointment, he documented the deposits carefully and presented a number
of papers arguing that this deposit of 18th century kitchen waste revealed a good bit about the
culinary habits of the German aristocracy and their predilection for oysters and mussels in particular.
When Virchow goes on later in the century to visit Heinrich Schleimanns dig at Troy he comments
on the discarded refuse. Moreover, Virchows work led to periodic investigations of modern sewers
and other nearly contemporary refuse deposits elsewhere in Europe. Schmidt suggests that
Virchows and others interest in the mundane trash rather than simply the glorious inspired Freuds
use of the archaeological metaphor to characterize his exploration of the human consciousness.
Even without such grandiose claims, excavators have invariably recognized the value of middens,
rubbish pits, and other deposits of discarded objects. These deposits speak to both the material
assemblages associated with every day life as well as discard practices and attitudes toward what is
valuable and what is not. Bill Rathje in the early 1970s recognized the value of applying
archaeological attention to discard practices and garbage to the modern world (Rathje 1992).
Rathjes work focused initially on contemporary household trash from the city of Tuscon, Arizona.
The trash was sorted carefully by volunteers and recorded to present a profile of consumption and
discard practices for a cross section of an American city. By the end of the project Rathje had
expanded his work to excavating and taking cores from landfills, and this work linked the life of a
single household to the more complex system of waste management.
Rathjes Garbage Project spurred a growing interest in the nature of trash in modern society.
Michael Tompsons Rubbish Theory (Thompson 1979) offered a theoretical point of departure for
the movement of objects from houseful use and value to rubbish and, at times, their return to value.
Thompson argued that objects circulate through various economic, social, and cultural contexts
which assign or rob the object of value. Contemporary scholars might dispute Thompsons tendency
to separate an object from an external context and prefer to understand objects in a network or web
of relationships with other things, people, and ideas, but his idea that objects have little in the way of
intrinsic or material value allows us to use the study of trash a venue for the larger study of society as
a dynamic force.
More recent work on our interaction with trash continues to make visible the complex way in which
we engage with discard as a practice and discarded objects as thing.


Unprecedented Blog Hiatus

September 27, 2015
My first month back from sabbatical has been full of bad habits. Im reading more than Im writing.
Im using daily tasks (email, reading for class, blogging, grading, service, tilting at windmills) to hide
from long term projects. And, while Ive taken steps to keep my stress level manageable, Ive slowly
felt the icy tendrils of stress creeping into my day-to-day life.
So, Im going to take a week off from regular blogging, and focus my morning therapy writing on
a book project that Im involved in relating to the Atari dig in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Im not
sure that we can meet a very ambitious writing deadline, but Im going to let my writing for this
project take over the blog for the next week.
Here is what I need to write about:
1. Archaeology of the Contemporary World (4000 words). Was the Atari dig archaeology? Is this
even a relevant question? This is the way to reflect on a big picture view of archaeology of the
contemporary world.
2. Digging the Modern: A CRM Perspective (4000 words). The challenges associated with dealing
with modern sites. The challenges of dealing with the landfill.
3. Technical Report on Excavations (8000 words). This has been drafted. Its a technical description
of what we documented during the excavation.
4. Between Artifacts and Commodities (4000 words). Id like to think through more thoroughly the
issue of whether it was ethical to sell the Atari games on auction and reflect on how archaeology of
the contemporary world creates a new, hyper abundant class of artifacts. Ive penned some vague
ideas here.
5. Excavating Innocence (4000). Id like to riff on Laurie Wilkies remarkable book: The Lost Boys
of Zeta Psi (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010) when considering the larger meaning of
excavating an urban legend in Alamogordo. I played with some of the ideas in relation to the Zak
Penn documentary here.
Obviously, Im not going to be able to write all of this in one week, but if I can chip away at some of
these ideas this week during my designated blogging time, then maybe I can keep the dreaded
business at bay.
So I apologize to my regular readers who may find this entire Atari Excavation business a bit
tedious, and promise that I have other things to blog about when I get some of this Atari book on
the page.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

September 25, 2015
Its the first fall Friday of 2015, and the leaves are just beginning to change here in North
Dakotaland. That means that we might start to enjoy some cool evenings and the sparkling dust of
frost in the morning light. Good times except that it too quickly gives way to mind-wrenching cold
temperatures and endless snow piles.
So enjoy the fall weather while it lasts, and enjoy this weeks quick hits and varia:

Will Cyprus allow the Akamas to be developed?

Some more love for the Athienou Archaeology Project on the ASOR blog.

Qin-Han Dynasty and Roman Cyprus. This is a bit chilling.

Finding the West in ISIS.

Medieval graffiti from England.

Authentic pizzerias of New York.

Small Town Football in the Bakken.

Ghost Man Camps!

North By Inferno. A play set in the Bakken.

The New York Public Library is Posting 435,000 Maps Online.

Digitizing early NEH grant records.

Declining student resilience.

Ebook sales slip as people reaffirm their commitment to killing trees.

If Werner Herzog narrated the Muppet Show.

Fake Obama Speaking Fake English.

What Im reading: Chris Fowler, The Emergent Past: A relationist, realist archaeology of
Early Bronze Age mortuary practices. Oxford 2013.

What Im listening to: Ryan Adams, 1989 (but read this review here to see how haters
gonna hate); Teen Men, Teen Men.


Always vigilant.


The Williston City Plan and Refugees in Europe

September 24, 2015
Thanks to the University of North Dakota Geography Department, I was able to hear a nice talk
yesterday by the Donald Kress, Principal Planner of the City of Williston. He walked us through the
policies established beginning in 2008 to provide for crew camps in and around Williston. His talk
focused on crew camps, which were either closed camps established by a company to house their
workers (e.g. Halliburton) or open camps which were operated by a company specializing in
workforce housing (e.g. Target Logistics). The talk did not deal with less formal kinds of workforce
housing like R.V. parks. He took us through the complicated procedures associated with acquiring a
Special Use Permit which allows for a conditional change of zoning for a property and explained
that this kind of permit accommodates most crew camps within the City of Williston. The policy
calculations involved in deciding on how many and where crew camps are accessible ranged from
the pressures a particular camp might put on city services, the camps location, the need for housing,
and even the aesthetic appearance of the facility.
The conclusions of his talk was particularly timely. On Monday night the city made a move designed
to eliminate (or at least reduce) the number of crew camps within city limits by July. The thinking
behind this decision was complex, but seemed, in part, to come from the realization that Willistons
housing inventory is starting to catch up with the boom and there remains a good many alternate
forms of short-term housing available in both Williston (hotels) and in the surrounding Williams
County which has slightly different rules and policies. At a number of times in the talk, Kress
contrasted temporary housing with permanent housing, and it appeared that at least part of the
housing policy in Williston was to encourage permanent housing to support the new workforce to
become permanent residents of the community. There was less emphasis on the need for short-term
housing was a temporary expedient for the lack of permanent housing inventory and not a reflection
of the short-term character of many of the jobs being created in the Bakken.
As I listened to his talk, I couldnt help but reflect on the difference in attitudes between workforce
housing in Williston and the housing of refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts in Europe and the
US. The temporary housing popping up around the Middle Sea to accommodate displaced people is
temporary as part of a larger strategy to move the refugees onto somewhere else. In Williston,
temporary housing was seen as an expediency to accommodate a new population, but flawed
because it could not offer the opportunity to be part of a community in the way that permanent
housing could.
The most depressing reality of this is that many of the folks who live in temporary crew camp
housing in Williston do so voluntarily and look forward to returning home at the end of their stay.
Williston is trying to convince them to stay and become part of the Williston community instead. In
contrast, much of the world is trying to find a way to limit their engagement with the refugee who
are looking to make these places their permanent or at least long-term homes. Clearly, communities
in the Bakken realize that many of the current temporary residents are specialists who would have to
adapt to different economic conditions if they intend to stay in the community for a long period of
time. In other words, Bakken communities assume the same kind of economic flexibility that many
struggle to see in refugee communities.


New Work on Churches in the Peloponnesus

September 23, 2015
I was pretty excited to read Rebecca Sweetmans newest article on the Early Christian churches of
the Peloponnesus in the the most recent American Journal of Archaeology. Not only has her work
done a tremendous amount to recover my dissertation (on the same topic) from academic invisibility
by citing regularly, but she also gave my blog a citation. More than the selfish pleasure of having
ones work recognized, Sweetman has done a great job bringing these neglected buildings into the
scholarly spotlight. We can only hope that her insightful and important work will help these
buildings gain more attention and enjoy for fully in the revived interest in Late Antiquity.
Sweetmans work is both better than mine, but also different. She has brought a more impressive
arsenal of theoretical work to understanding these building and their role in Christianization. She has
also a more intimate familiarity with the archaeology of these buildings from her time working at the
acropolis basilica in Sparta. Finally, she has a more subtle and expansive view of the monuments
themselves. In short, Im jealous of her command of the source material. So, go read her work!
That being said, I do have a few little comments, which are less objections to her arguments than
different takes on the same body of evidence:
1. Memory and Pagan Monuments. Sweetman thinks critically about memory in her work and agues
that Early Christian basilicas and liturgy relied on the active memory of pagan and civic rituals to
produce meaning, and by extension to produce a Christian ritual and social world. She notes that a
few Early Christian churches in Greece were located near recently abandoned or still functioning
pagan sanctuaries (the most famous examples being Olympia and Epidauros).
She also notes that Early Christian basilicas were built on the sites of long abandoned pagan
monuments (e.g. Nemea). The usual reasoning for this phenomena is that abandoned pagan
sanctuaries were a source of building material or the sites of settlements unrelated to the earlier
history of the place. Sweetman hints (albeit vaguely) that memory of pagan activities could adhere to
even long abandoned sanctuaries. I couldnt help think of one of my favorite saints, John The
Strange O Xenos from Crete. He discovered a long abandon pagan sanctuary and did spiritual
battle with the lingering presence of paganism there and built a church.
From the perspective of Early Christianity in Greece, these long abandoned pagan sanctuaries might
be ideal places for Christian churches. They leverage lingering memories, but avoid direct
confrontation with existing pagan practices. Moreover, the appropriation of these sites of lapsed
pagan practices both emphasized continuity with the distant past as well as placing contemporary
paganism as somehow innovative and different from historical practices. This move by Christianity
had the potential of being more powerful than simply siddling up to existing sanctuaries. Christianity
was appropriating the historical landscape of paganism.
2. Church Building and Elite Practice. Sweetman argues that some church construction paralleled
elite practices of munificence by allowing elites to continue to patronize cult activities but to do so
as part of Christian practices. I dont disagree with this argument, but I do wonder whether
emphasizing traditional practices of elite benefaction overlooks changes in Christian attitudes toward

giving to the poor and to the church as part of a larger route to salvation. Changing Christian
attitudes toward giving opened new ways for church builders to fund their buildings and freed them
from existing networks of aristocratic wealth which often proved an obstacle to the centralizing
tendency of the organized church.
There is evidence from the Adriatic coast and from Greece of rather small donations (<1 solidus) to
the decoration of churches. This would have been within the budget of people of middling means in
the Late Roman world. The tendency for these small donations to appear in groups in a building
suggests that the church was recruiting groups of these donors. The appearance of anonymous
donors of small amounts hints that the motive for giving was less about developing civic prestige
and more about seeking divine rewards.
3. Christianization vs. Monumentalization. Finally, I have come to wonder more and more whether
looking at the Early Christian churches of the Peloponnesus has less to do with Christianization and
more to do with the monumentalization process. While I recognize that building monumental
architecture was closely tied to the spread of Christianity from the 4th on, I also wonder whether
our linking of these two processes together obscure the real reason for the appearance of so many
large buildings in Greece in the later 5th and 6th centuries. The 5th and 6th centuries were wracked
by Christological debates that fractured Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean, but
particularly in Greece where imperial and ecclesiastical policies were often at odds with each other.
Investment in monumental architecture, in this scenario, had less to do with the spread of
Christianity, and more to do with the development of competition between groups within
Christianity who had access to resources to make their claims in the Greek landscape. The
proliferation of churches around cities like Corinth need not represent the expansion of the
Christian community in this place, but rather may represent the appearance of groups with
competing claims around this important city. This would help explain the multiple baptisteries, the
multiple synthrona, and the subtle, but obvious differences in architecture and decoration in these
Finally, Sweetman and I would both have great little books on the Early Christian architecture and
Christianization of Greece:
Hers would include her 2013 article, and the two articles she published this year (in the ABSA (pdf)
and the AJA).
Mine is sketched out here.
Its a good time to be an Early Christian basilica in Greece!


Some thoughts on Archaeology after Interpretation

September 22, 2015
Over the last two weeks, Ive been pounding away on a review essay that brings together a few
recent books on archaeological theory together. In late August, I blogged on Andrew Martins
Archaeology Beyond Postmodernity, and today, Im going to share the section of my review essay
that deals with Benjamin Albertis, Andrew Meirion Jones and Joshua Pollards eds. Archaeology
After Interpretation (Left Coast Press 2013). This little summary is rough around the edges and will
likely make more sense (and gain more focus) in the context of the entire review essay, but its a
Whatever the limitations of Martins Latorean archaeology, there is no doubt that Bruno Latour is
among a group of scholars who have pushed archaeologists to become more attentive to materiality
and ontology in their understanding of archaeological assemblages and objects. Benjamin Alberti
and colleagues recognize an archaeology after interpretation. With this provocative title, they urge
archaeologists to move away from a view of objects as representing or symbolizing other things, like
culture, and advocate a shift toward ontological concerns which focus way the properties of
materials contribute to the interplay between materials and humans (24). This interplay expands the
idea of assemblages to emphasize the role of relationality in the production of ontology (236). This
explicitly undermines the notion of context in archaeology as the overarching framework that allows
for the interpretation of archaeological objects, and, replaces it with the study of assemblages of
objects that work with archaeologists to produce meaning (28). The dendritic relationships between
objects, people, and places follow dendritic paths that shape new archaeologies that owe more to
Deleuze and Guttari or even Foucault than what one encounters in traditional archaeological
The first and second section looks to relational ontologies and materialities as ways to offer new
interpretative strategies for archaeology and offers a more conceptually daring approach to
understanding archaeological assemblages than Martin. The contributions to this section range from
critiques of the concept of the miniature in northwest Argentina to redefining the role of the
archaeologist at the intersection of field work and activism among mining communities in Ecuador.
Miniatures are only miniature versions of full sized pots if we assume a scale of measurement based
on the human form, rather than the less corporeal body of spirits. At the the south-central California
site of Chumash, appeals to the ambiguous concept of the shaman may do less to inform the rock
art than a critical examination of this images in relation to their local environment, in comparison to
other similar representations, and with a sensitivity toward the materials that the artists used. In the
second section, Chantal Conneller presented a small taste of her pathbreaking work on the
relationship between materials and forms in the upper Paleolithic with particular attention to
skeuomorphs which use one material to depict another an object in another material. The other
contributions to this volume likewise explore the relationship between the materiality of objects and
the way in which theoretical models of change or practice have impaired archaeologists ability to
sort our complicated and multiple transformations like the shift from the mesolithic to the Neolithic
in England. The diversity in fourth millennium BC assemblages in England reveal multiple rates of
technological change that vary over time in in different locations.
The third section of the work shifts the focus from understanding the relationship between the
material and social change. The authors explore the various ways in which the relationship between

human actors and object interact. This expansive view of assemblages which include both objects
and human actors both echoes Latours view that objects can object to ill-fitting interpretative
schema, and by extension that objects have agency in complex relational networks. Much of the
work in this section focuses on the animist ontologies that structure the relationship between
objects, landscapes, and practices and open up new ways to understand the production of objects
and monuments. Joshua Pollards contribution considers the dense network of processes that
emerged through the construction of stone and earthen monuments in Avebury in the U.K. and in
Polynesia. Sarah E. Baires and colleagues explored the web of movement that shaped both the
encounters with and the production of monuments among the Woodlands groups in North
America. Chris Fowlers important contribution emphasizes the role of time in how we understand
the relationships throughout assemblages. Events are objects within assemblages that play a role in
producing meaning. Fowler makes a key point: social change does not impact the assemblage but
emerges from changing relationships between objects.
The final section of the book considers the role of representation in an archaeology that engages
ontological questions in a serious way. These contributions share the previous sections interest in
production. For example, Ing Marie Back Danielsson considers the practices used to produce and
then to discard Iron Age Scandinavia gold-foil images rather than simply considering their
representation, and Frederik Fahlanders careful reading of coastal rock art in Bronze Age Sweden
demonstrates how various phases of inscription relate to one another bringing time, expression, and
materiality into the production of an assemblage. Andrew Conchrane likewise demonstrates a
sensitivity to time in his study of abstract imagery in the Neolithic passage times of Fourknocks,
Ireland which endured both remodeling and archaeological interventions. Sara Perrys narrative
history of the building of models and dioramas by the Institute of Archaeology at University
College, London and the role that these objects played in developing observational literacy among
archaeologists as well as revenue for the Institute.
The final contribution to the book comes from Gavin Lucas whose work on time, materiality, and
archaeological methods looms large in recent reconsiderations of the archaeological practice. Lucas
approaches the ontological turn through a consideration of the ontological purification that has
traditionally divided reality into humans or things. Returning to the main focus of the book, Lucas
argues that for archaeology to do more than simply reify this division, and other dependent divisions
like that between nature and culture, archaeologists must find new ways of understanding the dense
relational network that include a diverse range of objects. This shift not only marks archaeologys
ongoing move toward the kind of Latourian natural science considered by Martin, but also reflects a
growing awareness of our own networked world.


Media Archaeology and Archaeology of Media

September 21, 2015
Last week I kept going back to the most recent volume of the Journal of Contemporary
Archaeology to read just one more contribution before getting back to work. I couldnt help myself.
The volume pairs scholars of contemporary archaeology, with an interest in the archaeology of the
media, which media archaeologists, who are typically scholars who interrogate both older forms of
media (from film to video games) and the devices upon which these media depend (from celluloid to
8-tracks and theremins).
Traditionally, both sides have sought to disabuse any confusion with the other.Media archaeologists
have explained their use of the term archaeology as an appeal to Foucaults concept as first
explored in his Archaeology of Knowledge. Archaeologists of the media have traditionally explained
their work as focused on the documentation of media and related devices in archaeological contexts
whether through excavation, survey, or intensive documentation of built spaces. The former tends
to emerge along the margins of English departments and Communication programs; the latter on
the fringes of archaeology, anthropology, and history departments.
From my perspective, there are three main things that I got out of this collection:
1. Convergence. This is an old and hackneyed media studies term, but it is perhaps applicable to the
intermingling of issues central to media archaeology and traditional archaeology. Some of this has to
do with the increased dependence of traditional archaeology on digital media and the need to
regularly consider the impact of new technologies on our basic field practices, the state of embodied
archaeological knowledge, and our responsibilities to archive and preserve records of our work. Our
of necessity, archaeologists have become media aware and even traditional practices like drawing,
notebook recording, and photography have seen increased critical scrutiny as practices embedded
within particular social and political (broadly construed) contexts.
It is probably too soon to see all archaeology as media archaeology, but any project that has digitized
its notebooks, prepared or maintained a database, or changed recording media or practices in the
field has flirted with the edges of this emerging field of study.
2. Assemblage. Rodney Harrison has argued (pdf) that the dominant metaphor for archaeology has
shifted from excavation pulling away layers to reveal the past to assemblage tracing the
relationships between all kinds of objects and agents to understand the complex formation of past
knowledge. Media archaeology can draw heavily on Foucaults understanding of discourse and his
rejection of context (there is nothing outside of the discourse). For traditional excavation practices,
context refers to the geological strata in which artifacts exist. As archaeologists have become more
committed to privileging the assemblage as the basic unit of archaeological analysis, they have
increasingly recognized that landscapes, stratigraphy, artifacts, archaeological practice, and even
archaeological media function as a interdependent and interrelated body of objects to produce
knowledge about the past. None of these aspects of archaeological knowledge production exist
outside the analytical process of archaeology.


It is perhaps not a coincidence, of course, that the rise in intensive pedestrian survey as a respects
and widely deployed method for constructing past landscapes is particular committed to the
assemblage as the unit of analysis.
3. The contemporary world. As with so many current (productive and otherwise) theoretical
complications, the point of origin for this convergence of media archaeology and archaeology of the
media is in the archaeology of the contemporary world. In fact, the archaeology of the contemporary
world and prehistoric archaeology appear right now to be the major engines for changing
archaeological methods as well as the destruction of disciplinary boundaries. These sub-fields have
cultivated the growing interest in agency, assemblage, and materials which have positioned
archaeology as more than simply a useful set of tools for understanding the past and located the
discipline as an immediately useful way to approaching material culture in every day life.
As I have noted on this blog, the expanded understanding of agency that recognizes the deeply
embedded set of relationships that shape our actions include both human and non-human agents.
This speaks both to our growing sense of powerlessness in the world and the growing recognition
that technologies increasingly serve to mediate, shape, and limit human interaction. As we interact
regularly with a growing web of objects and media, the boundary between responsibility (and, to use
a political watchword, accountability) and agency becomes increasingly blurred. While this does not
mean to suggest that people in earlier times did not encounter a similarly entangled existence in their
engagement with objects and non-human agents, I would contend that the positing of a post-human
world is something that is more obvious in contemporary society. The need to engage with a range
of both proximate and distant materials, objects, and agents has made more clear that agency alone
is not what makes us human.
Finally, Id be remiss if I didnt point out that Andrew Reinhard has a contribution on the
Alamogordo Atari Expedition in this volume. With each passing publication his ability to tell the
story of the Atari Expedition becomes more refined and interesting. Go and check it out.


Layout and Design Question

September 19, 2015
Im beginning to play around with laying out a group of articles from North Dakota Quarterly on
World War I. Im committed to using Doves Type for all sorts of reasons ranging from the peaceful
name to the vintage feel and the story, of course, of its rediscovery.
At the same time, Im trying figure out how best to lay out the page. Doves lacks italics or bolds, so
everything has to be done with the text itself (and, say, small caps). I like that as a challenge and find
that it is a fairly easy limit to overcome.
Below are a few page mock ups.
Larger (12 pt font) and in a single text block:



Or in columns with a smaller, slightly denser font spacing?





Any feedback would be great!


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

September 18, 2015
Its finally Friday here in North Dakotaland. It feels like two or three weeks since the last weekend,
but when I look at everything that I completed this week, it seems to confirm that last Friday was
only two days ago. Funny how time is.
Despite the strangely short week, this weekend holds the promise of some excitement, including the
first University of North Dakota North Dakota State football game in 12 years, a new Keith
Richards album (I know, right?), and the Formula 1 guys in Singapore.
So, hunker down for some footballing, blues, and Formula 1 racing, with a loyal gaggle of quick hits
and varia:

The Near Eastern Archaeologys Special Issue: The Cultural Heritage Crisis in the Middle
East is now Open Access. Thanks ASOR!

The Sounds of Angels Singing with Sharon Gerstel and Amy Papalexandrou.

More from Rebecca Sweetman on Early Christian architecture in Greece. This time, it is in
the American Journal of Archaeology including the first citation to my blog in that journal! Thanks

An early(?) 4th century mosaic from Cyprus.

The design for St. Nicholass Greek Orthodox church at Ground Zero in New York. Quite
an upgrade.

Oral history of Byzantine Studies from Dumbarton Oaks.

Maybe the earliest born person ever filmed: a 114 year old Greek grandmother weaving.

Check out Dallas DeForests irregularly updated blog (Im not judging) for some rebetika.

Two nice Springsteen covers: Shawn Colvin, Tougher than the Rest; Low, Im on Fire.

A revered child burial from the early 8th century in Frankfurt.

RIP Adrian Frutiger.

What ever happened to Google Books.

Congratulations to the fine folks at Pleiades (its maptastic!) for earning a major grant from
the NEH!

So, its problematic to start a sentence with so.

Why we should fear University, Inc.

Moneyball meets cricket.

The history of closed colleges (or at least colleges with significant name changes).

What Im reading: Jonathan Crary, 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. (Verso
2013) pdf here.

What Im listening to: Keith Richards, Crosseyed Heart; Low, Ones and Sixes.


Hangin with the Eli


The Church at Merbaka

September 17, 2015
Guy Sanders recent article in the most recent issue of Hesperia reconsiders William of Moerbekes
Church at Merbaka, and completes my week of commentary on articles associated with my
colleagues in the Corinthia. To say this article is new or recent is perhaps a bit misleading. Guy
Sanders, the director of the Corinth Excavations, has talked about the ideas contained in this article
for quite some time, and a preprint was available on his page for a couple of years. In
fact, Ive been using this preprint in preparation for taking students to see this building on the
Western Argolid Regional Project.
Sanders arguments are some of the best examples for how traditional archaeological and
architectural analysis can continue to produce provocative, meaningful, and far-reaching
contributions to how we understand the ancient and Medieval worlds. Over the last few months,
Ive immersed myself in a series of books that explore conceptually and theoretically edges of the
discipline of archaeology, and I have found them invigorating and exciting. In this context Guys
work, which focuses more on careful chronological and iconographic arguments than appeals to
overarching theory, was a welcome break.
Ill make just a few observations here. To get the full impact of the article, go and read the preprint
(for free) or the article.
1. Chronology. Perhaps the most important contribution of this article is Sanders re-dating of the
church from the final third of the 12th century to the end of the 13th century based in large part on
the date of the bowls immured in its wall. This Sanders then supports with an intriguing
interpretation of the buildings use of spolia and the name of the village where it stands (Merbaka) to
suggest that William of Moerbeke was it patron. William of Moerbeke was a well educated Frankish
cleric who became Archbishop of Corinth in 1277 shortly after the brief and uneven reunification of
the Eastern and Orthodox church at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274.
2. Architecture as Assemblage. Sanders bases his argument on the complex and expansive range of
spolia built into the church at Merbaka. Without spoiling (see what I did there?) some of the fun of
the article, Sanders saw in this spolia references to William of Moerbekes learning (including a
clever, if a bit strained play on the word spolia), his friendship with the Argives, and the Second
Council of Lyons.
Sanders reading of the church demands that we recognize the use of spolia as both a unified
narrative holding the disparate fragments of reused material (both literally and figuratively) together
in the church, as well as reading each piece of spolia as relating to a wider context. The spolia both
draws the viewer both to the building and asks them to understand the meaning of these stones
through a series of plausible links to events outside of the style and architecture of the monument.
In this way, the church at Merbaka may be best understood as an assemblage, and Guy Sanders is
good at understand assemblages.
3. A Global Greece. Finally, Sanders revised dating and interpretation of this church reframes an
important monument in the Medieval architecture of Greece not as an example of local genius, or a
regional understanding of larger Mediterranean styles, or an indigenous (or worse provincial) style,

but as the product of a global Greece permeated with Eastern and Western influences that stretch
from the capital to the Scholasticism of France and the Low Countries. William of Moerbeke
experience as Archbishop and recognition of the local community offered the key opportunity of
this expression of a global Greece to emerge.
When set against recent events, Sanders positive reading of this church and its patron takes on a
slight shadow. While there is no doubt that the Corinthia and Argolid have long been engaged in
global networks, at the same time, the role of powerful extra-regional forces like those that brought
William of Moerbeke to the Peloponnesus have typically resulted in the loss of some local political,
economic, and social autonomy. This neednt always be the case. After all, Guy Sanders is the
director of a foreign excavation in Greece, but maintains a close relationship with the community in
Corinth, lives in the village, and has advocated for, celebrated, and recognized many of the positive
things about Greek society. At the same time, any reading of the assemblage from William of
Moerbekes church today must remind the viewer of the more negative impacts of direct foreign
involvement in the region.
When recognized as part of the modern landscapes, the church continues to ask provocative and
compelling questions of the viewer.


Early Byzantine Pottery from Kenchreai

September 16, 2015
I was pretty excited to see the most recent publication in the ISAW Papers series: Preliminary
Report on Early Byzantine Pottery from a Building Complex at Kenchreai (Greece) by Sebastian
Heath, Joseph L. Rife, Jorge J. Bravo III, and Gavin Blasdel. First, the ISAW Papers series is an
innovative way to publish individual article length papers, with open access licenses, without the
overhead and complications of running a conventional journal.
Second, and more importantly, Joe Rife is another guy with strong ties to Isthmian and the Eastern
Corinthia, and he fits into my inadvertent theme this week of people who influenced my early
archaeological career through their work in the Eastern Corinthia. Sebastian Heath is a fellow
digital archaeologist, and he and I have some imaginative future projects together currently set to a
low simmer, but, more than that, he is a fine ceramicist. So when they teamed up with some other
fine archaeologists to produce a preliminary report on an assemblage from a site called
the Threpsiades Complex near the harbor of Kenchreai, it was worth some of my time.
Kenchreai (or Quencher as my autocorrect insists on calling it) is the eastern port of the city of
Corinth and sits on the Saronic gulf. It appears to have fallen out of large-scale use after a series of
seismic events in the later 6th or 7th century and today is a small settlement of vacation homes. The
site considered in this article was excavated by the Greek archaeological service nearly 40 years ago,
and the finds came to the current teams attention when the storerooms at the Isthmia museum were
reorganized in 2002-2003. Curiously, at that time, as much as 25% of the material was transported
to Ancient Corinth and buried there to conserve space. There is a tradition of buried assemblages of
Late Roman material in the Corinthia, and it would be very interesting to understand the context
and location of this reburial of archaeological finds. (In fact, as Ive read more and more about the
archaeology of the contemporary world, Im struck by how little archaeology of archaeology there is.
Excavating a pottery dump particularly a big one would be a fascinating opportunity to
understand a wide range of behaviors associated with modern archaeological practices (which are
sometimes less well documented than one would like)).
The report documents the first reading of an assemblage of Early Byzantine pottery. The latest
fineware at the site, African Red-Slip forms 105 and 99 and the later from of LRC (Phocaean RedSlip) form 3 and 10, suggest the last phase of the site in the late 6th or early 7th century AD. Like
our work at Polis on Cyprus, they dont necessarily have complete control of the stratigraphy (yet?)
so some intermixing of earlier and later material is likely in this preliminary analysis.
The main focus of their study, however, is amphora and especially the remarkably common Late
Roman 2 amphora which appeared at this site in great abundance (over 70% of the total assemblage
of amphora). The presence of stoppers and funnels hints that the complex may have served as a
transshipment point for goods into these amphora for import or export (or in the words of the
authors storing and pouring), although the authors stop short of making that argument. In this
way, this small site could be similar to our nearly contemporary site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on Cyprus
which likewise shared an abundance of a single type of amphora, in our case Late Roman 1, which
almost certainly represented the large scale export.


I was pleased to see some Late Roman 1 amphora in the assemblage as well as some other Eastern
Mediterranean types reinforcing the connectedness of this site to larger Mediterranean trading
patterns. I always feel bad that there is no Late Roman D ware (or the fineware formerly known
as Cypriot Red Slip) at these sites, because I regard it as a fine and serviceable fineware that did not
see as much circulation outside of the immediate neighborhood of Cyprus as Id like. Aside for my
sentimental feelings toward an obscure Late Roman fineware, this short publication presents enough
to contribute meaningfully to the larger conversation about exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean.
This site complements the recent short publication by Paul Reynolds and Evangelos Pavlidis on an
assemblage of amphora and fineware from the Bishops House at Nikopolis. This site produced a
substantial group of nearly complete LR1 and LR2 amphora (which accounted for over 40% of the
total amphora at the site) and Samian amphora (which accounted for a third of the amphora at the
site). It also featured a significant quantity of late 6th to early 7th century African Red Slip to the
exclusion of almost any other kind of fineware. The presence of LR1 amphora indicate that the site
had contact with the Eastern Mediterranean despite its western facing orientation, but this did not
result in the importation of fineware like the very common Phocaean ware present at Kenchreai.
Reynolds and Pavlidis observe that the absence of Phocaean ware and the preponderance of Samian
amphora make the assemblage at this site is different from that observed at Butrint (to the north) or
Corinth. This suggests the presence of multilayered distribution models for fineware and
The variation between the assemblages present at these sites make them useful points of comparison
for the diversity of assemblages present on the island of Cyprus. On Cyprus, sites that are less than
20 km apart can produce very different assemblages of fineware and storage and transport vessels
during Late Antiquity. Whether this represents multilayered distribution models offering different
degrees of access or simply differences in taste across a region remains an open question.


More on ISIS and the Destruction of Antiquities

September 15, 2015
Just a short post today directing your attention to a very recent article in Near Eastern Archaeology
by mr Harmansah on the destruction of antiquities by ISIS.
I met mr many years ago during my first season in the field at the site of Isthmia. Little did I
realize that he would develop into one of the most thoughtful and critical thinkers about the ancient
Near East.
His article argues that out preoccupation with ISISs destruction of antiquities has distracted us from
a productive awareness of the groups use of social and new media. In particular, mr focused on
ISIS as a producer of carefully designed images designed to leverage our outrage to achieve wide
distribution. Archaeologists have tended to look through the images (my term, not mrs) and
to focus on the details of destruction rather than to see the image produced by ISIS as part of the
larger strategy.
By focusing on the ISIS media strategy mr understands the group as less some anachronistic
religious phenomenon bent on a kind of naive, or even timeless, iconoclasm and more as a product
of our own hyperreal media age. He suggests that the savvy use of media reveals the super-modern
roots of ISIS which (ironically, perhaps) relies on the same assemblage of capitalist media
technologies (YouTube, Facebook, Twitters, the Interwebs, et c.) as many more familiar (and less
threatening) institutions. What happens, then, when we realize that the medium is the message
and to regard the new media campaign in ISISs reign of terror as another front in a war that extends
from the towns of Syria and Iraq to our mobile phones and computers? The difference is, of course,
that unlike the physical battlefields of Syria and Iraq, the same Western powers, who quibble over
the appropriate way to combat ISIS, own the media battlefields.
Go read it.


Pastoralism and Islands

September 14, 2015
I was really excited to receive a copy of P. Nick Katduliass most recent edited volume titled The
Ecology of Pastoralism (Boulder 2015). Ive known Nick for as long as Ive been active in the field
of archaeology and his career which has spanned periods from Late Antiquity and Byzantium to the
modern age and embraced excavation, field survey and remote sensing, has been a kind of model for
my own, although he is far more of the anthropologist and archaeologist than I will likely ever be.
As readers of this blog know, I spent a couple weeks this summer with a team of graduate students
and volunteers documenting an early modern pastoral site called Chelmis while on the Western
Argolid Regional Project. Nicks book will provide a cutting edge backdrop for our reflections on
the history and archaeology of the site of Chelmis in the Western Argolid. I wish I had time right
now to read this book, follow the various references, and begin to interrogate our evidence from
Chelmis. The good news is that Ill have to process at least some of this book before we give our
paper on our work at Chelmis at the Archaeological Institute of Americas annual meeting this
That being said, I couldnt resist reading Nicks contribution to this volume in large part because he
documents a modern site on the almost abandoned island of Dokos off the coast of the Southern
Argolid in the Aegean. The trips to this island were motivated in part by its proximity to the main
land and other inhabited islands as well as Nicks and Tim Gregorys interest in deserted coastal
islands in the Corinthian and Saronic Gulf. Like many of these islands, Dokos lacks a natural water
source forcing any longterm residents of the island to rely on cistern for water. Tim and Nick
worked to challenge the idea that during Late Antiquity (especially the 7th century) these islands
became refuges for cowering imperial subjects as Roman (or Byzantine) control of Greece collapsed.
Instead, theyve suggested that settlements on these islands represented new strategies of economic
exploitation brought on as much by population pressure and changing economic opportunities as
disruptive invasions. This work has done a good bit to change how we think about Greece during
Late Antiquity. (And a full publication of the Late Antique remains from Dokos would certainly
contribute even more evidence to their larger arguments.)
Karduliass contribution to his edited volume does not deal with the Late Antique phase of activity
on Dokos but draws on interviews with the modern residents of the island and some basic
investigation of their settlement. The modern residents of the island consist of a single couple who
have lived on-and-off on Dokos since the late 1940s. At that time they had herds of goats and sheep
and grew grain and olives on the islands rocky terraces. At times theyd move the flocks from
Dokos to pastures in the Southern Argolid, but today, the couple keeps a goats, sheep, chickens, a
few donkeys and a couple of dogs on the island full time.
Kardulias emphasized that their life on the island may be lonely, but its hardly isolated. Their family
first settled on the island during the disrupted period of the Greek Civil Wars, but always relied on
markets on surrounding islands and on the mainland. In fact, changes in the economic fortunes of
the Southern Argolid in the 1940s and 1950s provided new opportunities for the residents on
Dokos both in terms of markets and in terms of places for their flocks to graze.


Like our work at Chelmis, Nicks team complemented their interviews with archaeological
documentation of the small settlement which consisted of the homes of the resident couple and on
of their sons, a cheese making shed, pens for animals, and, of course, a cistern as well as a church.
An abandoned cistern served as a dump for discarded household material and equipment.
Our site at Chelmis shared certain characteristics with the settlement on Dokos. It clearly flourished
in the period after the World War II as both a pastoral settlement and the site of agriculture with
olives and grain being harvested by the same families whose sheep and goats grazed in the area.
Moreover, despite the relatively marginal appearance and location of these sites, it is clear that they
were deeply embedded in larger networks of travel and exchange. As the work in the nearby
Southern Argolid has shown, the changing relationship of Greece with both Mediterranean and
European markets had as much to do with the shifting strategies of settlement and creative
opportunities to exploit even isolated landscapes for their value to nearby, regional, and even global


Friday Quick Hits and Varia

September 11, 2015
For some reason short weeks take the longest, but this has been a good week so I suppose that I
shouldnt complain that it lingers a bit longer than usual.
First, thank you to all the generous comments on social media about my post yesterday on the
archaeology of care during the current refugee crisis. The only critical observation came over at Paul
Barfords blog. I wrote him a fairly lengthy comment with some ideas for how antiquities collectors
and museums might also contribute to shifting the focus from objects to people even just for a time.
Check out Richard Rothauss musing here.
Second, I want to thank everyone who downloaded or purchased copies of The Digital Presss most
recent publication, Karl Jakob Skarsteins The War with the Sioux. In the first week the book was
available we saw over 150 copies enter circulation as either free downloads or purchases. Needless
to say, this is great start since weve done no marketing beyond the social media networks of the
authors, translators, and friends of the Press.
Finally, thanks to everyone who took the time to listen to the first Caraheard podcast of the season.
Richard and I are already scheming up some ways to keep our always witty banter fresh and
With my self-congratulatory banter dispensed with, on to some quick hits and varia:

Sebastian Heath and company on Early Byzantine pottery from Kenchreai, in brilliant, open

A long feature on Pamela Gabers work at Idalion in the Cyprus Mail. Its odd that the Mail
could assert the most depressing part of Pamela Gabers story is perhaps that an American
shouldve spent her life uncovering Cypriot treasures to the general indifference of actual Cypriots,
while at the same time overlooking the important Cypriot excavations at Idalion.

Digging at Dreamers Bay. This site is the closest parallel to the site of Pyla-Koutsopetria on

The newest issue of the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology is also nearly all open access.

The most recent special issue of the Near Eastern Archaeology on the Cultural Heritage
Crisis in the Middle East is not open access.

The mighty team of women who spelunked and excavated a new species of human.

This site solves The New Yorker Problem. And the art of omission and why you hate the
new Google logo.

Overwhelming mediation on the tides of human misery.

A mash up of Infinite Jest and Ulysses. (No not really).

Two kinds of people.

The answering machine messages from the Rockford files.

Are blue collar shirts still blue collar?

A man camp gone mobile?

Breaking Madden 3.

What Im reading: Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 2.1 (2015).


What Im listening to: Empress of, Me; Lou Barlow, Brace the Wave.

If he cant get over writers block,

the great American dog novel will never get finished.


An Archaeology of Care
September 10, 2015
Like many archaeologists, Ive been horrified and outraged by the events in Syria over the past
month. I find it much harder to understand the logic behind dying for an archaeological site
(although I suppose in my most heroic moments I can understand it), than to grasp ISIS relentless
desire for media attention and access to the outrage amplifier of the internet. At the same time, I
cannot find fault with the archaeologists, scholars, and members of the media who have expressed
their horror at the destruction at sites like Palmyra and have used this horror to publicize the larger
catastrophe that the ISIS represents for both the people and the archaeology of both the Middle
East and the world.
My greatest concern throughout the continuous outpouring of outrage and horror regarding the
destruction of archaeological sites is that there has been so little effort by archaeologists to see their
discipline as a way to understand more fully the human cost of the destabilized Syria. I was particular
moved this weekend by a short article which asks Syrian refugees to show whats in their bags.
This article is meant to be a provocative play on similar stories run on tech websites where overprivilege techsters show off the tools of their trade. Its a clever idea. In fact, Richard Rothaus and I
picked up on it last year and did a podcast on the gear in Richards bag and truck. The American
Schools of Oriental Research has also done a similar thing. I think we got the idea for our podcast
from their series.
Reading the short article on the contents of refugees bags made me wonder whether archaeology
has a greater role to play in the current conflict and refugee crisis. Over the last decade,
archaeologists have become more and more attuned to the archaeology of our contemporary world.
This work has expanded our view of homelessness, poverty, consumerism, contemporary race, class
conflicts, and many other aspects of the modern world (including punk rock music). My own work
has used archaeology to engage seriously the issues of workforce housing and industrial landscapes
in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota.
The ongoing refugee crisis offers another important opportunity for archaeologists to document the
human condition. That the crisis is playing out partly in Greece, a place with more archaeologists
(both foreign and local) per square kilometer than almost anywhere in the world, amplifies the
potential of this opportunity. An archaeology of the refugee crisis could help us recognize what
these displaced people value when theyre forced to leave their homes, what they look for and need
during their arduous journeys, and how they arrange their lives when thrust into the unfamiliar (and
usually under-resourced) conditions in a foreign place. Archaeological inventories, plans, and
descriptions of refugee camps, places of transit, and personal goods could also help local
communities accommodate and understand the influx of temporary residents. Archaeology can both
protect the distant past and contribute to a more sophisticated understanding of the current human
One of the lessons that Ive learned from working with Richard Rothaus and Bret Weber in the
Bakken is that our work as archaeologists is more than systematically documenting and
understanding material culture. In a recent podcast, Richard described this as the archaeology of
care in a podcast last spring and made it even more human and evident in his contribution to our

Punk Archaeology volume (download the entire volume here for free or just grab his contribution
Our work in the field demonstrates a kind of care for the communities in which we work. Our
conversations in the field, attention to detail, and willingness to take seriously the everyday life of
individuals and communities creates a connection between the wider world (which we represent,
oddly enough) and their very personal experiences. I recognize that archaeology is not the only field
that can do this. Indeed, entire disciplines focus specifically on linking the individual to a larger
Archaeology, however, carries with it two additional benefits. First, we focus on the relationship
between objects and people. As if our imagination was not enough, the little essay on the bags of
refugees demonstrates that displaced people carry with them more than just the practical needs for
survival, but also objects that link them to their homes. We care about this connection between an
individual and an object. Its what we do.
Archaeology also carries with it the burden and benefit of its past as a discipline. When an
archaeologist turns their focus to a monument, a landscape, or an object, the world recognizes that
thing as important. In fact, ISIS relies on this disciplinary recognition of artifacts and monuments
(through museums, archaeological parks, et c.) to direct their attacks on civilization. When
archaeologists and historians focus on the everyday life of particular communities and individuals,
they place these individuals and communities into a larger historical and archaeological narrative. In
other words, we show them that they matter. The contents of the their bags, the arrangement of
their camps, the difficult choices about what to bring and what to leave behind is significant to the
history of the world and carries equal weight in our eyes to the monuments targeted by ISIS or the
Taliban. Ive experienced the impact of this realization on people living in workforce housing in the
Bakken. Our very presence reinforces the idea that their experiences and lives are important.
As archaeologists express outrage and deep sadness over the destruction of the regions (and the
worlds) archaeological heritage, we work to ensure that future generations can witness the history of
these regions and celebrate meaningful and tangible narratives of their past. At the end of the day,
however, these sites will survive. The history of careful documentation, the durability of the
materials, the expansiveness of the monumental material culture, and the hard work of outraged and
dedicated archaeologists will ensure that these sites will continue to form visible monuments to the
regions past. Evidence for the difficult recent circumstances will be both wiped away and, where
appropriate, commemorated in the fabric of these long-lived places in the landscape. I am confident
of it.
What Im more concerned about, however, is the more subtle, ephemeral, and elusive histories,
artifacts, and sites of the refugee experience. Documenting and understanding the experiences of
refugee might seem like a fairly low priority when temples at Palmyra are being bulldozed, but Id
like to suggest that it might be a higher priority to the discipline, to the communities housing the
refugee, and to the people forced from their homes in these desperate times.


A Brief Contribution to Archaeogaming: Zombie Games

September 9, 2015
This last month has been pretty fun.
Ive been thinking a bit about object biographies, reading for a multibook review, and, believe it or
not, still thinking about the Alamogordo Atari Expedition.
While these things rattled around in my brain, I got to pondering the life history of the Atari games.
As the final tally on the money raised by auctioning the excavated Atari games has made the news
over the past couple weeks, I wondered how these games fit into the metaphor of object biography.
Object biography imagines that objects, like people, have life histories. They are born, they live
fruitful, agentative, and complex lives, and then, like all life, they die.
Archaeologists then exhume these objects and they begin second lives in museums, collections, or
storerooms. Some classes of objects, say, prestige goods accustomed to elite consumption continue
to live on as important objects, displayed in museums or in private collections. Of course, many
more objects dont quite return to life entirely. More mundane objects do not re-integrate with our
practical needs and are doomed to linger on in a kind of limbo between being alive and meaningful
and occupying carefully curated discard as part of the storage crisis in archaeology.
The Atari games generally fit into the latter category. In life, they might confer some momentary
prestige like a recognizable bottle of an expensive wine calls out the importance of the more
temporary product within but generally the game itself was a short-lived commodity. More than
that, the game itself was hardly an artifact at all; it was lines of code embedded on a chip.
Did the game die when it was discarded? This would seem to fit a narrative that saw the
Alamogordo landfill as a graveyard.
These exhumed games, however, had an extraordinary afterlife. Like many archaeological artifacts,
did not stay dead. They returned to life as zombie games (at best) or relics (at worst). The final scene
of Shaun of the Dead comes to mind here, where Nick Frosts zombie character Ed continues a life
not too unlike his life before his zombification, chained up in a backyard shed playing video games.
It may be that the better metaphor for the excavated Atari games is as relics. Their place in urban
legend, in gaming history, and, now, in an internet fueled media frenzy, bestows supernatural powers
on these objects. They might no longer function as games, but continue to possess power as
fragments of a particular past. In fact, one might even think of the narrative involving their
discovery as the modern equivalent of an inventio story. In Medieval literature, inventio tales tell of
the miraculous discovery of lost relics and affirm the sacred power of these objects. These tales
often become fused to the objects themselves and history of these objects becomes inseparable
from the narrative of their discovery.
Whether zombie or relic, the game itself the cartridge, the silicon, the paper label are all similar
enough to serve their purpose as representatives of an experience (playing the game), an era (the
glory days of Atari), or an event (the excavation of the games).

Of course, reflections on the death (and rebirth) of the Atari game does push us to ask questions
about the original birth of the Atari game. (Heres Ill channel my inner Andrew Reinhard): Was the
game born when the coder, the famous Howard Scott Warshaw, created the code that made
particular pixels respond to our commands on the screen. Was the game born when this code was
imprinted on a silicon chip, or this chip was embedded in a plastic case, labeled with a graphic label,
or placed in a box? Was it born when the game arrived at the point-of-sale, entered circulation, or
was plugged into an Atari console?
But the life of an Atari game is more complex. Before these discarded games died, they were
cloned digitally. (In fact, we could argue that these games originated as clones of the code that
Warshaw composed and the plastic cases and graphic art that Atari designed.) The life of these
games bifurcated, however, as the code itself lived on to appear in java-based emulations on the
interwebs or in other forms ported to newer technology. This is not to suggest that the code was
immutable and that every instance of the code was identical to the one before. Every time a piece of
code is run, it runs a bit differently (mostly on a level thats imperceptible to the end user), and as
code outlives the hardware on which it was designed to run, it picks up artifacts of efforts to keep it
The plastic, silicon, and paper bits of the games may appear to have a more linear trajectory. Unlike
vintage video game cabinets (which our collaborator Raiford Guins explored in the life-history
equivalent of retirement and nursing homes) which get restored and refinished and enjoyed as long
as outdated parts can be found to keep them going, plastic game cases, paper labels, and chipped
and battered silicon rarely see such care. Conservation is possible on these games, but for those
excavated from the Alamogordo dump, the dirt, cracks, and torn paper forms a history of their
posthumous burial. Preservation of these objects as Atari relics or zombies requires attending to
evidence for their discard, decay, and exhumation. So like the cloned code that lives on in new,
different circumstances, the exhumed games carry forward the history of their afterlife in very
physical ways.
The history of a complex, manufactured, object like an Atari game no matter what its history
reveals the limitations of the notion of life history for an object. Pinpointing the moment of birth
and death are impossible when objects have the meandering, reduplicated, and intermittent
existences like those of these Atari games. Many archaeological artifacts die, are born again, and are
cloned over the course of their history.
Of course, most archaeological objects live this kind of diffuse existence. They exist simultaneously
as physical artifacts and as database objects, as illustrations, and photographs. These objects
clones, copies or whatever go on to live complex lives as they appear in print, online, and linger
on hard drives, web servers, and tapes. Without their relationship to excavated objects they can lose
value quickly and without the proper tools to view, collate, and preserve them, they can all but
vanish. Excavated artifacts can likewise vanish into the darkness of private collections, the abyss of
the pottery dump, or the tray of context pottery. Mundane commodities like Atari games can
vanish into landfills and only a infected few become zombie games and return to haunt the world of
the living.


Season 2 of the Caraheard Podcast: Our Summer Vacation

September 8, 2015
Believe it or not, Richard Rothaus and I still have things to talk about even after an (almost)
complete first season of the Caraheard podcast. So, today, were premiering Caraheard: Season 2.
Like Season 1, well continue our conversational style of podcasting, our unofficial (un)sponsors,
and our slightly affected irreverence, but were both committed to bringing in more very special
guests. In fact, weve recorded the second episode already with a very special guest and despite
some little technical issues, it went really well.
Season 2, Episode 1: Bill and Richard talk about their summer vacations.
On this weeks Caraheard podcast, we start with the idea that we should have a basic structure to
our season (or at least a minimum number of episodes). I floated the idea of 12 episodes; Richard
was more optimistic, but agreed that 12 episodes was a fine goal.
We then proceeded, as per usual, to banter about trucks. Richards truck is bigger, carries more
archaeology stuff, and has more miles, but my truck has almost as many miles and a yellow dog.
We then talked about what we did this summer.
Its not a Caraheard podcast until someone talks about gravel and gravel pits. Brown gold.
Richard got to spend some time in The Magin City: Minot, North Dakota. Minot has a deceptively
charming downtown and Ive enjoyed every visit Ive made to the banks of the Souris, or, as they say
in French, Mouse River. Despite what Richard says, it doesnt really flow south, it flows north too.
We both appreciated the Souris River Brewing Company, although I think Im the only one who has
tasted their fine wares.
Richard also continues the French lesson with a brief chat about his work around Mille Lacs in
Minnesota. Before talking about his actual vacation which involved projectile vomit and the Vore
Buffalo jump. Not to be intimidated by Richards smooth banter en francais, I mangled the
pronunciation of the word ennui in my discussion of the existential angst experienced by buffalos on
the Northern plains.
We deftly avoid the neat segue between Richards summer and my summer in my brief and painfully
uninformed pseudo-discussion of kites (neither the birds nor the flying machines) in the Middle
East. I also know less about micromorphology than I should, but I was right in claiming they did
some interesting work with it at Nemea.
We then included a few words about our un-sponsors, the North Dakota Humanities
Councils Game Changer Series. More information can be found here (you can tell that its serious
because the voice over has an English accent). The event will include the guy who wrote, Men Who
Stare at Goats. I will personally buy a beer from the Souris River Brewery to the first person who


asks about telekinesis at the Game Changer. While I smart alecked around, Richard sung the praises
the NDHCs magazine On Second Thought which is not available online here.
I then regale our listeners with my summers field work at Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus and with
the Western Argolid Regional Project. Richard asks about field work efficiency and refers to a blog
post on efficiency and field team size that I floated at the end of exhausting, but tremendously
rewarding WARP season. We also talked a bit about slow archaeology.
We finally talked a bit about our work on the North Dakota Man Camp Project, and we talked
about our outreach work with the North Dakota Humanities Council funded, Man Camp


Im not that busy

September 7, 2015
Its labor day, a day dedicated to working hard and getting stuff done. Its the one day of the year
where we can all hunker down and do what needs to be done without an apology, without looking
for an immediate reward, and without excuses.
So it is appropriate that I publicly reaffirm my pledge to stop saying that Im busy.
For me, it started out as an innocent defense of the odd missed email or deadline and recently
ballooned into a catch all argument for every foul-up or mistake that I make day-to-day.
Whats worse its that since the semester started Ive found myself caught in a busy echo chamber.
Faculty, administrators, and friends all saying the word busy over and over again to one another
and to ourselves. Its not that I dont doubt that many people in my world are busy. In fact, I know
that theyre busy without them saying it.
And Im sure folks know that Im busy too. So, for the next year, Im going to remove that word
from my vocabulary.
Most of the things that I do in life, I want to be doing. Im very fortunate that my business is self
imposed. I like have multiple projects running simultaneously. I like my job. I like my friends and
family, and while I dont have a hobby that takes up big chunks of my time, I dont mind that. I
figure I only get to live life once so I might as well enjoy as much of it as possible.
So, not matter how much I have going on, Im just not that busy.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

September 4, 2015
After a sweltering week, Im looking forward to a cooler and rainier weekend here in North
Dakotaland. More than that, this is the start of college footballing season, the NASCAR boys are at
Darlington, and the Formula 1 show is at Monza. Kicking the weekend off right was the Australia
victory over England in the first ODI of that series.
Before the list of quick hits and varia, be sure to check out the newest book published by The
Digital Press at the University of North Dakota, the first English translation of K.J. Skarsteins The
War with the Sioux translated by Melissa Gjellstad and Danielle Skjelver with new introductory
material from Richard Rothaus and Dakota Goodhouse. Its a good read and its free (or $12 on
And now onto the quick hits and varia:

Theres a new video book trailer for Eric Clines sensational 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization
Collapsed. Or you can listen to him give a talk at the Oriental Institute.

Guy Sanders on Merbaka in the Argolid in Hesperia.

More video: Martin Millet on Toward a New Landscape Archaeology?

Blue pigment!

Cypriot Reunification talks and the abandoned resort town of Varosha.

Im almost certain that I want to get a shipping container for my backyard writing room,
guest house, hacienda (and, yes, I know that Im using that word wrong, but its what I call it).

Sheffields History Matters on iconoclasm in Palmyra and Cheapside.

Reinhard in the Washington Post on the Alamogordo Atari Assemblage.

A little Delawareana for your morning: Salesianums legendary football coach Dim Montero
and the saving the old house at Bombay Hook.

Go get your reprinted copy of NASAs 1975 Graphics Standards Manual.

Video killed the radio star (or ball point pens killed the calligraphy star).

Bakken new: lots of empty hotel rooms and water tourism.

Help the Tate Modern with Anotate.

For those of you who still like science, a new blog: Noticing.

The architecture of American houses.

What Im reading: S. Kaufer and A. Chemero, Phenomenology: An Introduction. (Polity

2015). A Kostis Kourelis Book Club Selection.

What Im listening to: Freddie Hubbard, Straight Life; All Dogs, Kicking Every Day.



The Frog Days of Summer


The War with the Sioux: The Book

September 3, 2015
Its a good day! The English translation of Karl Jakob Skarsteins The War with the Sioux is finally
published. Go here for the links to download the book.

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is excited to announce the publication of the
first English translation of Karl Jakob Skarsteins The War with the Sioux: Norwegians against
Indians 1862-1863. Associate Professor of Norwegian Melissa Gjellstad and UND alumna Danielle
Mead Skjelver translated the text and Dr. Richard Rothaus and Dakota Goodhouse provided new
introductory material.


Skjelver noted that I first encountered Skarsteins riveting narrative on the US-Dakota War in
2007. I had never read anything like it. Translating this work was fascinating and rewarding because
of the books unique focus on a specific immigrant population, and because Skarstein admirably
attempts to get at the action and emotion of the many sides of this conflict.
Skarsteins narrative focuses on the Dakota War of 1862-1864 which stands as one of the most
overlooked conflicts in American History. Contemporary with the American Civil War, the Dakota
War featured significant fighting, tactical brilliance, and strategic savvy set in the open landscape of
the Northern Plains in Minnesota and North Dakota.
Karl Jakob Starsteins The War with the Sioux tells the story of the Norwegian immigrants,
American soldiers, and Lakota and Dakota Indians as they sought to protect their ways of life.
Skarstein drew upon largely untapped Norwegian-language sources for life on the Northern Plains
during these tumultuous years.
Prof. Gjellstad remarked The American experience of Norwegian immigrants has been a red thread
that has woven through my scholarship and teaching in Scandinavian studies. It began early in my
childhood, growing up in rural North Dakota, and has spun into rich, new connections thanks to the
collaborations of fellow scholars from the Northern Plains as we worked to bring Skarsteins volume
to an American audience.
The translation of the book was funded by the Norwegian governments NORLA: Norwegian
Literature Abroad program and is available as a free download or as a paper book on Amazon.
The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota is a creative reimagining of the traditional
university press. It publishes innovative and timely works in archaeology and on topics intersecting
with life in North Dakota and the Northern Plains.
To get the book go here.


An Open Letter to the Empire Theater

September 2, 2015
Over the last week Ive been active in initiating a conversation with the Empire Theater regarding
their decision to host the anti-Muslim firebrand Usama Dakdok for the second time this calendar
year. To be clear, the Empire did not invite Dakdok to speak, but they agreed to rent the theater to
the group who invited him to town.
When Dakdok spoke in the spring, there were some protests and some behind-the-scenes
expressions of disappointment at the Empires decision to host a speaker who advocated intolerance
in our small town. It was all the more disappointing since Grand Forks has a small, new Muslim
population and people are working hard to make help manage their transition into our community.
Many of us felt that hosting a speaker like Dakdok did little to encourage the kind of acceptance and
tolerance that our town needed at this moment in its history, but were heartened when many of
those opposed to Dakdok message worked to create alternative events which brought Christians and
Muslims together. In fact, Dakdoks return engagement is in response to the events held after his
last visit. Considering the success of these events and ongoing efforts to promote tolerance and
diversity, we can certainly understand why someone of his predilections could justify a return
Dakdoks approach is particularly painful to those of us who study the Late Antique world and
religion. He insists on a selective reading of Muslim scripture that portrays Islam in an unfavorable
way, and asserts personal authority grounded in his knowledge of Arabic and upbringing in Egypt.
Any religious can be made to look bad when subjected to a selective reading of scripture backed by
personal authority. Certainly there have been instances of Christianity being subjected to similar
attacks. The goal of Dakdoks lecture is not to understand the history of Islam and their scripture,
but, as his website says: to warn all Americans about the deceptive methods being used by Muslims
that lead so many into the cult of Islam.
Dakdoks intentionally misleading approach to Islam is hardly the basis for a compassionate and
tolerant engagement with another faith.
This letter, however, is not about Usama Dakdok. This letter is directed to the Empire Theater and
their decision to provide a venue for Dakdoks visit twice over the course of the year. In the lead up
to his first visit, the Empire and other institutions in our community deflected criticism leveled
against them for allowing Dakdok into our town with appeals to freedom of speech.
Im not a legal scholar or a philosopher, but I am not convinced that hosting a speaker whose goal is
to sow intolerance and suspicion is an effective time to appeal to freedom of speech. To my mind,
freedom of speech is one of those pesky freedoms that ask us both as individuals and institutions to
make compromises for the good of others. As individuals we regularly refrain from confrontation,
recognize decorum, and, sometimes, remain silent when exercising our right to speak would do
greater harm than good. Moreover, we recognize how positions of authority can lend speaking
greater weight and positions of weakness can prevent even the most earnest speaker from being
heard. Balancing the authority we grant to those in power against the need for dialogue is vital to
preserving practical freedom of speech in any community. This is why we have rules and laws
preventing consumer fraud, limiting the public use of profanity, restricting access to adult themed

movies and events, and enforcing decorum. Finally, both private and public venues have standards
and expectations ranging from noise restrictions to discretionary judgements regarding what is
appropriate at a given site. Freedom of speech is always situational.
The Empire Theater is in a uniquely privileged position in downtown Grand Forks. They have a
productive and meaningful partnership with the University of North Dakota as host of its art
collection and that relationship is proudly advertised on its walls. Associating the venue with the
University, even if this is just relationship of convenience, gives the Empire prestige and authority
and this extends to speakers in its venue. It may not be Carnegie Hall, but events hosted at the
Empire gain legitimacy and prestige from the venue. Moreover, the Empire represents a meaningful
anchor of the downtown hosting entertainment, civic events, and celebrations throughout the year.
It is very much part of our local civic fabric and has contributed to recent downtown renaissance.
The Empire occupies a position of authority through its associations with both the University and
the downtown community.
With this position of authority come certain responsibilities. I can perhaps forgive the decision to
host Dakdok one time. While Dakdok does not obscure his mission, it may be too much expect an
institution like the Empire which hosts hundreds of events a year, to vet every speaker carefully.
To host Dakdok a second time, however, is simply inexcusable. Granting Dakdok the legitimacy of a
prestigious venue contributes to his authority and the legitimacy of his message. This is clearly not
the intent of the Empires board or management, because by authorizing his message, they are
authorizing a message that hinders communication between Christians and Muslims in Grand Forks.
The Empire must hold itself to a higher standard and recognize that hosting a speaker like Dakdok
undermines the efforts of many in Grand Forks to make lives better for the Muslim minority.
In fact, by allowing a speaker into our town bent on depicting a group within our community in a
misleading way, the Empire is hindering opportunities for open dialogue between Muslims and
Christians. They are not promoting freedom of speech in this situation, but making it more difficult
for members of our community to speak freely and honestly. The Empire is helping to silence
members of our community by contributing the prestige of their venue to a speaker who
misrepresents the message of both Christianity and Islam.
The Empire must recognize its position in the community and use the prestige associated with their
venue in a more responsible way. If it cannot do this alone, then those institutions that have
partnered with the Empire must encourage and support the Empire as they try to do better or divest
themselves of this partnership. It is not acceptable for the name of the University of North Dakota
to be associated with a venue in which Dakdok is speaking. It is not acceptable for a venue that
serves as a cultural anchor of our downtown and our community to lend its reputation to a speaker
like Dakdok.


The War with the Sioux: Open Access Teaser

September 1, 2015
Im very happy to announce that the first English translation of Karl Jakob Skarsteins War with the
Sioux: Norwegians against Indians 1862-1863 is pushed to publication. It should be available on
Amazon and via a free download by the end of tomorrow! (Im feeling super impatient right now, to
be honest!)
Since weve been developing The Digital Presss website as the official presence of The Press on the
web, I feel free to be a bit more colloquial here about the book.
This is a watershed for me because its the first book that The Digital Press has published in which I
dont have a academic interest. Im not uninterested. In fact, having read through a bunch of
versions of this book, produced the maps, and laid out the manuscript, Ive developed a bit of Oslo
Syndrome with the text. I eventually ended up visiting the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield where
Richard Rothaus gave me a couple of great mini-lectures on the war and now feel more at ease with
names like Inkpaduta and Alfred Sully.
I also got to work with a fine group of collaborators from our translators and authors, Danielle
Mead Skjelver, Melissa Gjellstad, Richard Rothaus, and Dakota Goodhouse, to our copy-editor,
Amanda Osgood Jonientz, Eirin Hagen of the Hagen Agency in Norway, and various other voices
who contributed throughout the process. Jason Jenkins from the universitys legal office deserve
particular commendation as he patiently worked with me through the various contracts necessary to
purchase rights for the book from its Norwegian publishers and Aaron Bergstrom who created the
digital back end that will allow us to count downloads the book. Unlike the other books from the
press, we do not have unlimited rights to this book so we had to be more careful when it came to
circulating it.
We do, however, share rights to the new introductory material with the authors, so I can make
available the new front matter as a teaser for the book. Click here to download the introductions.


When the book is ready, Ill update its page on The Digital Presss website, push out a press release,
and, of course, blog something here.


Funding Academic Publishing

August 31, 2015
The last few years have been relatively bleak for university presses. The decline in library funding,
increased competition from for-profit presses, and the shift from longterm priorities to short-term
at universities not only encourage the purchase of increasingly expensive serials, but also made the
university press an appealing target of budget reallocation. As a result, presses have been asked to
more independent and to develop sustainable approaches to publishing that draw new sources of
revenue ranging from endowments, to grants, subventions, and collaborations. For a nice, basic
history of the university press go here.
There are any number of challenges facing the university press as they look to make this transition.
Im just beginning to do research in this area, so my observations here are very preliminary, but
theyre appropriate for my experiences at the University of North Dakota. I am pleased to announce
that I received a small grant to support efforts by The Digital Press at the University of North
Dakota as it looks for new and innovative forms of funding to support our digital publications and
our collaboration with North Dakota Quarterly. As readers of this blog know, North Dakota
Quarterly has been on a kind of life support for the last few years as it explores more sustainable
funding models and adapts to new opportunities provided by digital publication.
The grant from UND provides me with some time to work with folks at the Alumni Association
and Foundation to explore new sources of funding. For us to do this successfully, however, we need
to discuss frankly the limits of working in a university environment. There area few structural issues
that Id like to use this grant to find ways to work around.
First, Ive discovered that its very difficult to move money from sales from outside the university to
within the university accounting system. From what I understand, services like Paypal are not
approved by UND, and the internally approved online purchasing system is not fully functional at
present (or we have not succeeded in getting it set up for us efficiently).
Second, the lifeblood of most university projects is external grant money. Most external grants have
rather restrictive rules on how we can use the resources. The assumption is that unscrupulous
faculty members, if not constrained by as many rules as possible, will spend all their grant money on
hookers and blow. As a result, these funds are micromanaged in such a way that most of ones
time is spent making sure that grant money is accounted for properly rather than doing the actual
work. (Ok, thats an exaggeration, but having worked on grant funded archaeological projects, Id
argue that accounting takes up 10%-15% of our time in the field, and much of that accounting has
to do with following university guidelines.) The greatest challenge is that most grant money serves to
fund a specific project rather than to build infrastructure.
Finally, because funds at universities are very restrictive in how they can be spend and because it is
very difficult to create a revenue stream, there are few within the academy who are willing to offer
venture capital. There is a good bit of talk about entrepreneurship, innovation, and business
models, but our ability to leverage these concepts and approaches is hamstrung by layers of ossified
bureaucracy, a cya culture among mid-level administrators, and fear that any situational response
will produce crippling future precedents. In effect, the institutional weight hampers the kind of
dynamic innovation that the university hopes to demonstrate.

(To be clear, universities also are great incubators for projects like The Digital Press because they
pay my salary, provide infrastructural support like server space, computers, office space, et c.
and, in good ways, help manage funds and generate publicity. These things are great when a project
is starting, but the burdens associated with these advantages run the risk of stifling growth.)
Im hoping to use the recent small grant to find viable and sustainable work arounds for some of
these issues. My hope is that the grant will help me to start to develop three streams of funding
which can work around various limitations at the modern university. Maybe.
1. Crowd Funding. Crowd funding is clearly a useful way to fund and publicize publications. By preselling your product, you have the funds upfront and this can serve as a kind of venture capital for a
particular project. Moreover, if funding goals are set appropriately, the income from a crowd funded
campaign can build re-usable infrastructure as long as project goals are met. Finally, crowd funded
projects can put us in direct contact with people who are most interested in our product.
As far as I know there has never been a successful crowd funding campaign at the University of
North Dakota, and it is unclear how and whether funds from a Kickstarter could move into a
university account. At the same time, it seems useful to use crowd funding as one stream of revenue
for a particular project rather than the sine qua non for an undertaking. After all, an author or editor
is not likely to decide whether to pursue or finish a project based on the whims of the crowd and
there is always the risk that a crowdfunded project will fail.
It is tempting to imagine a Kickstarter for North Dakota Quarterly because it might serve as an
exciting way to general publicity for a particular side project, because we have a built in base of
supporters, because we have some stable support from the University. It would free us to innovate
without burdening the existing staff with added responsibilities.
2. Corporate Partners. The Digital Press has a series of books focused on the history of North
Dakota and its various communities and a few little projects in the hopper that will or could cater
to a popular audience. For example, our neighborhood history series uses microhistories of Grand
Forks neighborhoods to celebrate the diversity and history of our small town. We also have been
thinking about a smaller series of very short guides that would lead readers on interesting
engagements with the local landscapes (e.g. 20 Beers in Grand Forks: A Guide to Local Watering
Holes or Grand Forks Vanished Past: A Guide to Destroyed Buildings.)
While well have to think hard about whether we want to embrace a playfully popular series of
books, theres no doubt that this could draw some interest from corporate partners. Corporate
sponsor money has the advantage of being somewhat more flexible for internal use, but also having
strings attached. A good partner, who understands the Presss mission can be a tremendous help,
but there will always be that little feeling that weve sold out.
3. Grants. The final source of income for these digital ventures are grants. The funding that I
received from UND is to help me find non-governmental grants to support our projects. Some of
our local projects, for example, could find support from grants that focus on community
development. We funded a recent translation project with a grant from an agency that funds the
translation of Norwegian literature.


The challenge with grants is that they tend to be focused on a specific projects. These projects might
be a single publication say of reprints from North Dakota Quarterly or or a larger digital
archiving projects like subventing the publication of a digital site for the North Dakota Man Camp
Project. It is tricky, albeit possible, to use grants to build infrastructure, but this typically involves
creative grant writing.
Many grants designed to support the digital humanities, for example, are geared to large-scale
projects of archiving or publication or depend on more substantial infrastructure support than we
have available at UND.
At the same time, I am optimistic that my cooperative model of academic publishing might be a
hook that I can use to attract support from a granting agency. Perhaps a kind of intellectual
infrastructure including workflow, innovative approaches to marketing and distribution, and
cooperative understanding might be enough to attract support from external grant money.
Wish me luck as I go forward into these new ventures and be sure to check out The Digital Press
and North Dakota Quarterly.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

August 28, 2015
At the end of a hectic week in North Dakotaland, Ive traveled west to the might Capital of the
Northern Prairie, Bismarck, ND for a meeting. The temperature is set to top 95 degrees reminding
us that summer has a little more to offer before succumbing to golden light of fall.
Fortunately, I have a nice swarm of Quick Hits and Varia to help you beat the heat this weekend.

The New Yorker on Istanbuls big dig.

Hellenistic wall painting at Petra.

Using data from the ADS to study Roman settlement in Britain.

NYUs Institute for the Study of the Ancient World helps out the American University of
Iraq Sulaimani.

Archaeological site replaced by a very nice concrete picnic table.

We should add that table to this list of places where we dont want to sit.

Mike Wesch newest project: My Teaching Notebook.

One-star Yelp! reviews of national parks. We need to do this for Greek archaeological sites,
except that I want to write the reviews!

This is what happens when you give someone something for nothing.

The Archaeology of the Internets: Space Jam Forever!

Shipping containers as high rise.

Probably the most important immigrant from the Planet Lovetron. RIP Daryl Dawkins. This
is the best, and maybe only way to celebrate his NBA career. Cheeks to Jones to Dawkins!

What Im reading: B. Alberti, A. Meirion Jones, J. Pollard, Archaeology After Interpretation.

Walnut Creek, CA 2013. (Cut me some slack, it was the first week back teaching!)

What Im listening to: Neil Young, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere; Neil Young, After
the Gold Rush; Neil Young, On the Beach.
Milo is recovering from his cough and ear infections, but he wanted to make sure everyone knew
that being a sick, 2-year-old, yellow dog is not easy.



Working Space
August 27, 2015
One of the challenges this semester is figuring out where Im going to work. While on sabbatical, I
worked quite comfortably from home both in my home office, on the dining room table, and in the
kitchen with my main hub of operations in my home office.
Prior to that I worked mostly in my office on campus. Last year, however, that office was occupied
by my replacement. So now, Im at a loss.
My current plan is to work five days a week at home and two days a week in my office. I want to
keep my campus office as tidy as possible this year so that it can serve as a bit of an escape from the
chaotic space of my home office.

Lots of goings on this time of year both on campus, at home, and in our community. My short post
today is giving me some time to get a few things sorted out before blasting over to Bismarck for a


Reflecting on an Ethics of Circulation

August 26, 2015
A number of my colleagues forwarded to me a manifesto (in tweets, no less) offered for discussion
at a conference on the Academic Book of the Future (beep, boop, boop, boop, beep this is the
sound of the future, for those of you who dont know). Its titled Toward an Ethics of Circulation,
and its smart.
Ill just link to it here, and you should go and read it now.
Here are my thoughts on 5 of their 7 manifestlets as they relate to my recent efforts to become a
little publisher with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota and through my work on
the editorial staff of North Dakota Quarterly.
2. Readers matter most!
I have to admit that Im only now wrapping my head around the idea of readers. For example, we
have a book set to be published in the next week. Its an English translation of Norwegian book on
the Dakota Wars. Its a good book, well-translated and expanded from the original with some good,
scholarly, introductory material.
Like my books on archaeology, Id planned to distribute and market this book via social and new
media mostly as a digital book. My translates, true denizens of the Northern Plains (in the best
possible way), have constantly reminded me that my readers might not all be in social and new
media, and I might have to take the risk of circulating (gasp) paper, print books to get this work into
their hands. Needless to say, I dont have much of a budget for that, so I might have to rethink
some of my strategy for distributing this particular work.
In the future, as I accept works for publication, I need to make sure that I have a stronger grasp of
who will likely read what we publish.
3. Do not fetishize the digital. We need a mixed media ecology to disseminate our work smartly.
Whoa me? Fetishize the digital?
(The best, puckish comment on this was from Dimitri Nakassis who declared: I will fetishize the
digital and no one can stop me and that Danny Miller is not the boss of him. Genius!)
Ive certainly done this, but my recent work with North Dakota Quarterly an unapologetically
paper operation has forced me to think a bit more critically about what paper, digital, and other
media mean to publications. First off, to be clear, Im not talking about how a book feels in my hand
or the smell of books or how portable and enduring paper is or anything like that. Thats just
fetishizing the paper and does not approach the potential of media in a critical way.
At the same time, I was utterly seduced by a project organized by student interns at North Dakota
Quarterly last year. They produced a mobile-phone sized issue of NDQ in paper and filled it with


social and new media length articles. I wish we could have coordinated a downloadable copy of this
issue that would include pages that fit perfectly on a smart-phone sized screen.
Richard Rothaus and I have begun to talk about Season 2 of our Caraheard Podcast. One of the
great experiments in podcasting that I witnessed first hand was Brett Ommen and Joel Jonientzs
Professor Footnote podcast which combined narrative, academic commentary, and footnotes
forcing us to engage with the potential of a hybridized media.
Paper is not just paper, digital is not just digital. The standards, conventions, and expectations of
each media have reduced concepts like the digital to the verge of being meaningless (or being so
generic to communicate nothing about the publication) after all, almost all media these days
spends time in the analogue and digital realm.
4/5. Slow Publishing and Dismantling the Academys fetish for single authorship.
I love this, even though I find the concept of slow publishing a bit terrifying. In fact, my press was
built on the idea of streamlining the interval from concept to page and from blog post to book, but
the idea of slow publishing has lingered in the back of my head (as more than just a way to describe
certain projects with certain collaborators). In fact, when the press started, Joel Jonientz and I
discussed an imprint that would focus on reprinting public domain works with great attention to
detail layout, fonts, illustrations, paper, and binding. These works were more than just premium
print products, but were aesthetic statements as well designed to evoke the art of the book. The
content would be sourced from the public domain removing any urgency to move work to print. Id
like to revive this project with the right collaborators at some point, but for now slow publishing is
something I admire, but dont support.
In fact, the cooperative character of The Digital Press is antithetical to some of the core ideas of the
larger slow movement. For example, slow movement has a clear relationship to craft production
which emphasized the specialized skill of the craftperson. My press, in contrast, asks contributors to
take an active role in the production of their books. The Press provides a template and a framework
for publication and a bit of technical expertise, but operates with the understanding that the
specialized skill of publishing and editing, which has preserved a division of labor that supports
commercial interests as well as the need to profit from books.
Beyond the Digital Presss model, I cant imagine really publishing anything as a single author again
in my career. First, I dont need to. Im tenured, Im productive, and if my university wont promote
me for only publishing co-authored works, then I dont really care to be promoted (but I think they
will promote me, so thats not really an issue). Second, while I tend to write, a lot, I never write in a
vacuum. Almost everything I do has a collaborative element, and (channeling my inner Latour) I
cant think of any idea that Ive ever had that doesnt represent simply a node in a more extensive
network of conversations, concepts, and relationships. That these relationships are not represented
in authorship standards is, a best, a bit dishonest, and at worst, exploitative.
7. A publication is not simply a closed or bounded object or commodity. It lives on and proceeds
into an uncertain world.
Another great observation. As the Digital Press develops (or maybe within NDQ (?)), Id love to
create an environment that encourages our work to be remixed, expanded, developed, rejiggered,

and demolished. I get that not every publication and every author will allow this kind of approach,
but as I write this Im listening to covers of Phosphorescents Song for Zula (its a pop song
and Ive loved Ryan Adams long standing practice of covering songs). This is common practice in
music. Whatever you think of these songs, the covers give the original new life, they have a life of
their own, and they make explicit the potential for a work of art or a publication to become
something new and to develop a new network of relationships and meanings. By recognizing a
publication as less of an act of freezing an object and more about setting an idea or a text free, we
can create an environment where the object can move into new positions, develop new meanings,
and continue to grow.


Teaching Tuesday: First Day of Class Film Strip

August 25, 2015
I am back on campus for the first time in almost 15 months and looking forward to thinking more
about teaching this semester. One of the first challenges will be the 140 smiling faces tonight in the
Scale-Up classroom. Readers of this blog know that Ive been teaching in the Scale-Up room for
few years now (you can read more about it here), and have been moderately successful porting a
History 101: Western Civilization class into a collaborative learning environment.
During my year away, the folks coordinating the use of the Scale-Up room asked that faculty using it
be a bit more explicit in articulating the philosophy behind the room and its attendant benefits. So I
decided that I would do a brief presentation on the history of active learning in history during my
first session in the Scale-Up room tonight.
Oh, and I thought it would be cool if I organized it like a film strip mostly because I like the BEEP
noise in the recording that would advance the film strip to the next image.
So heres my opening film strip in 25 slides.
Slide 1:
In the beginning, there was the seminar.
Slide 2:
It was invented by historians in German and imported to the U.S. in the late 19th century.
Slide 3:
The typical seminar involved a group of 8 to 15 students arranged around a table (the seminar table).
Slide 4:
This group of students studied original documents that they called primary sources and shared
their research with one another in a critical environment.
Slide 5:

The best seminar rooms provided access to basic reference works, maps, and specialized works of
history to help the students understand ofttimes difficult documents.
Slide 6:
The goal of the seminar was collaborative, active learning in the service of history.
Slide 7:
The seminar arrived at the University of North Dakota in the early 20th century at the hands of
renown historian Orin G. Orangey Libby.
Slide 8:
He had learned history through seminars at the University of Wisconsin under the guidance of
Frederick The Frontier Jackson Turner.
Slide 9:
At UND, the seminar thrived and produced the first generation of historians of the state of North
Slide 10:
While it was mainly designed to educate graduate students in history, it was quickly adapted to other
history classes.
Slide 11:
As the university grew and history attracted more and more students, the seminar became difficult
to maintain, because it was such a hands-on learning experience.
Slide 12:

With the rapid growth in university enrollments both at UND and around the country, new
methods for teaching students history emerged.
Slide 13:
These methods sought to refocus student attention from hands-on learning from primary source
documents and specialized libraries to building massive factual repositories in their heads.
Slide 14:
The best way to give a large number of students the tools necessary to think about history without
giving them access to primary sources was to fill their brain with raw material for history: names,
dates, places, battles, dynasties, and countries.
Slide 15:
This could be done at an impressive scale and this led to the famous lecture bowl style history
classrooms filled with bored students.
Slide 16:
This method created the impression of knowledge students could recite the names and dates of
important people and events without the substance derived from working together to read primary
source documents.
Slide 17:
The professor went from being an experience guide and resource who led students through the
difficult work of reading primary sources, to a fact dispensing machine tasked with filling brains with
the most important bits of knowledge.
Slide 18:


Needless to say, this system sucked for both the professor who became Ben Steins character in
Ferris Buellers Day Off and for students who began the annual tradition of claiming theyre not
good at remembering dates.
Slide 19:
It also led to the rapid growth of the textbook industry which sought to make it easier for students
to learn names and dates while at the same time presented a watered down version of historical
analysis. Unfortunately, showing someone how to tie a knot is not the best way to teach someone to
do it.
Slide 20:
Textbooks are expensive and usually make money for big corporations.
Slide 21:
The Scale-Up room is a modified return to the seminar system.
Slide 22:
Each table will function like a small seminar in which participants will work together to produce
historical analysis.
Slide 23:
Instead of the specialized libraries, we will use the internets and the resources available through
UNDs library.
Slide 24:
Instead of buying an expensive textbook, well make our own textbooks.
Slide 25:

Instead of memorizing a bunch of names and dates, well actually learn how to write history.


Some Thoughts on Archaeology Beyond Postmodernity

August 24, 2015
I read Andrew Martins relatively new book, Archaeology Beyond Postmodernity with great
excitement! His book promised to provide a stout defense of an archaeology based on the ideas of
Bruno Latour. Since I have been particularly interested in Latours work lately and, particularly, his
positions as an alternative to the turn of the (21st) century fascination with Pierre Bourdieu and
Anthony Giddens. As readers of my blog know, Ive been curious about Latour eagerness to look at
the way in which the tools we use in our research as well as the complex network of social
relations and the objects of scientific study collude to produce scientific knowledge. Latour
seemed extraordinarily attuned to the interplay between various actors (both human and otherwise)
and this seemed ideally suited for both archaeology as a discipline and the archaeology of the
On a more practical level, Im reading this book along with a few others for a multi-book review
article on recent trends in archaeology. Last winter, I posted on Bjrnar Olsens and ra
Ptursdttirs Ruin Memories for an individual review, but, now, this review will be rolled into this
larger project.
The first half of Martins book is a relatively careful examination of Latours important early works
Science in Action (1987) and We Have Never Been Modern (1993) oddly missing is any discussion
of his slightly later work Aramis, or the Love of Technology (1996). For Martin, the key
contribution of Latour is his critique of the division between nature and culture. Latours careful
study of scientific procedures in a Nobel prize winners laboratory led him to argue that the division
between nature and culture obscured the real work of science by reducing scientific arguments to
descriptions of a natural fact rather than arguments based on expansive, but ultimately defined
observations. Science works through the continual adjustment of definitions serving to define
expansive bodies of observations rather than the testing of some pre-conceived hypothesis as
suggested by Karl Popper.
If Latours science is the work of description, rather than hypothesis testing, then the reality of
nature is not subjected to a thought up theory, but rather the product of a set of objects arranged
according to shared characteristics. This understanding of science removed culture as an organizing
principle, and, instead, relied upon empirical characteristics to define relationships. Objects, in other
words, can object to groupings that do not produce compatibility. As a result, objects form an active
nexus in the relationship between the scientist, other objects, and whatever tools the scientist uses to
document, describe, or measure the object. The mutual compatibility of all these objects, persons,
tools, spaces, and relationships is necessary for a coherent network of knowledge to exist. For
Latour, the hypothesis, then, is description of mutual compatibility between all parts of the
experiment which is periodically and artificially published in scientific papers.
For Martin (and Latour) this approach is radically different from what social scientists do in the
production of knowledge. Instead of patiently gathering observations and arranging groups of
similar objects, events, and combinations to create large complex, but compatible datasets, social
scientists attempt to reduce natural complexity by explaining objects, events, or relationships
through preconceived theories which they associate with culture. By maintaining a divisions between

the conceptual and abstract world of culture and the natural world of objects, social sciences not
only rendered objects passive, but also departed from the practices fundamental to scientific work.
When Latour famously claims that we have never been modern he refers directly to the
premodern failure to separate the cultural from the natural that persists in modern science. The
difference between modern science and its premodern predecessor for Latour is simply the vast
scale and number of observations possible in modern science, but not in the basic operation. The
myth of a modernity made up of passive objects understood only through universal theories applies
only in the social sciences which, then, falsely grant their work authority through appeals to the
scientific method. So far, this is great stuff. Anyone interested in how and why Latour constructed
his symmetrical view of scientific knowledge production should spend a day reading the first 100
pages or so of this book.
In the second 100 pages or so witness the application of these theories to two archaeological data
sets: burials in the Wessex culture of Early Bronze Age England and in North American Hopewell
Indians. Both of these contexts have certain controversies or inconsistencies in the material
culture that defy traditional efforts at analysis. For Martin, controversies (which is a Latourian
term) appear in archaeology when objects resist being reduced to patterns established by existing
systems of explanation or, in the case of the social sciences, structures.
This part of the book was less convincing in large part because, as Martin admitted, there was no
room really to develop the observations and objects that he intended to present as case-studies for
applying Latour to archaeology. As a result, Martin does very little with the process of archaeology
and more with the objects themselves and their archaeological context. The main point that he
attempts to make is that the entire context for archaeological objects must be considered by the
Latourian archaeologist: not just typology or sub-groups of artifacts selected according to preexisting notions of kinship, ethnicity, or social structure. Order comes to these assemblages not
through an existing theory but through statistical combinations which produce patterns that suggest
social, political, and economic relationships. As he presents this in practice, there is little new here or
exciting. Archaeologists are always looking for new ways to understand objects and assemblages and
while we often approach sites with preconceived ideas of the processes that create artifact
assemblages, I question whether we are as enslaved to cultural explanations as Martin supposes.
What I will admit, however, is that we tend to see objects and relationships as the object of study
and very much separate from the tools, people, and organization of archaeological work. Martins
book replicates this separation by presenting the archaeological material with very little commentary
on how it was produced. As a result, objects associated with the archaeological method were not
given space to object to the arguments and relationships formed by the artifactual assemblage.
This is consistent with the arbitrary break between the publication of scientific knowledge and the
methods used to produce it, but this arbitrary split does little to break down the division between
nature and culture that Latour and Martin regard as so problematic for social scientific knowledge. If
the books goal was to produce a genuinely Latourian approach to archaeological knowledge
production, then Martin needed to unpack both the social and the physical objects in archaeology.
Objects in archaeology fit into both ancient (or, in Martins terms original) context which reflect
their production, their distribution, and their use in a primary context, but also through their place in
the context of archaeological practice. For objects to object to archaeological interpretation they
have to intersect with the work of archaeological practice in a meaningful way.


What is required to produce a Latourian archaeology, then, is not just a published study of an
archaeological assemblage (which suggests Latourian practice, but does not really demonstrate it),
but a new ethnography of archaeological work.


Friday Quick Hits and Varia

August 21, 2015
Its the calm before storm as classes start on Tuesday and students show up on campus this
weekend. Fortunately, theres the final test of the Ashes, Formula 1 is at Spa, NASCAR is at Bristol,
and NFL preseason has entered its very brief, interesting phase.
While Im taking the weekend to gather my thoughts and energy before the semester begins, Ill pass
along some quick hits and varia for your enjoyment.

Archaeology in the ancient city of Amorium.

Andrew Reinhards Archaeogaming and the court of public opinion. Some interesting ideas
about what archaeology is.

Archaeology in the time of crisis in Greece. The problem of looting.

The tragic death of Khaled al-Asaad in Palmyra.

This is a bit disappointing.

Byzantium/Modernism. Here is the table of contents.

An older post, but a good one: the Ottoman phase of the Tower of the Winds in Athens.

Are modern apartment blocks modeled in Roman insulae?

If you have a moment, go check out North Dakota Quarterlys new website, and hit the
Want More? button to add yourself to our email list. We wont pummel you with email, but I
promise itll be worth your while.

An abandoned shopping mall is remarkably uninteresting.

Palo Altos endangered trailer park and the last flophouse in the Bowery.

More of Ryan Standers photographs of the Bakken.

The podcast renaissance and Relay FM.

A guide of open access monograph publishing.

The end of a punk archaeology landmark in downtown Fargo.

One square mile of the world.

The odd but familiar economics of streaming audio.

What Im reading: B. Alberti, A. Meirion Jones, J. Pollard, Archaeology After Interpretation.

Walnut Creek, CA 2013.

What Im listening to: David Cloud, Today is the Day that They Take Me Away; Jason Isbell,
Something More Than Free.


The Mighty Milo is under the weather today,

but he promises to be back to his vigilant self as soon as possible.


The Real History of Assessment

August 20, 2015
Its been a long time since Ive let myself be annoyed by something in the Chronicle of Higher
Education. I take some pride in that because one of the Chronicles chief purposes is to keep us all
informed where, when, and for what reason the sky is falling.
Yesterday, Prof. Joan Hawthorne, the Director of Assessment and Regional Accreditation at
University of North Dakota wrote a short article in defense of assessment with reference with UND
and, in particular, our history department. Prof. Hawthorne is far too humble in her abbreviated
history of assessment at UND.
The true story is that the first assessocrats came to the Norther Plains in the late-19th century. They
were fresh from their time in England where they had improved the efficiency both of industrial
mills as well as of various luddite groups in their effort to undermine industrialization across the
country. In the new world, this small, but dedicated cadre committed their energies to
demonstrating that doing is the goal of a university education and offered unique guidance in
helping outmatched university administrators achieve this goal.
At UND, the first assessocrats where there in shadows when the university decide to hire a Ph.D.
historian after almost a decade of history courses being taught by a theology professor. The first
assessocrats huddled with the leaders of the the university Webster Merrifield and Henry
Montgomery and guided them through major curriculum changes and faculty selection to ensure
UND entered the 20th century with proper respect for learning outcomes.
When Orin G. Orangey Libby, the first trained historian appeared on campus, the assessocrats
met him at the train. Immediately on his arrival, they urged him to discard the small pine box that he
brought with him from the University of Wisconsin. The pine box provided him with a bit more
height in the classroom so he could profess more effectively. In its place, the assessocrats told
Libby about a technique called the seminar that his advisor had learned at Johns Hopkins University
on the far away East Coast. Some very early assessocrats in Germany had developed the seminar and
then carried this method around the world by them. In the seminar, students did not just passively
learn history, but actually engaged primary source documents to write history. Libby, grateful for
their advisement, installed the seminar at UND and made it vital part of history education for a
century. As the seminar developed at UND, the assessocracy encouraged Libby to offer students
opportunities in professional development ranging from work compiling a new archive of material
vital to the history of North Dakota and publishing short studies based on this material in a newly
created history journal. He would never have done this had the assessocrats not told him to
approach student learning in a thoughtful way.
Libbys successors, of course, would have lost their way had not the assessocrats gently pushed them
to adopt the newest teaching techniques. Needless to say, beloved professors like Elwyn Robinson
and Robert Wilkins would not have spent the time to create an archive at UND for our students to
gain experience with historical documents had not the assessocracy urged them to do more than
merely profess their own knowledge to their classes. In fact, historians like Robinson and Wilkins
were likely to have expected students to learn history through quiet reading or listening passively to


colleagues present their research. Clearly, these methods are untenable and would have resulted in
the end of any possible understanding of the past.
Instead, thanks to the assessocrats, historians at UND created classes focusing on the craft of
history which emphasized the production of history over the rote memorization of names and dates.
Faculty reinforced and expanded the skills learned in this class throughout the curriculum. The
assessocrats insisted that this culminate in a capstone course which provided undergraduates with a
chance to demonstrate their mastery of these skills. Without the guiding hand of the assessocracy, it
is not an exaggeration to claim that history as a discipline would have ended with the last historian
blandly intoning one final lecture (perhaps on the Battle of Hastings) to an empty classroom.
Prof. Hawthorne modestly overlooked the long tradition of assessocratic guidance and influence at
the university level. Without directors of assessment, associate VPs of tabulation, and offices of
assessment and evaluation, the modern university would be mired in an endless loop lectures,
textbooks, and almost empty classrooms.
We should not be naive. Hawthornes oversimplified claims that before assessments professors
professed stiff-legged behind the podium reading from a textbook, is not just an
oversimplification. She has overwritten a long, disciplinary history of teaching and learning and
replaced it with an administrative myth. In this myth, assessment and the crusading administrators
who implemented these techniques created a 21st century university that was responsive to student
needs and prepared to lead the world in facing new challenges, new opportunities, and, perhaps
most importantly, new opportunities for economic gain. This narrative is not only insulting
(especially considering the long tradition of fields like history in pioneering active learning), but
also an obvious ploy to undermine disciplinary practices in favor of centralized administrative
More frustratingly, her article attacked the most vulnerable fields at the modern university. She does
not use as an example the professional disciplines which starting with law, medicine, and education
developed their own accreditation bodies that stipulate assessment practices. These professions and
disciplines have sufficient authority to push back against the growing power of the university
administration. In contrast, the national and international professional organizations for the
disciplines in the humanities have embraced a diversity of practices, methods, and goals, and do not
have accreditation standards which can stand up against the university administration. As a result, it
is easy to pick on these disciplines despite their role as pioneers in learning by doing practices that
the assessocracy has only recently sought to generalized across the entire university.
Recent objections to assessment from these fields is not resistance to learning-centered or studentcentered teaching. Most university disciplines have long judged their success or failure in the
classroom. In fact, goal of teaching in the modern university has always been to produce
practitioners of the discipline. The success of teaching history is easily assessed by evaluating the
quality of historical work produced by our students. As professional historians of some standing in
our discipline, we are uniquely qualified to determine whether, in Hawthornes words, we are
producing students who can do history.


Id contend that most objections to assessment come from the idea that the central administration
discovered assessment techniques, according to Hawthornes article, sometime in the late-1990s and
must now share them with hopelessly out of touch (and possibly lazy) faculty who had never
considered learning outcomes as worth exploring.
I recognize, of course, that the university of the late-20th and early-21st century is a very different,
more diverse, and more complex place than it was a century or so earlier. The competition for
faculty time and energy is higher, the range of disciplines, methods, and best practices is greater, and
the student body more diverse. In fact, Id accept the need for the dedicated administrators and staff
who do their part to lift the burden of bureaucratic responsibility from faculty, navigate the
Byzantine policies of federal and state oversight, ensure the physical (and digital) infrastructure
functions optimally, and maintain the outward face of the university through marketing, design, and
At the same time, the rise of this administration in its glorious complexity has clearly contributed to
a sense of alienation among both students and faculty, and I suspect that this, more than anything,
has led to a loss of purpose, a growing skepticism toward administrative initiatives, and perhaps even
a certain resigned complacency. Moreover, Id suggest that the rise of the administrative
assessocracy has only compounded this alienation. Hawthornes willingness to overwrite the long
history of discipline-specific teaching practices is typical, and will not help encourage faculty
accountability in the classroom. Hinting that without assessment faculty would revert to professing
on a pine box or teaching from a textbook does not suggest that the assessocracy respects
disciplinary practice or even understands the critique. It creates a barrier between the assessocracy,
the administration, and faculty that will not be easily breached. Centralizing assessment will continue
to generate faculty resistance and rhetorically weak efforts to dismiss it will lead to greater alienation.
On this blog, I have argued numerous times that students are capable of genuine resistance in the
classroom. Failure to follow directions, read the syllabus, complete assignments to spec or on time,
or be engaged in the classroom is not a student problem, but a teacher problem. As teachers we
have to first respect these forms of resistance before we can address them. Resistance to assessment
is not a faculty problem that can be solved by rewriting history or offering patronizing views of
faculty motives. Its a structural problem with the modern university, and it deserve to be taken far
more seriously that Prof. Hawthorne did in yesterdays Chronicle.


A Literary Journal in the Digital Age

August 19, 2015
This afternoon we have our first North Dakota Quarterly meeting of the year. NDQ is a small,
proud, and once influential literary journal published at the University of North Dakota. For over a
century, the Quarterly has appeared four times (or somewhat less) per year filled with poetry, fiction,
and commentary. The last few years, however, have not been particularly kind to NDQ. It has lost
subscribers, lost its longtime editor, and somehow missed out on the digital era. As a result, support
from the University of North Dakota, which remains vital for its survival, has wavered, and a new
editorial board of which Im a part has a mandate to save the journal.

My contribution to the Save NDQ project focuses on helping the journal find its way in the digital
world. In fact, Im giving a little presentation on a few possible digital initiatives. As per my usual
practice, Im going to use my blog to get my thoughts together.
1. Digital Legacy. One of the first things that NDQ must address is its legacy. NDQ has over 400
issues and thousands of pages of content and almost none of this is available online (other than the
first 20 or so issues digitized as part of the Google Books project) even now that our issues are born
As part of bringing NDQs legacy to the digital era, we are going to start a series of thematic reprints
of public domain content and make them available on both paper and in digital forms (in
collaboration The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota!). In other words, were going to
use digital media to organize and celebrate the legacy of NDQ in new ways.
For issues that remain under copyright, were in a unique bind. Because NDQ published for year
without author contracts, and the most recent author contracts limited the republication of
individual submissions to NDQ, we are going to have problems producing thematic reprints for
volumes still under copyright. My gut feeling is that for articles published before 1950, we might be
safe doing some thematic reprints, but for more recent content, we probably need to simply release
digital copies of the entire volumes.
We will also contact Jstor to see if they are interested in distributing NDQ, but we might also look
to other online depositories to ensure that digital NDQ circulates as widely as possible.
2. Beyond Paper. As readers of this blog know, Im always willing to experiment with the newest in
new media (well, not the newest, but once it becomes a bit tired, Im all in!). I even joined Ello. Part
of what we need to do with NDQ is to bolster its presence online through the new media. We
will unveil a new website in the coming weeks, and, hopefully, this allows us to engage with timely
matters in a more efficient way.


Were also in the exploration stages of a series of Podcasts, an Instagram account, and even some
low-key (gasp) e-marketing (like a regular email newsletter or even a subscription drive?).
At times, NDQ feels like it exists in a sepia-toned bubble, but, in fact, the Quarterly serves as a filter.
We get hundreds of submissions for each volume, and we publish only the most interesting and
exciting each quarter. This filtering function is all the more important in the 21st century, where the
abundance of new and traditional media choices for the educated reader is almost overwhelming.
And we think that our editors, readers, and supporters could collaborate in filtering the the wild
world of the web. So, Id like to introduce a quarterly NDQ list of the best things to read both on
the web and on paper. I know there is a good bit of competition in this field, but I also know that
our contributors, readers, friends, and colleagues are a formidable filter. I think a quarterly email
with our favorite reads could become a complement to the print version of the Quarterly. We also
think that this is a great way to build bridges between the various quality publications both online
and in print that our editors, contributors, and subscribers enjoy.
Podcasts offer another way to expand the audience for NDQ. Reading is great, but the amount of
hours in a day never allow for as much time for thought-provoking engagement with quality media
as anyone would like. I am always surprised by the number of folks I know who listen regularly to
podcasts. If journals like NDQ, were the quality popular media of their day, then perhaps podcasts
fill that gap now?
Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat (!?). I mean, seriously? Do these media have potential? Poems on
Snapchat? Cover art on Instagram? I dont even know what we could do with Vine, but these lightweight media options exist and are popular and have a tremendous reach. Theyre ripe for
3. Transmedia. As much as I can imagine NDQ using new media to extend its reach, I can also
imagine us engaging new media in different, critical ways. For example, Id love to see NDQ offer a
critical take on music. Fortunately, YouTube, Vimeo, and streaming services like Spotify make it
easy to integrate music and text online.
My colleague Sharon Carson, also on the editorial board at NDQ, is committed to renewing the
genre of book review, I wonder if complementing that should be an effort to revitalize the genre of
music review?
Even the most rudimentary blog platform now allows for us to integrate video and and photography
and take the genre of review from a cross media exercise to a transmedia encounter where art,
music, video, and text share the same space and blur the line between viewer, listener, and reader.
4. Paper. All this is not to marginalize the tradition of paper publication at NDQ. In fact, by
exploring digital media while remaining committed to paper, we recognize the unique character of
paper, printing, layout, fonts, and all the other craft elements of traditional publication that our
growing addiction to web reading and digital publication has gradually eroded. By crossing media
boundaries, we are compelled to consider more carefully what makes print unique and to celebrate


Teaching Tuesday: Scale-Up Syllabus Tweaks

August 18, 2015
Ive had about a year to think about how to tweak the syllabus for my Western Civilization I class
that I teach in the Scale-Up class room (for more on my adventures in teaching history in a Scale-Up
room, go here). The Scale-Up classroom is organized around 20, round, 9-person tables with three
laptops each and a bunch of options for collaborative work. Over the last three years, Ive been
working with about 130 students a year in the room to write our own Western Civilization I
textbook. The class has been high in student engagement, but not always satisfying on educational
So, this semester, I decided to make another round of tweaks on the syllabus designed to bring the
class closer to some of the learning outcomes that I desire without eroding the impressive level of
student engage that I have enjoyed.
My learning outcomes include the ability to use specific evidence and primary sources to support
arguments, to identify arguments, evidence, and themes in a text, and to be able to grasp multiple
narratives that make up our idea of Western Civilization. The following reflection on my syllabus
tweaks reflect the intersection of practical classroom concerns with these larger learning goals.
1. Balancing Rewards for Individual and Group Work. It goes without saying that students hate
group work. Actually, they dont mind working in a group; what they dont like is getting graded on
group work. What seems to bother the students in the scale-up class the most is not how well they
do on the work, but whether some people get the same credit for doing less work. (Insert political
commentary here.)
When I last taught this class in the spring of 2014, I skewed the points available heavily to group
work figuring if I go in for a penny, Id go in for a pound (or something). The point distribution
clearly motivated most students to take their collaborative work seriously, but a visible minority
seemed satisfied to allow the better and more engaged students to carry the load. While this visible
minority was still more engaged than students in a big lecture type class or even a smaller traditional
classroom, they seemed particularly marginal in the acquisition of key skills in the class. And I found
myself at a loss for a method to determine what these students learned.
This semester, Im going to balance individual graded work and group work at 50%/50%. Students
will grasp that a strong performance as a group will balance a lackluster performance as an individual
and vice versa. This recognition seems to motivate students to work together (many hands making
the load lighter) while still taking individual work seriously.
2. Being Critical Readers. One of the issues that Ive encountered in the class is that students hate
textbooks, but dont read them. So asking them WHY they hate textbooks is a difficult task. They
claim that theyre boring, but cant articulate why theyre boring, because they dont read them. So
when they write their own textbook chapter, students fall into the same trap as most textbook
authors. They produce one damn fact after another and the resulting work, while well researched
and more-or-less carefully organized, is boring.


This semester, Im going to run a 3-week mini-seminar on reading textbooks in my Western

Civilization class. I assign an assortment of 7 or 8 textbooks to the class so that each table of 9, has
as wide a range of different textbook as is possible. This fall, Im going to explicitly ask the students
to evaluate their textbooks along three lines:
a. What arguments do the various sections of the textbook make? If they are not obvious arguments,
what themes do they emphasize?
b. What sources do they use to support these themes? What primary sources do they provide and
how do these fit with the arguments or themes in the texts?
c. What specific evidence names, dates, places, et c. do they use to make their arguments or
articulate their themes? How do they make these specific bits of evidence familiar?
These basic questions will be asked of the textbook chapters covering the Greek, Roman, and
Medieval worlds. At various times, Ill ask the students to compare the textbooks around their
tables, and at other times, Ill ask the class to reorganize themselves into groups according to their
textbooks for the class.
Each section will result in each student preparing a short (ca. 700-1000 word) paper on their
textbook section, and ground each student more firmly in both critical reading of textbooks as well
as preparing them to create textbook chapters that address the weaknesses and emulate the strengths
of existing works.
3. History as History. One of the main weaknesses of my class is that I dont spend much time
worrying about the historical method. In part, this reflects my deep ambivalence regarding the
historical method (and my doubts whether it really exists) as well as a skepticism whether it is
possible to prepare introductory level students to engage in disciplinary science. In other words,
even if I accepted that history had a clearly articulated method, Im not sure it is very honest to
pretend that 100 level history students are learning any part of it. At best, my students learn a few
ways to produce and critique strong arguments and some factoids about the past. If they somehow
leave the class imagining that this is history, then I probably have done more harm than good.
That being said, students should recognize that various historical methods, themes, and points of
emphasis reflect different priorities in how we understand the past. In general, these different
priorities reflect different views on historical causality (the most famous example is the contrast
between great men and social processes as agents of change) as well as different attitudes about
the present. Im going to try to bring a bit more historical sensitivity to the class by emphasizing the
different between these ways of thinking about the past.
Im going to meld this with the critical textbook reading seminar and encouraging the students to
recognize the differences in emphasis and argument among various texts as efforts to promote the
priority of various historical forces from the individual to institutions, social and economic
structures, and the slow change of cultural expectations. Hopefully, this introduction to how
historians think about the past will not detract from the more basic (and, frankly, transferable) skills
associated with making coherent and compelling arguments.


Slow Archaeology: Another Draft

August 17, 2015
My slow archaeology idea is continuously evolving. Here is the most recent iteration. It was
prepared for the edited volume produced from the Mobilizing the Past conference which was held
last spring.
In many ways, this paper complements the short article that I prepared for North Dakota Quarterly
last winter. While in the NDQ article, I tried to keep a conversational tone, in this article, I invested
a bit more in the intellectual framework for a slow archaeology.
As per usual, Id be grateful for any comments!
View this document on Scribd


Friday Quick Hits and Varia

August 14, 2015
It is supposed to be close to one thousand degrees here in North Dakotaland today, so I got up
early to blog while the weather is still tolerable. I think this will finally melt that little patch of snow
by the side of the house and thaw the last of the garden in time for the first frost of fall.
So while were baking in our boots, I offer a small gaggle of quick hits and varia for you to enjoy.
But first, a photo of the North Dakota Man Camp Projects August 2015 field team:

And now, some quick hits and varia:

The Athienou Archaeology Project is 25 years old and celebrating in style.

Chris Roosevelt, Brandon Olson and co. publish the most downloaded article in Journal of
Field Archaeology history. I credit all the attentionfrom bloggers.

An interview with the international and world wide Mike Fronda.

Low cost, 3D scanning at Kenchreai.

Some history of the Greek salad.

A strange little article on Andrew Reinhard, video games, and punk archaeology.

The archaeology of abandoned wind farms.

If you care about the internets, install Ghostery on all your browsers.

The unfortunate lower case a in Alphabets logo (the new Google conglomerate).

The Coddling of the American Mind.

Another lost wood-framed church from North Dakota.

An idiosyncratic punk rock reading list.

If you dont hate your job, youre part of the problem.

For my audiophile friends: Oppo + Tidal Streaming seems like a cant miss.


What Im reading: Andrew M. Martin, Archaeology Beyond Postmodernity: A Science of the
Social. Altamira 2013.

What Im listening to: Tame Impala, Currents; Mac Demarco, Another One.

Cant let my paws touch the floor!


Add Some Digital to your Greek and Roman Archaeology Class!

August 13, 2015
With the word syllabus trending among my friends, I thought I might advertise an offering from
my press. Last winter, we published a slim volume called Visions of Substance: 3D Imaging in
Mediterranean Archaeology edited by myself and Brandon Olson.
The volume is a nice little critical reader on the recent state of 3D imaging in Mediterranean
archaeology. Thinking back to my Greek and Roman archaeology courses, I am now struck by how
little we discussed technology or even technique in those courses. We mostly considered the
architecture present important sites, basic typologies and chronologies, and some big picture themes
in the history of the discipline. Today, of course, Greek and Roman archaeology classes are very
different. Not only do we expect our students to know something about a range of methods (from
open area excavations to intensive pedestrian survey) and methodologies (New Archaeology,
Behavioral Archaeology, post-processual archaeology, and increasingly the debate over agency in
archaeological practice), but also some familiarity with the use of technology (ranging from carbon14 dating to GIS, databases, and photogrammetry) and incorporating some basic discussion of postancient archaeology. Needless to say, John Bintliffs recently published survey of Greek archaeology
(blogged about here and here) is a very different book than, say, William Biers crusty olde (er,
venerable) The Archaeology of Greece or John Pedleys Greek Art and Archaeology.
The upside of this is that our average field school student at the Western Argolid Regional Project
knows a good bit more about archaeology as a discipline than I did as a junior or senior Latin major
(or even as an M.A. student with a growing interest in the material culture!). At the same time, Greek
and Roman archaeology courses have become more and more difficult to teach as no one textbook
or survey introduces students to full scope of Mediterranean archaeology. So supplemental readings
are a must.
Visions of Substance is a perfect supplemental reading for a Greek or Roman archaeology class. It is
an up-to-date treatment of 3D imaging practices in old world archaeology with both practical
examples of how the introduction of low cost 3D imaging technology is changing archaeological
practice in the field and essays dedicated to the larger theoretical implications of these practices. The
articles are written by scholars who are active in the field and leaders in the various aspects of digital
archaeology and publishing. Finally, and most importantly, its free and available for download
here or here. Or, if you really like the smell of newly printed books, you can get a paper copy here.


There are several additional readings available online here.

Heres the table of contents:
1. Introduction
Brandon R. Olson 1
2. 3D Imaging in Mediterranean Archaeology: What are we doing, anyway?
James Newhard 9
3. A Discussion of the Analytical Benefits of


Image Based Modeling in Archaeology

Brandon R. Olson and Ryan A. Placchetti 17
4. The Work of Archaeology in the Age of Digital Surrogacy
Adam Rabinowitz 27
5. Three- and Four-Dimensional Archaeological Publication
Andrew Reinhard 43
6. Closing Gaps with Low-Cost 3D
Sebastian Heath 53
7. 3D Models as Analytical Tools
Ethan Gruber 63
8. Three Dimensional Field Recording in Archaeology: An Example from Gabii
Rachel Opitz 73
9. Photogrammetry on the Pompeii Quadriporticus Project
Eric Poehler 87
10. 3D Reconstruction of the Renaissance Bastion at the Langenbrcker Gate in Lemgo (Germany)
Guido Nockemann 101
11. Bringing the Past into the Present: Digital Archaeology Meets Mechanical Engineering
Brandon R. Olson, Jody M. Gordon, Curtis Runnels, Steve Chomyszak 107
About the Authors 113


The Tourist Guide to the Bakken: A Preface

August 12, 2015
One of my favorite things to do when a book manuscript is almost done is to prepare the preface
and acknowledgements.
Since I put the final touches on the first completed (and ready to send to the publisher) draft of the
Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch this week, I indulged myself in writing a short preface. Im
not sure how much of this preface will actually appear in the published version (except for the
acknowledgements with will almost certainly be expanded), but it was fun to site down and try to
write out a <1000 word summary of the project.
With any luck, the Guide will head off on its maiden voyage to a publisher by the end of this week,
scrapping in just a week before classes start! Ill do all I can to make a complete copy of the guide
available in an open access form, but this will be subject to some negotiation with the publisher.
In the meantime, enjoy!
This book is meant to be several things at once. First, it is a genuine guide to the sights and sites of
the Bakken oil patch. It took its inspiration from European travel guides like the Blue Guide and
Baedeckers as well as myriad locally-authored guides designed to give visitors an opportunity to
explore a citys or regions cultural life. Following in the tradition of these guides, this volume
privileges an archaeological reading of the Bakken landscape and foregrounds the material culture
and the industrial picturesque. The book also reflects close to four years of visits to the Bakken and
presents a landscape informed by conversations with scholars, journalists, long-time residents,
temporary workers, and new North Dakotans. So while the book is primarily archaeological, it
cannot avoid the people who make the Bakken oil boom such an intriguing and dynamic time in
both the history of North Dakota and the the United States.
Even a superficial reading of this guide should demonstrate our deep commitment to recognizing
the historical significance of the Bakken Boom, its monuments, and its people. We intentionally
selected the genre of the tourist guide as a way to emphasize the dynamism of a the Bakken oil
boom against the backdrop of tourism, which since the start of the 20th century represents a rather
middle-class form of engagement. Tourism and recreational travel offered a controlled respite from
the stability of suburban life and repackaged the adventure of travel and tourism as a way to validate
the privilege of the middle class condition. Today, however, the mobility and instability that is visible
in the Bakken has emerged not as a respite from the routine life of the settled middle class suburb,
but a the daily condition of a significant segment of the middle class. This segment consists of
people who work just-in-time, contribute to extractive industries, or are otherwise buffeted by the
eddying flow of global capital. This locates the genre of the tourist guide in a challenging place. On
the one hand, the tourist guide locates both the worker in the Bakken oil patch and the traveler in
the same space within a dynamic landscape. In this way, it is consistent with the classic view of
tourism as a method for creating a cohesive modern world understandable to the tourist, if not
entirely familiar.

On the other hand, the use of the tourist guide as a way to present the the dynamic world of the
Bakken has obvious, if superficial, limits. The tourist guide freezes the Bakken in time. A book
cannot represent thoroughly the dynamic character of the changing Bakken landscape. Because of
this shortcoming, we have taken the liberty of recording as contemporary various sites observed
over multiple trips to the Bakken. This is consistent with our interest in using the tourist guide as a
way to document the landscape and history of the 21st century Bakken oil boom. The composite
landscape presented in this guide includes ephemera that are unlikely to persist longer than the
decade or will almost certainly be hidden as part of a efforts to return the region to a romanticized
vision of a pre-boom state or as different economic priorities reshape the landscape. Our tourist
guide draws attention to workforce housing sites, fragile roadside memorials, oil wells destined to be
drained and capped, and bustling businesses poised to follow the crowds of workers to the next
boom site.
There are several themes that run through this tourist guide. We sought to describe movement of
people and resources throughout the oil patch by highlighting infrastructure ranging from truck
stops to pipeline hubs. We set movement in the Bakken against sites of both very recent and more
distant historical significance to the industrial past of region with particular attention to the history
of extractive industries. Through The Guide, we have directed visitors to the Bakken to the sites of
recent environmental catastrophes and point out a few of the prominent accident sites that
communities and loved ones have commemorated through the patch. Finally, we have attempted to
leaven the guide with some of the individuals we have met throughout our research in the oil patch.
We have, as much as possible, avoided direct criticism of the oil industry, communities, or, in most
cases, the mass media, but at times a thorough consideration of the Bakken as a living landscape
makes this unavoidable.
This preface and the final chapter of the guide provide a framework for reading the guide as a piece
of scholarship. We hope that the guide stands alone as a piece of engaging and useful writing
without the academic apparatus.
The guide would not be possible without the assistance of a vast number of individuals. Richard
Rothaus accompanied us on most of our trips to the Bakken, encouraged our work, read drafts of
the guide, and provided a running and mostly welcomed commentary on the Bakken. Aaron Barth,
Kostis Kourelis, Bob Caulkins, Carenlee Barkdull, John Holmgren, Kyle Cassidy, and Ryan Stander
are members of the North Dakota Man Camp Project and knowingly or not supported the
development of this guide. Journalists covering the Bakken offered helpful insights throughout our
work with special thanks going to Amy Dalrymple and Emily Guerin, and photographers Andy
Cullen and Chad Ziemendorf. Finally, this guide would not have been possible without the
willingness of the residents of the Bakken, various municipal officials, employees of Bakken
business, and other busy people who decided to take a few minutes (and sometimes more) to talk
with us about their experiences, their landscapes, and their history. Without their help this guide
would not be possible. Any shortcomings of the guide are our responsibilities alone.


Final Sabbatical Report

August 11, 2015
I have about a week left of sabbatical and have begun to sit back and critically assess whether I got
done what I needed to get done over this year away from the classroom.
I know Ive summarized my sabbatical at various times over the past year, so some of this will be
redundant (for the three of you who read my blog every day), but most of what Im trying to do here
is to offer some general thoughts on sabbatical both for my future self and to offer some advice to
my friends and colleagues who are starting their sabbatical even as we speak. (And I recognize that
my approach to leave wont work for everyone and how very fortunate I was to have this time off!).
1. Diversify (my bonds). On my last year of leave, I had a single, massive project: turn my
dissertation into a book. I managed to rewrite about two and a half chapters before being completely
crushed by the enormity of the task. Once crushed, I careened between feeling guilty about not
doing more and frittering my time away on various side projects, and regularly developed this
strange taste in my mouth at the end of the day that I associated with working hard, but not getting
much done. The upshot of this experience was an unfinished (and never to be finished) manuscript,
a smattering of almost random articles (as well as some that remain unfinished to this day) and
realization that this is why I cant have nice things like sabbatical. In fact, I dreaded this sabbatical
because I felt like I had failed in my previous effort to take a year off to engooden myself.
By the end of last summer, I decided to embrace my weakness as a scholar and to diversify my
projects. I worked on four or five things over the course of the year that ranged from the
archaeology of Late Roman Cyprus, a formal article on the archaeology of workforce housing in the
North Dakota, some work on archaeological method, and, of course, my Tourist Guide to the
Bakken. When I began to bog down on a project, I imposed an artificial deadline, worked hard to
the deadline, and then moved on to something else. The novelty of starting a new (or returning to a
shelved) project kept me motivated and artificial deadlines kept me focused.
2. Spontaneity. While diversifying kept me from being bored or sinking into a malaise, I also allowed
myself a certain amount of spontaneity. The Tourist Guide is the product of a spontaneous decision
to try to play with that genre as a way of synthesizing and publishing my experiences in the Bakken.
I allowed myself to pursue various side projects during my last leave, but I did it only after I had
decided that I had failed to accomplish my main goals.
On this sabbatical, I anticipated that I might have some ideas that distracted me from my main
goal(s) and allowed myself the freedom to follow these ideas. Most of them amounted to something,
so I was glad that I allowed myself the freedom to take those kind of risks.
3. Preload. I find that the first part of research (and idea conjuring) always takes more focus than the
writing and editing. So I did a bunch of work to preload the next two years of my life. While I still
didnt do as much reading as I would like, I feel like I can write more freely now on a wider range of
topics than I could this time last year.
Also, my projects for the next two years are more or less set up. I have a couple of edited volumes
to coordinate, a few almost complete articles to get accepted somewhere, and a couple book

manuscripts in various states of completeness. All this should be doable over the next 24 to 36
4. Give Back. A few of my colleagues have begun to stress the importance of giving back to our
field. I have to admit that I had allowed myself to believe the old adage Those who cant, help
others who can, but some of the people who talked to me about doing more to give back to junior
scholars were not in the category of those who cant; in fact, they were among the most
competent and dynamic scholars in my little world.
So, this past year I put more energy into giving back. I peer reviewed a half dozen article length
manuscripts and two book length manuscripts. I stepped up my service to the discipline by
accepting positions on committees that support organizations that made a difference to my career.
Finally, I started The Digital Press as a way both to promote and publish some of my own little side
projects, but more importantly, to offer a venue for other scholars.
5. Run. I am pretty old now, and I started to really feel it when in the field. Over the past 12 months
I began to do something systematically about my profound lack of fitness. So for the first time in my
life, I ran (err jogged errr shuffled?) for close to 12 months. My weekly mileage varied a good
bit as I ramped up and down how much and what kind of running I did, but it was consistently over
10 miles per week.
I think that this focus on fitness got me about a week or 10 days more energy in the field in Greece
this season. I ran out of gas about midway through week 4 of a 6 week season, but the remarkable
thing was that toward the end of week 6, I got a second wind.
This year Im going to try to keep at it and work out consistently despite the added structure of
teaching and on campus work. Well see if I can stick it out, but I hope last year build some good


Collegiality and Peer Review

August 10, 2015
I think Ive blogged about this before but couldnt find it in the ole archive, so I figure I should post
my comments on this again, just in case.
I just completed a peer review for a decent journal in my field. The interaction with the journals
editors came entirely through their editorial manager software. The interaction with tidy and efficient
with very little friction. The journal editors included a short, standardized note with the initial
invitation to review the article and each interaction prompted another short, standardized note when
I accepted the invitation to review and it was followed by a standardized note of thanks when I
submitted my review. At no point in the process did I interact with a real human being. The review
process was managed with an eye toward efficiency.
Im not sure that the peer review process should be automated. As someone involved in editing a
small literary journal, I can appreciate the volume of submissions that a journal receives and the
tremendous amount of energy that goes into dealing with even the most hopeless submission. There
are few quick and easy rejections and cultivating a good relationship between reviewers,
contributors, and editors is as much part of the job as producing a quality product. I can recognize
the temptation to streamline and standardize this tricky process, but I think this is a mistake.
The process of academic knowledge production is so dependent on human interaction. Despite
efforts to automate teaching, many of us still see a need to interact regularly with students. I learn
more from colleagues with whom I interact regularly, and while I appreciate the potential of a
scholarly article to help me understand the world better, I appreciate scholarship more when I
understand it in a broader context. Academic meetings, for example, create an interactive space for
knowledge production which can be every bit as meaningful as the final, published result. Watching
a scholar develop through time, over the course of a series of articles, opens up that scholars
thinking in new and important ways by revealing the trajectory of a scholars thought rather than a
frozen moment of information to be mined and cited.
To be clear, Im not criticizing the process of double blind peer reviewing, although it has become
increasingly rare in my experience. This practice I think is different from the automated interaction
with editorial management software. In fact, the double blind peer review exists as a way to
anonymize critique only when we expect our fields to be saturated with personal knowledge.
The role of collaboration and personal knowledge remains central to our work as scholars and as
educators, and this should extend to the relationship between a journal editor, a contributor, and a
peer reviewer. More to the point, since a growing number of journals are published by for profit
companies, human interaction seems a basic courtesy since the final result of academic production is
not simply academic knowledge, but also profit. The impetus for streamlining the submission and
review process, then, is to lessen the burden on editors and staff at the journal in order to allow for
more submission and faster, more efficient publication, and, at the end, greater profits. The desire
for profitability or at least sustainability is also tied to the limiting the circulation of this
knowledge to those able to pay.


I have this feeling and hope that this form of the information economy is doomed to fail as funding
cuts to libraries, universities, and stagnant faculty salaries make it increasingly difficult to pay for
access to academic publications. A growing black market fueled by services like,
institutional repositories, and social media ensures that free offprints of publications circulate
rampantly. Finally, more and more scholars are inclined to take on part of the burden of publishing
themselves either through accepting greater editorial responsibilities or refusing to work with
publications that limit the distribution of their material. The technical point of entry for becoming
involved in publishing is lower, and the collegial spirit that fuels new, cooperative publishing
ventures runs explicitly counter to publishing models that seek to produce profit through efficiency.
An email from an editor requesting a peer review is a small thing, to be sure, but it reminds the peer
reviewer that scholarly publishing remains a personal, collaborative enterprise. Its absence does just
the opposite: it emphasizes the drive for efficiency and the push to profit from academic labor.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

August 7, 2015
Im still getting my feet set on this blogging every day thing, so I apologize for missing yesterday. I
was just too shaken after Australia was dismissed for 60 in about 90 minutes yesterday morning
(but it could be worse). Whatever the reason, I figure I owe my readers some quick hits and varia for
the long weekend.

Very important research at Geronisos Island on Cyprus.

Use of drones (aka droughns) to document endangered archaeological sites (including some
very recent ones) in the UK.

The social side of North Dakota archaeology.

The plight of refugee on Lesvos.

What will happen to a North Dakota man camp that is closed and in too much debt to

Poo is people.

Kostis Kourelis on the O Young building in downtown Grand Forks.

North Dakota: A Guide to the Northern Prairie State.

Chris Farley as Shrek.

This is probably the most informative blog on the Bakken boom.

Three days left for Peter the Slug. Go on and make this happen!

What Im reading: A book for peer review (sorry!).

What Im listening to: Neil Young, Live at the Cellar Door; Neil Young, Live at Massey Hall


The frog days of summer.


An Update on The Tourist Guide to the Bakken

August 5, 2015
This has been a busy week. On Monday, I finished laying out a book for The Digital Press (and Im
giving it a few days to marinate before I push the publish button). For the rest of the week, Im
focusing on one more major revision of the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch. The goal is to
get this manuscript submitted before classes start and go into the new semester with only a few,
moderate-sized projects on the docket.
Those of you who have followed the Tourist Guide project know that it began mostly as a hobby
project. My initial goal was more proof of concept than final product. As I worked on it in my
spare time, it started to take on a life of its own and by the end of last spring, it was a full-fledged,
book-length project with a proposal and a substantially complete draft manuscript. So far only one
press has taken serious interest in the project, but you only need one press to publish, so Ill move
forward with some confidence that the stars will align and Ill have at least one thing to show for my
sabbatical year.
For the final revision, I am making 7 changes to the manuscript:
1. Consistency and Symmetry. The main body of the tourist guide is organized into routes and each
of these routes was meant to be largely self-contained. Each route included at least one vignette
which introduced some aspect of the route in greater detail and typically with a short section of
narrative. For example, the route from Tioga to Crosby, makes a stop in Noonan to tell the story of
the radioactive filter socks. As the manuscript underwent various revisions, however, the number of
these vignettes increased and the symmetry of the composition took a bit of a hit as some sections
had more sections of narrative than others.
As I make my final revisions, I am being far more deliberate in noting the number and kind of
vignettes present in each section. At present I have four types of short digressions: (1) historical, (2)
environmental, (3) commemorative (see below), and (4) personal (see below). I want to arrange these
in an orderly way throughout.
2. Populating the Bakken. One of the critiques that the series editor offered is that the landscape I
described was strangely devoid of people. As Ive reread parts of the manuscript, I agree with him
entirely. The genre of the tourist guide to historical sites has tended to emphasize landscapes (and
especially the picturesque), historical sites, and a kind of distance between the reader (as individual)
and the scene produced by the careful arrangement of objects. In fact, the presence of locals (see
below) outside particular circumstances might detract from the integrity and authenticity of the
historic landscape (and they were only included when they reinforced the picturesque historicity of
the touristic experience). At the same time, industrial tourism tended to include more people,
particularly workers; in fact, middle-class, industrial tourism relied upon the sympathetic viewing of
workers by tourists to created an integrated world and to break down the distance between the
other and tourist.
So, over the next few days, I plan to populate the tourist guide with anecdotes and individuals from
our three years or research in the region.

3. Commemorative Landscapes. On Monday, I blogged about the commemorative landscape of the

Bakken, and how the presence of various memorials served to produce a subtle landscape of
resistance to the changes taking place across the region. My research on these landscapes has just
begun so, right now, I dont have enough, different examples to include one with every route, so I
will pepper them through the book as a starting point on a larger project.
4. Route 7. One of the goals of our most recent trip to the Bakken was to research the final route
for the guide. This route runs from Watford City to Killdeer, departing the route from Watford City
to New Town at Johnsons Corner where the guides route will head east and, then, south toward
Killdeer and Dickinson through the Ft. Berthold reservation. This route has a bunch of historical
sites which intellect in curious ways with the modern industrial history of the region. The
culmination of this route will be the forest of stored drill rigs just north of Dickinson.
Heres another photo, because its just that cool:

5. Locals. Another critique of the manuscript from the series editor is my use of the term local. He
suggested that the term could be read as part of a false dichotomy between local/newcomer with the
implication being that the local was somehow in a superior position of authority, knowledge,
understanding, or even entitlement. By using this term, I am reinforcing this division between
longterm and short-term residents. Of course, identifying someone as a local could also locate
their knowledge in a subordinate position to the knowledge of the tourist (or author!), and reinforce
the idea that local knowledge is somehow inferior to universal knowledge. Finding an alternative
to the term local throughout will be a good opportunity to think critically about how the guide
treats the people of the Bakken.
6. Locating and Theorizing. Right now the final section of the guide is basically a short academic
article on the use of tourism and tourist guides as a way to view historic and archaeological
landscapes. It interweaves recent developments in industrial archaeology, tourism studies, and
critiques of landscapes into a justification for using this approach to understand, critique, and
document the Bakken. It is written for an academic audience, but my series editor thinks that I
should make this section more accessible to non-academic readers. I agree, more or less, considering
the tone of the book, but Im a bit terrified by the prospects of revising this section. Ill take a stab at
it and see how accessible I can make my work and leave it to discretion of the series editor and my
peer reviewers to determine whether Ive gone far enough to making this section more engaging and
7. Prefacing. Finally, the book needs a preface that sets the readers expectation for the volume and
helps the reader recognize how the volume is organized and argued. This should be a fun


opportunity to articulate the myriad of small editorial decisions that Ive made throughout and lead a
tourist, historian, and reader through the books different registers.
I only wish I had more time to spend with this project but if I want it to appear before the
memory of the heady days of the Bakken Boom have faded, I need to get it to the publisher now!


Teaching Tuesday
August 4, 2015
Im back to teaching in the fall and am looking forward to getting back into the classroom. Im
teaching a section of History 101 at night in a Scale-Up classroom and a history of our introductory
methods class for graduate students, History 501. Both classes involve a bit more preparation than
Ive given them so far, so I thought a teaching Tuesday post might motivate me to start to get my
act together with only a few weeks remaining before the start of the semester.
To avoid being overwhelmed, Im targeting one specific issue in each class:
1. New Class, New Priorities. The main goal of History 501 is to introduce graduate students to the
methods and techniques of graduate level research in history. The course was installed about 5 years
ago in an effort to level the playing field among graduate students by offering a bit of remediation
for students who hadnt developed strong research skills in their undergraduate programs or had
taken time off between their undergraduate degree and graduate school. The course also provides
students with an opportunity to meet the faculty in the department and have them present their
specialities over the course of a couple of classes during the semester. This means the students have
a basic understanding of oral history, quantitative history, labor history, intellectual history, material
culture, digital history, and so on.
The course, in other words, provides a bunch of details ranging from basic research tips to short,
but nuanced introductions to larger research methods. Finding a way to organize priorities in a class
like will be a challenge because the class will have to be a bit of everything for everyone.
2. Balancing Group Work and Individual Performance. The challenge in my History 101 class is a
bit more basic. As I have blogged about extensively, the class is built to run in a Scale-Up classroom.
Our Scale-Up room offer 20 round tables for 9 students each. This makes the room ideal for group
projects and collaborative problem solving and not particularly suitable for individual work or
History classes have traditionally focused on lecture and individual work, and introductory level
courses even more so. Over the last few years, Ive created an introductory history class that focuses
on collaboration to teach writing, argument, and the basic narrative of the past. The class writes its
own history textbook over the course of the semester with each table providing a single module on
the Greek, Roman, and Medieval world. Student engagement is generally high and the product is
The biggest complaint from students is that the effort across the teams is uneven with stronger
students doing more than their share and weaker students loitering around the margins. While the
complaining is annoying (albeit pleasantly naive about asymmetrical distribution of work in the real
world), I have come to recognize that I can do more to motive the more marginal students to
engage in the process. So, this semester, I need to figure out ways to devote at least 40% of the class
to individual effort in the service of the 60% of the class that is given over to group work.
The last two times that Ive taught the class, Ive given 20% over to daily assignments these range
from short take home assignments to in-class group work. These were largely designed to keep

students honest in class by offering immediate rewards and consequences for various in class
assignments. The first time I taught the class, I had a midterm exam after the first third of the class
designed around basic historical argument skills. I wasnt entirely pleased with the results of that,
however. I was also tempted to assign a short paper and make it due sometime during the first third
of the class. Two short papers, each worth 10%, would also be an appealing way to include some
individual accountability in the course.
The goal of these short papers will be demonstrate that skills refined through group work actually
emerge in individual assignments and to promote ongoing engagement and collaboration in the
More soon as I think through these classes over the course of the next few weeks!


Abandonment and Commemoration in the North Dakota Bakken

August 3, 2015
I returned home late last night after a productive three days in the Bakken. Our trip had four goals.
First and foremost, we wanted to continue to monitor the changes in our study sites. Next, I needed
to collect just a bit more information on the area between Killdeer and Watford City for the Tourist
Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch. We presented some of our research at Capital Lodge in Tioga,
North Dakota, and, finally, I wanted to begin to do some research on the memorial landscape of the
oil patch. We managed to accomplish all these goals.
1. Study Sites. I reported in March that our study sites appeared to be holding steady despite the dire
pronouncements of bust in the oil patch. This August, however, the signs of the downturn were
visible in every RV park and man camp that we visited. It would appear that many of the mid-sized
RV parks are down to around 60% occupancy despite summer being typically the busiest time of
year. Rents at RV parks have come down slightly, and guarded optimism of both residents and
managers has give way to talk of alternate plans and exit strategies.

The larger crew camps likewise seem empty. We stayed at a camp where we once had to book a
room weeks in advance and navigate a packed dining room for a table. On this visit, our team was
probably the only group staying in the camp.


The most dramatic example of camp abandonment was the 500+ bed American Lodge outside of
Watford City. The camp was closed and abandoned after the city cut its power and water.
Subsequently, it appears that the camp had bilked investors out of over $60 million dollars in a kind
of ponzi scheme. The size and obvious reality of the camp made it clear that project did not begin as
a ponzi scheme, but succumbed, in part, to the declining need for workforce housing in general.
2. Man Camp Dialogues. Our man camp dialogues have come at a pivotal time in workforce housing
in the Bakken, and our effort to hold one in a workforce housing site was pretty unsuccessful. The
declining number of people living in temporary workforce housing sites has made our dialogues as
much a historical reflection as a way to address ongoing concerns.
For the first time in our experiences in the Bakken, a camp refused to allow us to document life at
their facility. This camp had also turned down our request to host a man camp dialogue. The camp
stands near Williston in Williams County, and recent ordinances appear designed to curtail the future
of work force housing. So it seems likely that the owners or management of the camp felt any
research on their facility was unlikely to benefit the camp in the short or medium term.
3. Watford City to Killdeer. The Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch is very nearly complete and
the manuscript is almost ready to go to the publisher for review. I took notes on the route from
Watford City to Killdeer and Dickinson and this will allow me to include this meaningful diversion
to the main course of the Tourist Guide. The forest of drill rigs sitting in storage at Dickinson forms
a useful concluding scene to my guides itinerary.


In addition to the addition coverage of the guide, the editor in the series that has requested my
manuscript suggested that I include a few more people in the guide, so I am going through the
routes and making an effort to add some flesh-and-blood to the routes.
4. Memorial Landscapes. I also plan to add something to the Tourist Guide on the memorial
landscape of the Bakken. Through out the region, small, typically road-side memorials have
appeared to mark the location of fatal accidents. While these are common throughout the US, they
take on a particular poignancy in the Bakken where they often feature in critiques of the oil patch
and the changes that they have brought to the local communities.

There are a few of these memorials that are well-maintained and prominent on the Bakken byways
and I plan to include them in the Tourist Guide as well as a few of the lesser known memorials that
dot the back roads of the region.



Heading Out West

July 30, 2015
Early tomorrow morning Im heading out to the Bakken for a Man Camp Dialogue at Capital
Lodge near Tioga and a few days of research with a team of Bret Weber, Richard Rothaus, Kostis
Kourelis, and photographers John Holmgren and maybe Ryan Stander. Tom Isern will moderate our
conversation. If you want to know what were on about, download this lovely free guide (pdf)
graciously provided by Toms Center for Heritage Renewal. The program is funded by our friends at
the North Dakota Humanities Council. The event is from 6:30-8 pm on Friday evening at Capital
Lodge near Tioga.
Before and after the event, we plan to check out our long term study sites in the Bakken and see
how theyre holding up during a time of diminished drilling, expanding housing options, and another
round of legal restrictions on the conditional use permits that so much short-term workforce
housing uses for zoning.
While my colleagues may have various goals (and thats part of the fun of this project), I have a few
priorities in mind for this trip:
1. The Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch. Ive been working to revise my Tourist Guide to the
Bakken and eliminate some of the evidence for its hasty and piecemeal composition. The biggest
challenge is keeping in mind the genre of the tourist guide and balancing that with my desire to use
this form of writing to introduce and critique the Bakken as a living, working, changing, historical
I also need to spend some time filling in a few holes in my manuscript. The largest is the route from
Watford City to Killdeer and then Dickinson, which Ill fill in on the drive home. I also want to fill
in a bit around Williston and Watford City. My treatment of the former, is particularly superficial,
and Id like to write something about the role of various churches in both towns.
2. Abandonment. When I was last in the patch in the spring, there were clear signs that some of
the more marginal workforce housing sites were being abandoned. I hope each time that I venture
to the Bakken to discover an abandoned workforce housing site that had enough intensity of use to
leave a modern signature on the group. (Weve noted some abandoned camps, for example, around
Wheelock, but these camps do not seem to have been in use for longer than a few months.) The
best case scenario would be to do a little informal survey without collection of the site to document
systematically what is left behind.
3. Changing Character. One of the real challenges that Ive faced the last few times in the Bakken is
the feeling that many of the RV parks are more run-down and less dynamic places with aging
infrastructure and features. The problem is that documenting these relatively subtle changes to
workforce housing sites is difficult. We will continue to document using photography extensively
and hope that our systematic photographs will provide us with an opportunity to document changes
that remains elusive on the ground. Well also take long-form notes and do some work documenting
individual units to build on that archive with an eye toward noticing the small changes that suggest
that workforce housing has changed in the region.


4. Conversation, Perspective, and Publication. Finally, Im looking forward to conversations with

our field team which comprised of some folks who have been visiting the Bakken with us a few
times a year and folks who have not been to out west since 2013. I am also excited to work
alongside two exceptional photographers in Ryan Stander and John Holmgren and try to understand
how they are seeing the Bakken. Finally, I hope to pin down members of the publication team
(Kostis, Bret, Richard) and set a deadline on our resubmission to Historical Archaeology as well as
various other projects. Research is great, but publication gives our work lasting value and impact.
Weve been working in the Bakken for close to 4 years now and its time to have something tangible
to show for it.


Toward an Ottoman Archaeology

July 29, 2015
I really enjoyed Benjamin Andersons recent article in the new and more frequent Journal of Field
Archaeology. Anderson considers Ottoman attitudes toward antiquities and challenges the long-held
view that Ottoman society did not have a coherent discourse or substantial interest in antiquities.
Any discussion of Ottoman society is tricky, of course, because the Ottomans only rarely
promoted a single, national discourse as one might expect from contemporary European nationstates. As a result, Anderson turns his attention to evidence for a local archaeological discourse
through a series of case studies that explore the removal of antiquities from Ottoman cities by
European agents in collaboration with the Ottoman state. He described how the removal of the
Incantadas in Thessaloniki and the Parthenon metopes from Athens both encountered determined
local resistance. While the latter case study is relatively well known, the former was more dramatic.
The Incantadas were part of a Roman period portico built into a Jewish home in Thessaloniki. The
efforts of the French to dismantle and remove this structure to Paris met resistance both from the
Jewish community as well as the Turks and the Greeks of the city. In both cases, the European
agents attempting to remove the antiquities reported that the locals believed that the statues were
prominent residents of the community who had been turned to stone. Anderson unpacks this story
and suggests that they might represent both a sense of local pride in the communities past
achievements and their sense of petrified helplessness in the face of the authority of the state. The
strong reaction to the removal of these antiquities and the parallels between the two incidents hints
that local residents of the Ottoman world developed identities that involved interpretation of local
One thing that I did notice was missing from this article was any reflection on Christian traditions of
archaeology which date to at least as early as St. Helenas excavation of the True Cross and
continued, at least in hagiographic texts, through the Ottoman and into the modern period. The
discovery of lost icons, earlier religious buildings, and various relics through excavation reflects a
consistent attitude toward antiquities as well as a view of excavation as reveling a lost part of the
past. Considering the constant interaction between various religious groups, it would be interesting
to know whether some Christian ideas about the relationship between the past and the present made
inroads into larger considerations of archaeological identity. For example, was part of the mystery
and power of ancient statues related to the concept of icons or relics which both represented past
holy men and women and literally embodied their sacred status.
For some reason the Byzantine period continues to be overlooked in studies of the post-ancient
reception of antiquities. Scholars are eager to identify continuities between the modern and early
modern period without giving much consideration of the intervening processes that shaped
mnemonic practices. I continue to think that the Byzantine period plays a key role in understanding
how early modern and even modern Greeks (or Ottoman subjects) constructed a relationship with
their archaeological past.


News from The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

July 28, 2015
I have this idea that people out there are wondering about The Digital Press at the University of
North Dakota. Our first two books, Punk Archaeology (for free) and Visions of Substance (for
free), were pretty successful, and wed maybe be justified resting on our laurels.
But, were not.
I spent the last week or so writing a grant proposal that emphasized our cooperative model of
production and distribution as an alternative to traditional academic publishing. We hope to get
some support for a reboot of our neighborhood history series and perhaps a series of North Dakota
Quarterly reprints.
More importantly, we have a few more books in the works, and we expect that at least two of them
will appear in the next few months.
Next month, we will release Melissa Gjellstads and Danielle Skjelvers translation of K. J. Skarsteins
War with the Sioux: Norwegians against Indians 1862-1863. This book documents the experience of
Norwegian immigrants during the Dakota War and will feature an expanded introduction by
Gjellstad, Richard Rothaus, and Dakota Goodhouse. The translation was supported by a grant from


I just received some very early galley proofs for the book, and were almost there.


The interior of the book will need a bit more work, but the editing and layout is almost done. The
font, while elegant, is too big, and after some deliberation, I think our readers would prefer the page
numbers closer to the outside margins of the pages.

I also spent some time this weekend doing a preliminary editing run on a North Dakota Quarterly
reprint that brings together contributions on World War I. I think it would be great to publish this
collection on Veterans Day.
So stay tuned to this page over the next few weeks for the latest news on The Digital Press at the
University of North Dakota!


Commemoration in the Bakken

July 27, 2015
Over the weekend, my colleague Richard Rothaus forwarded me a story about the dangers of
working on oil rigs in the Bakken. Much of the article is a rather typical discussion of physical risks
of working in the oil patch, the pressure on workers to cut corners, and the lack of adequate safety
or corporate accountability.
The final photo in the article is a cross dedicated at the site of a well blow out that cost the life of an
oil field worker. The cross was depicted in front of a sign marking the location of an oil well, and
this nicely juxtaposes the most highly visible mark upon the Bakken landscape (the drill rig, oil well,
et c.) and a less visible commemorative landscape.
Of course, the cross commemorating the death of a worker in the oil patch runs counter to the
dominant narrative of the progress and wealth brought to the region by the oil boom. It reinforces a
theme of sacrifice that is not entirely absent from conversations about the risks that oil workers face
on a global scale (and it is a topic that comes up regularly in social media discussions of oil patch
life). The military-style garb common to some of the larger companies in the patch which features
coveralls with American flags underscores a link between patriotic duty and work in the patch.
Sacrifice is a persistent subtext associated with work in the oil industry because the risks are very
real, but the way in which it is represented reflects a certain ambiguity. Appeals to patriotism suggest
that risk is part of national duty, whereas roadside crosses hint at the more personal costs of working
in an industry with notoriously shoddy safety standards. Its hard not to read commemorations like
the cross set by the side of the road as a critique of the industry and the foundation of a subversive
Over the next month or so, I plan to finish up the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch and send
it off on the journey to publication. At the end of the week, though, I plan to head out west to fill in
a few gaps. The photo at the end of this article tipped me to being a bit more aware of
commemorative markers across the patch. While Ive endeavored to bring into my Guide sites that
form an environmentalist landscape, mark the historical landscape of drilling in the region, and the
unavoidable signs of the productive landscape, Ive included no evidence for the human cost of oil
in the region. As I explore the Bakken once more this week, Ill be on the lookout for this small, but
important sites that form an important counterpoint to the productive, industrial landscape of the


A Few Friday Varia and Quick Hits

July 24, 2015
Im still getting back into the groove of blogging regularly, so I dont want to push too hard right out
of the gate and injure myself.
But I will offer a few quick hits and varia for the weekend, only because I cant help myself:

RIP Owen Chadwick.

The Journal of Field Archaeology 40.4 is open access.

Parking. What Grand Forks needs is more parking.

Abandoned mid-century modern homes.

Apple Music seems to be working out well.

Saarinens TWA terminal at Kennedy.

Moderately clever: The Game of Greece.

I must decline, for secret reasons.

Go support Peter the Slug.

What Im reading: M. Shanks, B. Rathje, and C. Witmore, Archaeology in the Making:

Conversations through a Discipline. (2013).

What Im listening to: The Wave Pictures, Long Black Cars and Great Big Flamingo Burning


July 23, 2015
My research interests are scattered. They range from workforce housing in the Bakken to intensive
pedestrian survey and the archaeology of Late Roman and Early Byzantine Cyprus. On the one
hand, this is exciting because I rarely get bored. On the other hand, I feel like I rarely have an
exhaustive grasp of any one issue before having to shift my attention to something more pressing.
Every now and then, this diversity of research interests demonstrates a bit of convergence. I know
that I shouldnt get too excited about this; after all, despite my efforts to focus broadly, I know that I
tend to have particular ways of thinking that inexorably draw my projects into convergence.
Yesterday, I was working to revise the most recent draft of my slow archaeology paper. Its slow
going (see what I did there?) in part because I took about three months away from the article in the
middle of making revisions and, in part, because Im trying to wrangle a diverse set of ideas and
ranging from field practice to the role of place in producing archaeological knowledge. While I was
trying to bring these ideas to order, I kept thinking about a paper that Im scheduled to give the
American School of Oriental Research conference this fall on object biography.
In that paper, I hope to argue that the idea of object biography, if left focused on physical, material
objects reflects only awkwardly contemporary archaeological practice. In fact, the physical
engagement with artifacts even particularly precious or aesthetically attractive good things is
rather fleeting in comparison to the time spent with various digital objects related to these physical
objects through various processes of mediation. As Chris Witmore and other have pointed out, the
process of mediation or translation from one state to the next preserves (at best) a relationship
between the physical artifact and the digital (lets say) artifact, but we should not confuse this
relationship with a form of crass equivalency. The digital artifact is an artifact in its own right with
its own history and its own interpretative potential. Digital objects form the basis for most
archaeological analysis because they are easily manipulable, portable, and storable. At the same time,
we recognize that these objects are only as useful as their relationship to the physical world.
My ASOR paper will then develop the idea of cloning and reflect on our ability to produce both
increasingly accurate models of the physical world (but these models, like a clone or a twin, will not
share the same biography as the physical objects,) and our ability to make exact (at least in a relative
way) copies of digital objects. Like digital copies of physical objects, however, even these digital
copies are subject to different life histories and uses.
I got pretty excited yesterday afternoon when I realized that these thoughts tie into my ideas of slow
archaeology. As field practices have become more efficient (and more limited in terms of time and
money), we have come to rely more and more heavily on digital objects for analysis. In other words,
our digital clones of the physical world provide a mediated view of the physical world and form the
basis for much of our analysis of the physical world. Savvy archaeologists, of course, recognize this
and celebrate the digital clones less for their accuracy and more for their utility. At the same time,
the pull of the physical world remains strong in archaeology and the pious hope that accuracy in our
reconstructions can somehow replace the encounter with artifacts, places, and contexts.


My slow archaeology article takes this argument and goes off the rails with it. I hint that our
growing interest in efficiency in the field, producing highly accurate digital copies of archaeological
contexts, and data driven models of archaeological analysis is a response to the frustrated tension
between issues of provenience, national claims to archaeological patrimony, and increasing limits
on time in the field. In effect, producing digital models of the archaeological world is both good
archaeology and an extension of colonial practices intent on appropriating the the global past into a
master, scientific, universal (i.e. Western) narrative. By privileging digital data as the basis for
archaeological analysis, pushing to make it freely available, and celebrating its increased accuracy and
utility, we are contributing to centuries old negotiation between local and global knowledge.


A Guide to Byzantine Greece

July 22, 2015
Each summer my Facebook feed fills study-tour travelogues posted by my faculty colleagues. The
best of these trips reflect careful selection of sites, thoughtful readings, and clear learning goals.
Most study tours focus on the monuments of ancient Greece, but many of the most visually
arresting monuments in the Greek landscape do not date to antiquity. Talking to students
participating on the Western Argolid Regional Project for the last couple of year and contributing to
study tours in Cyprus, Ive come to realize that students are generally interested in the post-ancient
world in part because theyre simply not as familiar with the narrative, and it has a sense of exotic
novelty. In contrast the unfamiliar narrative, Medieval monuments associated are often more
immediately accessible to their developing archaeological imaginations because many of them are
still standing.
This realization has led me to think a bit about producing a Guide to Byzantine Greece as a
complement to the common itineraries followed by American study tours.
If I was to do this, or find someone to do it with me, I figure that our guide has to have a couple
features to make it useful.
1. Complementary. One of the most significant challenges will be that the guide has to complement
traditional study tour itineraries which focus on ancient sites. While Id love to write a book that
leads a group of excited and interested students to the spectacular late Byzantine church of the
Panayia Kosmostira in Ferres in Thrace, its not a realistic addition to most study tours of Greece.
Instead, we have to focus on the main heartland of American study tours which tend to focus on
Athens, Delphi, Olympia, the Corinthia and the Argolid. Fortunately, there are plenty of important
and interesting post-ancient sites in this area.
2. Modular. Along with being complementary, we have to write our guide in such a way that it can
be used in a modular way. The traditional itinerary-based approach favored by, say, the Blue Guide,
is a lovely way to experience Greece, but for the modern study tour which will not stop to enjoy the
lovely principle city of the demos Koutsopodi, this approach makes dipping into the guide for
some information on a particular building or site difficult.
3. Encounters. The challenge of a modular guide is that they tend to fragment the landscape into
distinct, isolated sites, and this works against presenting a cohesive view of Greece in the Medieval
period. So, we have to figure out a way to weave unifying narrative throughout the encounters with
individual places. We have to assume that the average American study tour might only see one Early
Christian basilica or one middle Byzantine church or one Slavic cemetery, and our guide will need
to find a way to make encounters with these single sites serve as synecdoches for larger trends,
processes, or types.
4. Open Access. It goes without saying that our guide should be available for free in some kind of
digital form. I suspect that .pdfs will be the way to go for cross-platform compatibility, but we would
also make a print copy of the guide available at as low a cost as possible. This would encourage
adoptions (particularly if the book was to function as a supplement to a more traditional guide
focused on ancient sites).

5. Images, Rights, and Plans. One of the challenges of this kind of production is that there are some
restrictive rules in place about using images of monuments in Greece and wed have to reproduce
plans which can be a time-consuming and frustrating project. It would be appealing to imagine ways
that use the huge quantity of digital sources to supplement our book, but it is probably not useful to
expect students to have constant internet connections while in Greece. Connectivity issues could
make it more difficult to produce an interactive map that would provide directions to particular sites
(although our students and staff this year almost all had phones with good internet connections).
Aside from the technical aspects of this kind of project, the intellectual challenge is very appealing to
me. Im not sure that I have time to do it properly, but I might have a collaborator who has both
some time and expertise. For now, Ill tuck this into my idea box and well see where it goes over the
next year or so


The Historian and the Greek Crisis

July 21, 2015
As a historian who has spent most of his life studying the ancient and Medieval Greek world in a
serious way, the recent financial and political crisis in Greece has caused me more than a little
anxiety. That the most recent paroxysm took place while I was in Greece and working away on an
archaeological project made the entire experience even more stressful. We had front row seats to the
painful political wrangling that would have such a tremendous impact on the lives of our Greek
friends and colleagues.

Now that Im home, people are naturally curious about what life was like in Greece during the most
recent crisis. For obvious reasons, they expect me to have insights into the fiscal and political culture
of Greece. As someone who has lived in Greece, I can offer some very superficial insights and recite
the same difficult story about cost of austerity, the fear of economic instability, and the resilience of
everyday life.
As a historian, however, Im frankly at a loss. My dedication to the material, political, and religious
culture of premodern Greece has equipped me with very few tools to understand the particular
complexities of the global economy and the current situation in Greek and European political life.
In fact, even specialists in these matters have struggled to see or understand the situation clearly
through the rancorous and dissimulating political rhetoric.
At the same time, the media has continued to evoke Greeces ancient past to add a bit of national
color to a story that has played out on a global scale over the last decade. Ive blogged about this
already, and noted that this lazy lede and headline writing does little more than evoke a watereddown version of the same Classicizing fantasies that contributed to the creation of the Greek state in
the 19th century. Recently, observers of the crisis have begun to critique this practice, and a few


authors have swapped Classical allusions for those of Byzantium. We can maybe thank Patrick Leigh
Fermors well-known distinction between the Hellenic and Romaic (i.e. Byzantine) for that. While
this distinction offers a framework for Fermor to narrative a rich and sweeping narrative of the
Greek landscape, Ive found that it offers little in terms of real explanatory value. We should
probably prefer an approach like Tom Gallants recent contribution to Chronos magazine which
looks to the relatively recent legacy of Greek-German relations.
Where does that leave the historian of Ancient and Medieval Greece? It is inevitable that well be
asked our opinions on the recent events and expected to be able to offer some kind of deeper
understanding of the situation (owing more to our expertise in, say, the Early Christian architecture
of the Peloponnesus as much as our time in the country). At the same time, were all aware (pdf) of
the tragicomic bizarreness that can result when scholars of antiquity wade into contemporary
geopolitics. It is humbling to admit that our specific expertise is irrelevant for understanding the
current crisis, but it is our obligation to avoid the frankly ahistorical conceit of conflating (our
knowledge) of the ancient and modern worlds. At moments of particular frustration, my inability to
deploy two decades of historical understanding of Greece to explain or understand the current
situation has made me despair the value of the humanities. At the same time, I hope that my
background in the humanities has made it possible to recognize and appreciate in a critical way the
limits to what we know no matter how frustrating that may be.


Real Tools for Academic Landscapes

July 20, 2015
Over the last few months, I worked my way through Matthew Crawfords Shop Class as Soulcraft
(2009). The book argues for the value of real, hard work which he distinguishes from the
professions that dominate the white-collar, college-educated, information-based, and academic
worlds. Crawford himself straddles the line between academia, where hes been a fellow at various
prestigious universities, and work at his Richmond, Virginia area motorcycle repair shop. On the
whole, Crawford finds the latter work not only more challenging, but also more morally rewarding
in that the relentless reality of vintage motorcycles refuse to be re-imagined, to succumb to elusive
academic arguments, or problematized in more nuanced ways. If he wanted to make a living, he had
to fix real, mechanical problems for his customers. The book is well-known and has been reviewed
by more thoughtful critics than me.

It was fun to think about this book while I worked away on the landscape of the Western Argolid
with the Western Argolid Regional Project. My job on the project was relatively unspecific, but I
spent most of my field days walking our survey with one of our talented graduate students team
leaders and dividing it into units to be walked by one of our 5 or 6 field teams. On an average day,
we walked 5-7 miles through olive, orange, and apricot groves, up and down terrace walls, and
through dense patches of maquis. As Ive noted on this blog before, it was hard work, but at the end
of the season, I felt like I had a much more thorough understanding of the landscape than was
possible from viewing the splendid World View 3 satellite images on my laptop.
This got me thinking about how important having the right tools for my job is. The right tools were
not important in the abstract way that having the right software for my laptop made a job easier, but
in a genuinely physical way. For example, having the right pants for hiking around the Greek
countryside prevented my legs from being cut to shreds by the thorny vegetation of the
Mediterranean. Over the past four or five years, Ive discovered the value of long-sleeve work shirts


to protect my arms from sun, thorns, and insects. Boots are another matter entirely. This summer, I
wore a pair of decent (and rather expensive) boots that barely stood up to my day-to-day. They were
rugged enough to not disintegrate, but they did not provide enough cushioned to protect my feet
from the daily pounding.

The right pants, shirts, and (probably the wrong) boots did remind me that there were physical
realities to archaeological work that directly related to the kind of data that we collected from the
field. I realize that other academic scholars confront these kinds of realities daily whether they
relate to the access hours of an archive or the maintenance of a fussy instrument in lab. At the same
time, I wonder whether the relationship between our research and our bodies in archaeology (and
this is true of all of the field disciplines) anchors our thinking in the same landscape (and perhaps
even a shared physical reality) as the people whom we study.


Understanding Digital Archaeology

July 17, 2015
I had a bit of a fun(-ish) surprise when a few of my colleagues directed my attention to a recent
article in the Journal of Field Archaeology where the authors cite a personal correspondence with
me (!), but also, Visions of Substance, the most recent book published by the Digital Press at the
University of North Dakota. (To be fair, one of the coauthors of the article, Brandon Olson, was
also a co-editor of the book and an alumnus of both the University of North Dakotas MA program
in history and the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project).
The article was authored by Christopher H. Roosevelt, Peter Cobb, Emanuel Moss, Brandon R.
Olson, Sinan nlsoy documents in great detail their system for digital recording and 3D imaging at
the Kaymak Archaeological Project in Turkey. In almost every way the article is a model
presentation of innovative archaeological procedures. And, its available open access so go and read
it now!
The article sets out in great (and commendable!) detail, the digital systems and infrastructure put in
place to allow excavation teams to document their trenches and contexts in as careful way as
possible. I have taken to describing the kind of highly nuanced and details documentation practices
as part of a move toward post-stratigraphic excavation. This does not mean that archaeologists
like Roosevelts team ignore stratigraphy, but rather that they approach documentation in such a way
that stratigraphic relationships represent just one type of archaeological context documented during
excavation. For example, their system allows for them to record single objects as discrete contexts
and this unique contextual situation remains the primary identifier of these objects within their
recording system. At the same time, the incredibly sensitive photographic, volumetric recording
techniques documented in the article capture subtle aspects of archaeological work, such as the fine
lines produced by the brooms used to clean the trench for photography, that do not reflect to
stratigraphic processes. Finally, the emphasis on volumetric reconstruction of archaeological
contexts moves the project beyond the black boxes representing stratigraphic contexts in
the Harris Matrix and opens a space for more subtle reading of site formation processes that can, for
example, distinguish between simple and continuous depositional events. This is all very cool.
The article also represents a particular strain of archaeological thought summarized in its title,
Archaeology is Destruction which strikes through the word destruction and replaces it with
digitization. The core idea behind this particular line of archaeological reasoning is that one major
goal of archaeology should be to document as thoroughly as possible the contexts and relationships
destroyed through excavation. As a result, documenting for the sake of documenting is a reasonable
approach to archaeological field practices and procedures. Digitization and digital tools can provide
a more efficient and robust means for gathering information at trench side.
The other strain of archaeological thinking views the work of the archaeologist as primarily creative.
Excavation is the work of producing archaeological knowledge and it a fundamentally productive
endeavor. Following this approach, the goal of archaeological practice is to produce arguments that
shed light on both the past and our present.
To be clear, these two approaches to archaeological work are rarely mutually exclusive in practice.
Most archaeologists both engage in field work to answer specific questions and recognize

archaeological evidence as a particularly fragile and limited resource. As a result, good archaeologists
engage in excavation and field practices in a deliberate, careful, and systematic way and remain aware
that their research goals represent a point in an ongoing conversation about the meaning of the past.
Since archaeological evidence is to some extent limited, archaeologists constantly seek to avoid a
tragedy of the commons by balancing the arrogant view that ones work will produce the final
word on a subject against practices that serve primarily as an apologia for the destructive character
of excavation. If the balance tips too far in either direction, archaeological practices diminish the
ethical justification for the discipline.
The Roosevelt et al. article steers well clear of these two potential pitfalls (as does most
archaeological work). They demonstrate that their sophisticated, integrated, digital approach to field
recording can document excavation both in a more detailed way and with greater efficiency. The
authors do not, however, explain how their post-stratigraphic (to use my term) approach actually
results in new archaeological knowledge.
My name was invoked by the authors as someone who has argued that a greater focus on
archaeological efficiency through digital tools runs the risk of de-skilling archaeologists. I have
argued in various places that traditional archaeological practices (which rely on older forms of
technology) like writing in trench notebooks longhand, drawing individual contexts, and separating
extraneous details from relevant evidence at trench side, locates the primary space of archaeological
interpretation at the edge of the trowel, trench, or context. In other words, the act of excavation is
not destruction, but the production of archaeological knowledge, and while I admit to the need for
intermediate steps that document the way in which the archaeologist produced this knowledge, the
ultimate goal is always the archaeological argument. Trench side documentation is an extension of
argument making.
Ive tended to privilege practices that slow the process of documentation on the trench side and
foreground deliberate, embodied knowledge grounded in practices like manual illustration and longhand written, narrative style notebooks. My argument for the superiority of these practices has less
to do with the results that they produce, which the last fifty or even 100 years of scholarship amply
demonstrates, than the pitfalls that they avoid. For example, calls to excavate more efficiently and to
produce more robust datasets redouble the pressure on archaeologists to publish not just their data
(although thats good), but also their analysis. Storerooms full of unpublished material are salutary
reminders that digging more does not necessary result in the production of more disciplinary
knowledge, and with increased efficiency comes the increased temptation to dig more.
Likewise, I remain skeptical of claims that more efficient documentation opens up time and
opportunities for more reflective engagement with the archaeological process. One of the great
claims of modern industrial life is that machines would make possible more leisure time for
creativity, recreation, and family life. Any growth in leisure time over the past two centuries,
however, owes more to the push back against the relentless pursuit of efficiency by labor critics and
unions than any moderation on the part of industrial class. If archaeologists continue to occupy the
rhetorical position that excavation is destruction, increased efficiency, detail, and documentation will
persist as ethical imperatives that are difficult to dislodge in the name of trench-side analysis. I dont
doubt that it is possible to use technology to allow more opportunities to reflect, analyze, and
interpret, but considering the tradition of technological innovation in modern, industrial societies, I
think it is reasonable to expect that digital innovators demonstrate the interpretative gains from the
use of technology.

I will continue to fret about the de-skilling of the archaeological workforce through practices that
fragment the experience of field walking or excavating. The kind of embodied knowledge typical of
pre-industrial craft production produced individuals who have command over most aspects of their
work. Archaeology, of course, is a modern science and over the past century has sought ways to
regiment knowledge production as a way of improving consistency, efficiency, and results. At the
same time, archaeologists have clung fiercely to the idea of craft knowledge. Some excavators,
illustrators, and even field walkers are better than others and, as a result, no amount of
standardization in practice will achieve perfect consistency in data production. As workflows
fragment, however, and narrative notebooks give way to standardized forms, context sheets, digital
models, and other regularized expression of trench-side or survey unit knowledge, the significance
of this embodied knowledge recedes into the background. Foregrounded, instead, is the
systematized regularity of digital data which de-authorizes, overwrites, and black boxes the
complexities of excavation and survey. The idea that digital technologies do less to deskill
archaeologists and more to produce archaeologists as skilled, digital practitioners is similar to the
claim that 19th century craft workers simply developed the new skills necessary to thrive on the
assembly line. Archaeological skills are grounded in archaeology, not the attendant technologies
relevant (or even vital) to the field. (And this comes not from someone who fancies himself a
craftsman-archaeologist, but from someone intensely aware of the gap between the kind of
knowledge that I posses as a manager of digital workflows and data and people with patiently
acquired field knowledge.)
Finally, I continue to be disturbed by the tensions between spatial locus of archaeological work (and
the imperative that our field continues to embrace that some forms of archaeology objects, sites, et
c. remain local), and the displacement that occurs with digital recording of archaeological contexts.
By recording spaces, objects, and deposits in such detail that archaeologists can remove these
digital surrogates from the limits of the archaeological site, we begin to test the concept that that
archaeological work is fundamentally local. While were not yet to the point where entire sites can be
reconstructed in computer labs and 3D clones of objects studied, this is now within the realm of
possibility. Soon, the only limit on our ability to transport highly accurate digital versions of artifacts
and archaeological sites around the world will be our willingness to do so.
So, articles like Roosevelt et al.s tend to leave me a bit cold even if their willingness to share their
innovation and work flows are commendable. Maybe Id find their descriptions more compelling if
they demonstrated how the increased resolution, efficiency, and technologies advanced the particular
arguments that they sought to make about the history of the site or address particular nuances
present in their projects research questions. Or maybe Im just a cranky, old archaeologist who
would prefer to dance with the devil he knows than to take on a new partner.


Go Quickly and Support Peter the Slug

July 15, 2015
Over the past few years, Ive had a chance to shine some light on cool crowdfunded projects from
my friends and colleagues. I want to take a few minutes to do that again.
My buddy Peter Schultz has posted a Kickstarter to support his latest venture, a childrens book
called Peter the Slug. Go check it out now and give it a few bucks.

Peter was one of the guys who inspired me to start The Digital Press at the University of North
Dakota and is doing all he can to prove that persistent little slugs can find unique ways to compete
in a world increasingly dominated by big corporations built for predictable performances and
prodigious profits. Peters slug, like Peter, the man, does things his own way and figures out how to
compete and innovate. That alone makes him deserving of your support. So go now and give his
hard, innovative work a bit of support.
Making Peter and his slugs work all the sweater is his decision to take on the parasitic practices of
profitable publishing by developing his own creative material, producing high quality products, and
building a community willing to support his efforts. Creative work is never free, but this does not
mean we have to embrace practices associated with traditional publishing to ensure that authors,
artists, and editors receive compensation for their work. Peters use of Kickstarter is one approach
to this challenge. Hes making the book available for free, but offering some elegant bonuses for his
So, lets give a big cheer for both the slug and Peters relentless creativity! And go drop a few dollars
to support this project even if you dont love the slug or have kids. Support the idea and the
approach and the willingness to try a new, better way.


More Maps
July 14, 2015
One of the exciting challenges that I face at the end of every season on the Western Argolid
Regional Project is producing maps. The goal of the maps is usually to communicate some basic
information: number of units, artifact density, or the location of particularly important artifact
Sometimes, however, we need to produce maps that allow for more complicated kinds of analysis.
This analysis typically involves looking at several variables on a map simultaneously. At this point, I
generally make a mess of things.
Heres our basic survey map:

Then I add densities:

Then I outline in red some units that are interesting to me. In this case, theyre interesting because
they are in the highest quartile of density per particular visibility. In the case below it is 10%-20%


Then I decide to add pink and purple outlines for units that are in the top two quartiles for 30%50% visibility:

Then I just add the visibility numbers for each unit:

Then I start to add dot densities for various periods of artifacts:


By then the map is getting a bit cluttered, but it contains a bunch of useful information.


July 8, 2015
Since were all about efficiency and archaeological Taylorism here on the Western Argolid Regional
Project, I decided to run some numbers, out of curiosity more than anything.
The primary productive unit of the survey is the five member field team. It consists of a team leader
and four field walkers. They walk an average of slightly over 100 units per day with occasional
outings in the mid-100s. We run 5 field teams a day since one team is in the pottery storerooms. It
takes field teams about 7 minutes to walk the average unit with some units taking as much as 7 or 8
times that long (and others taking almost no time). Most teams start their first unit a little after 7 am
and finish their last unit around 12:45 pm. So our field day runs for about 6 hours (to simplify). The
teams walk for about 2 hours, 15 minutes per day (or about a third of the time their in the field).
The rest of the day is devoted to filling out forms and traipsing from one unit to the next. Lest this
makes our field walkers sound lazy, I should point out that, over the course of our field season field,
walkers walked over 1000 km (that over 600 miles for Americans). Theres no lack of energy and
commitment on the part of our field walkers!

What I discovered is that the average field team used only 3 walkers for field walking. In fact, the
average number of walkers per field was almost exactly 3 (the mode was also 3). This got me
thinking that, next year, we should take our 6 field teams of 4 field walkers and divide them into 8
field teams with 3 field walkers. This would have the clear advantage of putting 7 field teams into the
field daily (with one team heading to the pottery storerooms each day), and this should increase the
number of units walked per day by about 40%.
When I pitched this to a few team leaders, they responded that the teams often used the fourth field
walker to help record information when not walking units. If resulted in an increase in efficiency, we
should see that 3 walker units are completed more quickly than 4 walker units. The numbers,
however, dont bear this out. Both 3 and 4 walker units get done in about 9 minutes despite 4 walker

units being generally longer (by around 25 meters) than 3 walker units. So, there doesnt seem on
the face of it to be any real efficiency gained by 3 walker teams. (I do know that some field teams
operated at below full strength, but even when I did some rough work to control for this, it didnt
seem to impact the overall numbers very much).
There is one hitch: Around 65% of our units used fewer than 4 walkers, but about 20% units used 4
walkers exactly. But this, I think, is an artifact of our units being mapped to accommodate 4 walker
teams. This might account for why units with more than 4 walkers (but less than 9) average about 11
minutes which is a substantial increase over those with 3 or 4. This is the result of teams having to
double walk the unit; that is: walkers having to walk the unit once and then again. Curiously, the 11
minute average is not twice the time taken to walk a unit where every walker walks only once. This is
probably because we tended to make larger units from areas where the fields are disturbed and
unlikely to produce much pottery. While I havent run the numbers recently, historically our ceramic
densities decline as unit size increases. So, I suspect one thing that might happen if we shrink our
field teams is that wed shirt our unit size to accommodate the smaller teams. So well do more units,
but maybe not survey more ground.
Of course, to make this all work, we have to find two more excellent team leaders to complement
our fine group of six. Moreover, wed have less margin of error for individual teams. This year we
lost a few field walkers each week to ailments ranging from dehydration to sea urchin attacks. Teams
dropping to two walkers would struggle to be flexible enough to walk large units and would
probably suffer just walking average sized units.
Embiggening the number of teams (by debigulating the number of walkers) might also lead us to
increase the number of cars and would almost certainly require us to increase the number of devices
assigned to team (cameras, GPS units, Sharpies, et c.). But as a good buddy once quipped, if you
cant afford to do maximum archaeology, perhaps you should just stay in the library.


July 7, 2015
Its the last week here on the Western Argolid Regional Project, so things are getting hectic. In fact,
during our weekly project meeting on Sunday, I asked our student field walkers to increase their
pace just a bit so we can wrap up the last few areas left to survey. To do this, I made an appeal to
our field teams to leverage every last bit of efficiency gained over our six week field season.
At the same time, I enjoyed reading Allison Mickels recent contribution to the Journal of Field
Archaeology (40.3 (20150) titled Reasons for Redundancy in Reflexivity: The Role of Diaries in
Archaeological Epistemology. She argues for the continued value of traditional archaeological
notebooks after studying their use at the site of atalhyk. As most projects have move toward
either digital or paper recording forms, they have tended to abandon traditional trench notebooks
were seen a crude tool for recording the strictly organized, empirical recording at trench side. Mickel
evokes Latour to understand this trend in archaeological recording: As the processes of knowledge
production in archaeology became increasingly black-boxed (Latour 1987), the inscriptive devices
employed in archaeological fieldwork became increasingly structured and resistant to discussing
changing interpretations over time, social dynamics, or emotive reasoning.
She demonstrated that the notebooks maintained at atalhyk interwove verbatim repetition from
other forms of archaeological recording (like context sheets) with distinct reflections and arguments.
In many cases the added value to these notebooks involved making clear the complex process of
producing archaeological observations. In other words, the unstructured space of the notebooks
captures the indeterminacy of archaeological knowledge in a way that more rigid forms of
documentation explicitly seeks to occlude.
This ties to matters of efficiency because redundant data collection is generally regarded as a waste
of time especially for projects working on limited schedules, with limited funding, or with permit
restrictions. Mickels article, however, suggests that enduring the redundancy even the verbatim
redundancy of notebook recording reinforces the clear link between the messy space of actual
archaeological work and the tidy boxes of archaeological recording forms.


Curated versus Automated Revisits

July 2, 2015
Theres a good bit of buzz lately about Apple Musics curated playlists, and TIDAL, my
preference for a music streaming service, offers a range of curated music playlists as well. In general,
the term curation, like crafted, artisanal, or any of the other tech-media, marketing buzzwords has
come to mean that a human, rather than an algorithm has produced a collection. As many, many
have observed, the term curation is annoying and overused.
But I still want to use for a little bit in reference to our work on the Western Argolid Regional
Project. This morning, I took some time out of the field to start to analyze some of our finds and
field data. We plan to revisit a few units before the season concludes and to collect some more
material. Our hope is that these targeted revisits will help us both to refine our survey methods by
offering some points to calibrate our sampling strategy, theyll help us produce more robust
assemblages of types of pottery that might only appear in very small quantities using our typical
collection approach, and revisits will allow us to document archaeological features a bit more
intensively than we would have time and resources to do over the course of intensive survey.

We target sites for revisit in three ways. First, our field teams can tick a check box and provide a
brief explanation for why a particular unit is worth revisiting. Our ceramicists, Scott Gallimore and
Sarah James, can also identify units as being interesting, important, or confusing and consequently
worth revisiting. Finally, we can analyze data through our GIS and databases that target units with
certain characteristics (such as low visibility with either high densities or diverse assemblages). Our
revisit lists generated by team leader and ceramicists are not fortified by statistics, but generated
through careful observations and total situational awareness. These units represent the slow
archaeology approach to landscape and artifact analysis.
So far, it has been heartening to recognize that the lists of revisit units curated by our team leaders
and ceramicists are remarkably consistent with the units generated from my analysis of our various
databases. In fact, combining the curated list of unit with list of units generated through our analysis
of GIS tend to complement each other by expanding the potential target units for revisit. As we


nuance the criteria for revisit a bit over the next week, Im sure that well discover some
counterintuitive units that will serve as tests of our archaeological instincts. For now, though, well
proceed into the final week of the season with just a bit of confidence that our experiences in the
field and at the pottery tables reflects the complexity of our study area.


The Greek Crisis

June 30, 2015
Our field season at the Western Argolid Regional Project has felt the impact of the Greek economic
crisis in rather direct ways. Suddenly all the undergraduates decided that they needed cash and our
graduate students have discovered long-neglected piles of receipts that require immediate
reimbursement. Weve made more trips to the ATM than usual, have begun to conserve cash, and
have started to feel a bit nervous about the complex web financial arrangements that an
archaeological project relies upon to survive.
Our insecurity and inconvenience, however, are nowhere close to what most Greeks are
experiencing right now.
The media appears to share our concerns about how the current crisis in Greece will impact both
Greece and the rest of the world. Despite this concern, it would seem that many commentators
struggle because they have only a very basic understanding of modern Greek history and, as a result,
are only too ready to fall back on unhelpful statements about Greeces ancient traditions of
democracy or their foundational role in European civilization. It is nice to remember that our
notions of democracy owe a debt to ancient Greece, but it is more important to recall that in the
modern world, democracy remains more a lovely Western, historical fantasy than a consistently
applied set of political principles.
This tendency to look back seems to have obscured any critical understanding of Greeces recent
past. For example, few commentators have noted that Greece is among the oldest nations in
Europe, but even at the very moment of its birth the powers of Western Europe took an active role
in shaping its future. Few have recognized or discussed the difficult periods of financial dependency
which robbed Greece of political independence throughout the last 150 years. Finally, commentators
have generally overlooked the painful political experience of the Greek Civil War and rule of the
military junta which shape Greek attitudes toward modern democracy and European intervention.
Whatever the outcome of Sundays referendum, the results will express the unique history of the
modern Greek state more than any Classicizing fantasy about the ancient origins of European and
Western democracy.


Industrial Archaeology and Student Resistance

June 26, 2015
Fridays are good days for me at the Western Argolid Regional Project. I dont go into the field
allowing my aging body to recover and spend the morning processing a weeks worth of data from
the project, producing maps for the local archaeological authorities, and doing some more complex
queries thatll help guide our field work.
Its great to see our progress over the week (at present writing weve walked over 1300 units and
over 4000 individual walker swaths). Because were consciously old school and paperful, we
collect data in the field on paper forms that are then keyed by our students in the afternoons. Ive
argued elsewhere that the process of breaking the flow of data from the field to the digital form is
part of a practice that I call slow archaeology. We keep things analogue in the field to encourage
At the end of the day, though, we have to go digital eventually, and the point of contact with the
digital realm is when the students key the paper forms into the project databases. Copies of the
database are circulated each week on a USB drive and these drives are collected on Fridays when I
merge the data. This is an inelegant, but generally reliable process. Because our permit limits us to 3
years of field work, we have shied away from investing too much energy into a digital infrastructure.
We do not have a data server, iPads data entry, or any bespoke technology in our workflow.
(Before people get spooled up telling me how easy it is to create a more elegant process for
collecting data, Id like to assure them (everyone really) that WE KNOW. Ive been managing
archaeological datasets for over a decade and recognize that there are better, more reliable, and more
efficient ways to move data from the survey unit to the database. I KNOW, but this is the best
solution for our project because it balances our investment of energy into data infrastructure with
the interpretative and analytical requirements of a three-year field project.)
The amazing thing about data entry duty is that our well-meaning, generally well-educated, and
interested students never fail to mess it up. The kinds of mistakes they make in data entry are really
quite staggering. One team managed to make an entire field vanish from their database. Another
team keyed into a database labeled DONOTUSE which they found buried on some hard drive.
Another team decided to add random numbers to their unit numbers. Another managed to break
the database by repeatedly trying to key in a unit that had already been keyed causing the LAPTOP
(the hardware, mind you, not the software or the database) to finally just reset in an desperate act to
protect all involved from such a relentless, unmistakably human assault on common sense.
Why do students do this? Data entry is not difficult, nor particularly time consuming. Each member
of the team does it for about 2 or 3 hours a week. The database appears to be straightforward and is
fronted by a simple form that more or less follows the paper form. Our hope, of course, is that by
asking our students to key the data they become more familiar with the units theyve walked during
the week in much the same way that Medieval monks became more familiar with devotional texts,
scriptures, and theology by copying these texts in monastic scriptoria.


The results, however, suggest otherwise. Students take this opportunity to resist data entry as a basal
assault on their humanity. Their actions argue against reducing the work of archaeologists, past
humans, and the complexities of nature to a set of limited data is profoundly dehumanizing. Our
students are committed to demolishing the straight forward data entry process by entering nonsense
data. They take pleasure in robbing the computer, database, and even data structure of agency by
showing the powerlessness of these tools in the face of human ingenuity. They remind the rest of
the project to slow down and appreciate the gentle sounds of olive trees in the wind, the rich taste of
Greek coffee, and the crunch of plowed fields beneath our feet.
So, I wanted to take this blog post to thank our students for showing us that no matter how
efficient, well-designed, carefully-constructed, and time-tested archaeological data structures are,
they will always fail in the face of student ingenuity. Humans will never be data.
All the fears that our education system is turning our students into cogs fit only to power the
dehumanizing machine of industrial capitalism may well be overstated. There is something in the
human condition that persists into the early college years that we cannot break even by subjecting
students to the most mundane tasks designed to wear down their resistance to tedium. The will to
resist continues and manifests itself in simple, every day forms that we are only too quick to read as
sloppiness, laziness, or incompetence. To misappropriate slightly a quote from the great James C.
One day you will be called upon to break a big law in the name of justice and rationality.
Everything will depend on it. You have to be ready. How are you going to prepare for that day when
it really matters? You have to stay in shape so that when the big day comes you will be ready.
What you need is anarchist calisthenics. Every day or so break some trivial law that makes no
sense, even if its only jaywalking. Use your own head to judge whether a law is just or reasonable.
That way, youll keep trim; and when the big day comes, youll be ready.


June 25, 2015
This week, we made a quick trip to the village of Frousiouna in the far western Argolid. Throughout
the first part of the 20th century, some of the residents of this village would make their way toward
the Argive plain to winter their flocks. The village of Frousiouna was the origin of the small hamlet
in our survey area.

Archaeologists are often interested in origins whether these are the origins of particular kinds of
material culture or groups of people. The Western Argolid Regional Project has as one of its main
research focuses is movement through our survey area and the transhumant pastoralists from
Frousiouna are part of that history.


The well-watered mountain village with impressive two-storey homes is far cry from the rocky fields
and simple long houses of their winter settlement in our survey area.


Survey Method and the Modern Landscape

June 23, 2015
A few weeks ago, I posted on the problem of managing the modern landscape in intensive survey.
This week, my conceptual musings actually require operational decisions. By the end of the week,
well be surveying around an abandoned modern settlement in the Western Argolid.
The site is beautiful, relatively secluded settlement established by transhumant herders probably in
the late 19th or early 20th century. There are a gaggle of traditional Balkan-style long houses which
are generally divided into two spaces: one for the animals and one for the people. There are corbeled
ovens, leaning sheds, alonia (threshing floors), and mandres (animal pens). The site is surrounded by
fields and the houses themselves form an uneven scatter across the lower and middle slopes of a
narrow valley.
The project directors and survey team leaders visited the site yesterday afternoon during a gentle rain
shower and thought about how to approach the complexity of the modern period site, the
abundance of artifacts, and the relationship between houses and other features in the landscape.

The site offers a few challenges.

1. Artifact Distribution. Over the past 12 hours, we have discussed endlessly how to deal with the
dense scatters of artifacts associated with the abandoned houses. These scatters consist primarily of
roof tiles, but since each house may have as many as 3,000 tiles, there is a real opportunity to blow
out our ceramics team and storage facilities for very little new information.
So how do we go about documenting the scatter of tiles surrounding these houses? If we simply
survey the houses as part of our traditional 2000 sq m survey units, the unit will show a density


influence largely by the scatter of material associated with the immediate vicinity of the house. This
approach will not represent the reality on the ground in the most effective way.
If we attempt to isolate the artifact scatters associated with the houses in the area by excluding them
from larger survey units or make them the center of small units focused on the artifact scatters, we
have introduced a rather unconventional method to the area and risk producing data that is not
necessarily consistent with the data that weve collected from elsewhere in the survey area.
We are stuck between the rock of needing to manage modern abundance and the hard place of
treating all material from our survey area with a consistent method.

2. Architecture. We also need to think about how we are going to document the houses at the site.
The houses preserve hints of a wide range of archaeological processes, modifications, and uses.
David Pettegrew and I considered many of these same issues in our work to document the site of
Lakka Skoutara in the southeastern Corinthia. Itll be a great opportunity to encourage students to
look closely at a building in the landscape and to consider how material transitions from its primary
context to an archaeological context. At the same time, well need to provide some consistent
guidance to ensure that the students, team leaders, and directors document the buildings in a
consistent way while also being able to describe each building with as much detail and nuance as
We need to figure out whether it is worth doing some illustrations of the houses or should we rely
on photographs to capture details that might elude textual descriptions. I generally favor taking the
time to illustrate the houses because it forces the documenter to slow down and notice small details
that might not appear as clearly through the photographers view finder. At the same time, there will
be a need for efficiency so we will almost certainly have to document the houses in as efficient way
as possible.
3. Features. The final issue is that houses stand in relation to other features and these clusters of
features need to be identified and documented. Like documenting architecture, we need to decide

whether to produce illustrations that capture significant detail, rely on textual descriptions, or create
a set of maps that emphasize particular spatial relationships.
We need to proceed efficiently and capture data at a scale that is relevant for the kinds of arguments
that we intend to make. In an ideal world, we could collect all the data, we fortunately occupy a
world where all the data is not a realistic or helpful goal.

Prof. Nakassis instructing the beat to drop.


Photo Friday in the Western Argolid: Cars and Trash Edition

June 19, 2015
This week was hot. As a result, I was not my usual photographic self.
It was THIS HOT.

Despite that, I mapped (thats not me; actually I wander around offering astute commentary and our
amazing team of graduate students map).


Checked out some neat cars in the field.


The highlight of the week was a sudden rain shower on Thursday that imparted olive trees with a
golden-green glow. I tried (rather unsuccessfully) to photograph it.


I also had the good luck of discovering a spectacular modern trash dump in a ravine that was later
cut by an erosional event. The trash dated to the late 1990s or early 2000s. The dating was done by
Machal Gradoz, our project soccer expert (as well as a fine archaeologist) who identified an image of
David Beckham on a Pepsi can and dated the uniform, basic information on the can, and hair to the
turn of the century.


The dump was stratified indicating more than one depositional event. The size of the dump,
however, suggests that it probably did not represent the primary dump of a village, but was perhaps
the dump for one of the small communities in the area. The location of the dump on both sides of
the ravine indicates that the dump was cut by the ravine.



Age, Priorities, and the Cars

June 18, 2015
This summer the six survey teams on the Western Argolid Regional Project are working with clocklike efficiency. They churn through units at a remarkable pace and with a remarkable consistency.
The good cheer, competence, and general responsibility of our graduate team leaders is amazing.
The rest of the team, field walkers, project directors, and our faithful automotive transports have
struggled a bit this week to keep up.
So, three quick consideration that have shaped my week in archaeological survey:
1. Age. Survey archaeology is a young persons game. This week kicked my ass. I mapped for four
days straight, demolished my poor feet, tripped over a terrace wall, dehydrated myself, and got
grumpy. Our routine has become that one team leader and I map ahead of our ravenous survey
teams trying to keep enough mapped units on the board to keep our fast moving teams busy.
On a good day, the team leader (with my help cough, cough) can map about 100 units or so and
that represents about a day worth of survey work for the teams. This is exhausting work, but it gives
me a change to look at almost every survey unit at least in a superficial way.
The downside is that by the end of the week, Im completely wrecked. This is despite having
exercised systematically over the past 12 months in preparation for the season, almost two decades
of field experience in the Mediterranean, and careful precautions against the sun, dehydration, and
little injuries. There is nothing more that I can do to keep in the game. Mother nature is taking is
pound of flesh. Survey archaeology is a young persons game.
2. Fieldwork is all about priorities. For our project that means figuring how when to diversify from
the hard work of intensive pedestrian survey and deploy resources to do other important tasks.
There is an overwhelming temptation to revel in the efficiency and steady growth of our fine-grain
survey grid across the arable land in our study area. In fact, our methodological predilections eschew
more intensive sampling of higher density scatters (places formerly known as sites), and have
resisted the temptation to lay out grids, create total collection circles, or indulge in unsystematic grab
sampling. Weve even gone so far to encourage out team leaders to mark units for revisit (especially
units with higher density and lower visibility), but weve yet to shift the resources to revisiting or
recollecting sites.
Next week, some of that might have to change. Were going to have to start slowly shifting
resources to documenting buildings, walls, features, and unusual artifact scatters. This not only
breaks our routine, but also forces us to make difficult decisions about what is more important. Do
we document an early modern farm house, first, and then a Venetian fortification? Do we do some
more intensive sampling as a way to understand that small scatter of Medieval pottery or do we
focus on a partially hidden landscapes from the Early Bronze age?
3. Cars. The final challenge to a well run survey project more so than aging directors or conflicting
priorities was how we get into and out of the field. Bruno Latour would be impressed, because
nothing impacts the progress of field work more seriously than cars breaking down. This week weve

had two flat tires on the same car. Clearly, the car is less than impressed with our interest in
completing field work. Or maybe the car is on my side and keeping me from completely collapsing
under the grind of field work.


Fragments of a Conclusion
June 16, 2015
This past week, Ive been twisting and tweaking an article documenting our work at the Alamogordo
Atari Excavation. The article was primarily authored by Andrew Reinhard and represents a formal,
(we hope) publishable report on our work over a few days in Alamogordo at what was probably the
most publicized excavation of 2014.
Heres a fragment of my revised conclusion. Since Im not sure whether itll appear in the article, Im
posting it here with very little comment:
(Also this is what happens when you try to write during a field season):
Atari Archaeology Conclusions
Archaeology of the contemporary world has often relied on special pleading to justify its practices,
methods, and relevance. The excavation of Atari games in the Alamogordo desert is no exception to
this tendency. The hyper-abundance of modern material has led to challenges in managing and
documenting artifacts. The potentially toxic character of assemblages extracted from landfills,
disaster sites, and industrial contexts require specialized handling skills that are rarely possessed by
archaeologists and rules and regulations that may not be suited to traditional forms of archaeological
investigation. As a result, the documentation of modern period assemblages often requires special
accommodations. In the New Mexico desert, we were not able to enter the trench, manually
excavate, or handle large quantities of material for extended periods.
As in both contract and academic archaeology, time represents a key limiting factor in the methods
employed in the field. Generally speaking, ethical responsibilities serve as a counterweight to time
pressures with archaeologists seeking to collect as much information as time pressures will allow. In
the archaeology of the contemporary would, however, our ethical obligations are complicated by the
uncertain status of material present in the Alamogordo landfill. If this material is genuinely
archaeological, it is only because we documented it according to archaeological field procedures.
According to most standards in our discipline and common sense, household and corporate discard
do not and should not automatically command the levels of ethical care as objects and contexts of
greater antiquity. Many of the challenges facing archaeologists of the contemporary world go well
beyond procedures established to ensure the careful documentation of fragile or scarce
archaeological resources.
Finally, the Atari excavations presented a unique opportunity for archaeologists to inform,
document, and, in subtle ways, subvert the narrative produced by a media company. The goal of this
report was to provide a more typical professionalized narrative of the Atari excavation. The
documentary film, Atari: Game Over featured only about 10 minutes of footage on the excavation
itself. This article expands and reframes these scenes with additional information collected through
our participation in the production. While the story we tell does not contradict that told in the
documentary, it does reveal that the halting flow of information between the production team and
archaeologist limited genuine collaboration during the hectic two days of field work. At the same
time, the production company supported various requests by the archaeologist that did not
contribute directly to their production goals. We were able to cross the safety cordon to document

the excavators progress, were given space to document buckets of trash from the landfill, and given
brief time to sort and study the Atari cartridges. These opportunities made this article possible and
demonstrate that potential of collaboration between media companies and archaeologists moving


Pierre MacKay
June 15, 2015
I was saddened to hear this morning that Pierre MacKay passed away over the weekend. I didnt
know Pierre well, but was fortunate enough to spend a year with him in 2001/2002 at the American
School of Classical Studies in Athens.
During that time, I was putting the final touches on an article documenting a series of fortifications
on Mt. Oneion in the Corinthia. The latest were Venetian. Pierre had been working on the
fortification of the Venetian town of Negroponte (now Chalkis) on Euboea. He was only too happy
to discuss Venetian fortification strategies with me as well as any other topic of post-ancient Greece.
The highlight of that year was a trip to the city of Chalkis by train and then touring the course of
Venetian fortifications of that city. The catch is that the fortifications were destroyed in the 19th
century, but Pierre managed to make the course of the fortifications as vivid as if the walls were still
standing. We had a long discussion of the church of Ayia Paraskevi which was a Frankish period
church built on Early Christian foundations. His willingness to discuss Frankish, Venetian, and
earlier material with us during the trip to Chalkis, and throughout my year at the American School,
was a model of scholarly generosity.
From my perspective (and many others) his knowledge of Venetian and Ottoman Greece was
virtually limitless, and he combined it with a deep and sophisticated understanding of the Classical
world. His sensitivity to the long history of Greece is something that I admired and, in my own way,
aspire too (although without his staggering knowledge of languages from Medieval Venetian to
Ottoman Turkish).


Photo Friday from the Western Argolid

June 12, 2015
Some photographs from the first full week of the Western Argolid Regional Project. Only two more
weeks left! Only four more weeks left!




More crenelation!


June 11, 2015
One of the more interesting trends emerging so far during the Western Argolid Regional Project
season is competition among field teams. At the end of each field day, I typically ask team leaders
how many units they have walked. This seemingly benign question helps us measure our progress
through the survey area and gauge how much mapping is necessary to keep ahead of the survey
teams. A quick tally of the number of units walked lets me begin to plan the next day as soon as the
previous field day is over.

Generally our 5 field teams walk between 15 and 20 units and around 90 total. Each unit is around
3000 sq m. so we walk about 1.3 and 1.5 sq. km per week. The number of units we walk depend
considerably on the character of the terrain, the size of the units, and the density of artifacts,
vegetation, and other distractions to artifact recovery. The size of our field teams is four plus a team
leader, but this week we lost a few field walkers to dehydration and bumps and bruises. So a team
down a walker will move a bit more slowly than one at full strength especially if the units are slightly
larger than average. Historically, field teams walk about 4 units per hour over a 6 hour field day with
a couple of breaks for water, znacks (snacks), and transit to and from the field site.
Teams generally develop a routine where one walker writes tags, one takes a center GPS point, one
walker helps with forms, one takes photographs et c. This streamlines the bookkeeping and data
recording aspects of intensive pedestrian survey and as the season progresses, small efficiencies
occur based on familiarity with the process as much as anything. As the process become more
efficient, we usually have to nudge the team leaders to slow things down just a bit to ensure that the
teams recognize where they are in the survey area, fill out forms properly, and actually, you know,
enjoy the process. Since our project runs as a field school, we see very little benefit to an overly
mechanical process that makes our field walkers (and team leaders) into field walking robots (beep,
boop, boop, beep, boop).


One thing that I did not anticipate this summer is that teams would start to compete with each other
to walk the most units per day. Its hard not to like the harmless morale boost that comes with
walking the most units or besting a team nearby is fun. Moreover, we recognize the field walking
particularly in challenging topography which is difficult to grasp as a coherent space can be boring
and seem pointless. The assembly line was soul crushing in part because of the repetitive character
of the work and, in part, because the repetition could obscure the role an individual played in the
works final result. Unit counts keep the field day interesting.
At the same time, weve starting wonder whether there are some less than desirable byproducts of
this competition. For example, we dont want the push to walk more to exhaust field teams more
quickly and to contribute to the attrition of team members. We also dont want to compromise our
data collection for some good-natured fun. Finally, we dont want teams who walk more challenging
areas to feel like their contributions are less significant because they didnt walk enough units. The
last thing we want is sad field walkers.


The Trash
June 10, 2015
Ive been thinking a good bit more about trash this summer and had the chance to check out two
interesting assemblages of modern trash in the Argolid in our first week of field work.
The first was at a crossing of the Inachos River in our 2014 survey area. The scatter of modern trash
extends in a 8 m x 60 m strip down the center of the now-dry Inachos River parallel to a seasonal
road along the river bed.

The trash consisted of a combination of building debris and modern household trash.


The most interesting concentration was a dump of school books perhaps deposited at the end of
that academic year.

There was the typical clusters of water bottles as well as clothing, household furnishings, and
detritus from agricultural work.

The other dump that caught my attention this week was around the small church of Ag.


The church is probably Early Modern and has a fantastic scatter of broken tile associated with a reroofing project over the last few decades. The modern tiles on the church feature a 5-digit Greek
phone number of the kiln placing the manufacture of the tiles prior to the change in the Greek
phone numbers to 9 and then 10 digits.

The tile scatter on the north side was complemented by a scatter of tile and plastic bottles that
probably once contained oil left at the church for lamps. Clean up at the church involved dumping
the used plastic containers over the side of the little paved area.


This parallels a little study that David Pettegrew, Tim Gregory, and I did a few years back (I
summarize some of this project here) where we documented the artifact scatter around Byzantine
churches on the island of Kythera. We discovered that the vicinity of churches produced more fine
wares than elsewhere in the landscape. This is hardly remarkable, but perhaps the modern practices
of trash disposal provide insights into the historical distribution of artifacts.


The Fleas
June 9, 2015
The photo below might look like an ordinary enough farm house. In fact, the house and its
neighboring farm yard are filled with FLEAS.

For those of us who visited this interesting, multiphase building this morning, the fleas were more
than a passing curiosity, but a profound annoyance.
We got covered in fleas. They got on our pants, on our shoes, on our shirts, then into our shirts,
shoes, and pants. This situation quickly devolved into panic. First we tried to get the fleas off of our
body in the field around the house. Then we realized that this was where the fleas were coming from
and jumped in the car and raced off. But then we had fleas in the car and on our bodies. So we
stopped at a nearby rural church and commenced a more thorough inspection and flea removal
operation. Then we headed to our storeroom/laboratory for a quick vacuuming of our body and
then the car keeping a safe distance from Holly Dog, the project directors beloved pooch.
The clothes went into the wash and I took a hot soapy shower and so far, aside from a few flea
bites, we seem to have survived the flea attack no worse for wear.
The worst part now is the fantom fleas that continue to jump around my body, inflicting imagined


June 5, 2015
This morning I woke up twice. Once at 4:45 am and once at 7:00 am. At 4:45 am I checked my
phone and noticed that I had about 30 more minutes to sleep and resolved to lying still in bed
between sleep and wakefulness until my alarm sounded.
At 7:00 am I awoke with a start. We leave for the field at 6:30 am and today was only the second full
field day for the Western Argolid Regional Projects 2015 field season. When I realized I was late, I
panicked, put on my field clothes and rushed to the door of my room. My half-groggy mind
imagined that somehow people might be waiting or that I could catch a ride with the last car or that
maybe just maybe my phone was showing the wrong time.
Unfortunately, I was greeted by an empty parking lot and a light drizzle that slowly turned into the
kind of depressing rain that appears during emotionally demanding scenes in 1980s movies. For the
first time in my life, I had missed field work because I had overslept.
Apparently, the project director rang my doorbell and tried to rouse me to no avail. There was some
other chaos as teams tried to organize themselves on the second day. And the teams headed out to
the field just slightly behind schedule.
I was left behind to stew in the realization that our project was sound enough to survive a little
chaos and my august role of Assistant to the Directors was probably less than completely vital on
most field days. So, I decided to spend the rest of my unexpected morning off reading about the
Frankish, Venetian, and Ottoman Argolid in preparation for our first round of field trips to Argos
and Lerna.


Photo Friday on the Western Argolid Archaeological Project

June 5, 2015
Some early season photographs from the Western Argolid Regional Project:






Survey Archaeology and Forms

June 2, 2015
Anyone who has done archaeology lately knows that we almost spend as much time looking at form
(or its digital equivalent) as the trench, survey unit, landscape, or architectural feature. In general,
forms are unattractive and at best functional (at worst, they are overwhelming belches of blank lines,
boxes, and cryptic instructions.
Tomorrow the 2015 Western Argolid Regional Project season starts. We had a few little tweaks to
make to the database and that led to some tweaking of the form and that led to some modifications
in its appearance.
Im sure Im violating several laws of graphic design in my efforts, but I think Ive improved our
forms legibility and added a bit of style. The font is Prime; its a free, sans serif, highly geometric
font which adds some bling without encroaching too much on the utility of the form.
I also tried to standardize the placement of boxes. Almost all archaeological forms that Ive
encountered try to do too much in too little space. For WARP, we want to keep the form to a front
and back page. So I tried to find ways to negotiate the constrained space of the form so that it was a
little bit easier to follow and I tried to play a bit with orientation by extending some things to the
right of the margin and some boxes to the left (in an orderly way) to index the form a bit and to give
some more room for the free text boxes.



Agency and Object Biography

May 31, 2015
Last week I heard that a paper proposed by Scott Moore and myself had been accepted for a panel
on object biography at the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting. I posted the callfor-papers and our abstract here.
Since writing that abstract, Ive read or re-read some of the seminal articles on object biography and
some of the more recent critiques. As readers of this blog know, Im sympathetic to the notion that
objects can have agency in an archaeological context and that archaeologists are constantly
confronted by incredibly resistant physical realities. For many archaeologists, these physical realities
push back at our efforts to coerce them into tidy schemas suitable for the production of 21st century
knowledge. Archaeologists have recognized in this contest many similarities with craft production.
The experienced craftsperson (is this a real word?) has gained a deeply embodied understanding of a
particular medium and specialized tools, has recognized the strengths and weaknesses of this
medium and tools, and has come to appreciate the willingness of the medium and tools (the medium
and tools have a will) to accommodate the needs of the craft, the community, and the production
process. In other words (and in a very simplified way), the craftspersons intimacy with tools,
material, and production has created a symmetrical bond between the knowledge of the craftsperson
and the various tools, media, and social environments that result in the production of a completed
object. The line between the craftspersons body, his or her personal agency, and the various tools
and objects has disintegrated into a dense web of interdependencies.
This broad definition of agency is particularly compelling in our (post-)modern era where so many
of us feel like the complexities of the contemporary society have deprived us of control over our
environments. The limits of our ability to control our world is nowhere more evident than in our
relationship with technology. Our everyday lives are filled with objects that perform functions
according to rules that we cannot control. At the same time, the corporatized relationships that
define our productive and social worlds limit the control over our own economic destiny. While Ill
acknowledge that there have always been limits on human freedom imposed through our
engagement with technology, social and economic structures, and the physical reality of being
human, the complexities of the 21st-century, Western world, has made many of us feel these limits
more acutely.
By expanding the concept of agency to include objects, scholars have sought to reimagine agency in
a way that both explains how objects limit human agency and perhaps paradoxically to suggest
that these limits have always existed and the our 21st-century feeling of helplessness is more a
product of expectations exaggerated by Enlightenment claims for human freedom than a genuine
devolution of the power of the human will. In short, if objects can be agents, so can even the most
constrained individual. At the same time, our sense of helplessness when confronted by a
recalcitrant piece of technology reflects an authentic contest between two equally endowed tools
committed to performing incompatible tasks. The square hole, round peg, and frustrated peg-pusher
are all equally responsible for our 21st century frustrations.
To return to the paper that Im writing for the ASOR meeting in November, I want to think about
how our expanded notion of agency can follow an object through the tangled web of interactions
that it encounters as it moves through what we call (using Michael Schiffers terminology)

archaeological context (that is the context in which an object functions after it has passed from its
systemic context). Almost as soon as the object emerges from the trench or the survey unit, it
encounters other objects and other forms of agency that extend from the field walker or excavator
to the various components of a digital camera, image processing programs, databases, the clustered
existence of the web, and the old pulped-tree paper of final publication. During this time, the object
itself is transformed, copied, we might even say cloned to facilitate insertion into an ever
expanding web of new agents. At some point in this process the idea of an object biography takes
on a tinge of science fiction as copies of the object circulate widely without any visible impact on the
object itself. The ease with which this process takes place calls to question the continued utility of
the biographic metaphor in our increasingly digital world.
More on this paper over the next few months as I refine my ideas and take more time to
comprehend the key scholarship on this topic!


Photo Friday from my First Week in Greece

May 29, 2015
The morning light is amazing in the little village of Miloi.

Weve had a few days of afternoon rain leaving the fields of the area heavy with sticky mud.

The landscape, however, remains as striking as always with the wet winter leaving fields filled with
green weeds.

It wouldnt be intensive pedestrian survey if we didnt spend a good bit of time hunched over our
maps and pointing.


The use of an old rail car as a agricultural shed provides a nice example of some of things that I
discussed in post earlier in the week.

One last tube-photo showing the village of Schinochori and a small outlying settlement (a kalyvi).


Managing the Modern in Intensive Survey

May 27, 2015
Ive made it over to the Argolid and am ensconced in the comfortable accommodations in the
village of Myloi for the next two months. My colleagues Dimitri Nakassis and Scott Gallimore have
been in the village for a week or so already getting ready for the second field season of the Western
Argolid Regional Project.
Im excite for this years survey area because it encompasses at least two modern settlements which
are in states of abandonment. Were anticipating already a greater amount of modern and early
modern (for Greece this is the 19th century) material associated with these settlements. Most recent
intensive survey projects make a big deal about being diachronic, but to be fair, the modern period
tends to present particular challenges to survey projects. In general, survey archaeologists recognize
that we cannot treat the modern period the same way that we treat earlier periods.
The reasons are both complex and simple. The simple reason is that we simply cannot
accommodate the super abundance of most modern material in our survey units. As Richard
Rothaus and I discussed a few months ago on our podcast, there is a storage crisis in archaeology,
and collecting modern material will only make this worse. In the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological
Survey we tried to document modern material without collecting using a modern sweep form.
This form consisted of a long list of check boxes that tried to take into account the most common
form of trash found in the Greek countryside. In practice, however, the survey teams mostly
checked the box for scattered modern trash, and either failed or refused to distinguish between
the various events that created the distribution of modern material through agricultural lands around
contemporary villages.


I suspect that the difficulties dealing with the modern landscape also speaks to more complex
challenges involving how we understand modern artifact distribution in the countryside where most
modern survey projects are based. Modern material represents both very familiar practices
typically those associated with opportunistic discard of unneeded objects and practices that are
rather unfamiliar to archaeologists who are not well versed in modern, sometimes ad hoc, use of
modern material in contemporary Mediterranean agricultural practices. For example, last year, I took
numerous photographs of modified plastic water bottles hung from trees throughout the Argolid
and the ingenious use of beer cans in modified irrigation systems.


Our familiarity with the primary use of objects and simple discard practices has perhaps made it
easier to overlook creative examples of reuse in the countryside. Modern objects have become so
specialized, so disposable, and so common that we have to train our eyes to see them and our
archaeological awareness to consider the range of uses possible in the countryside.


Traveling through Non-Place?

May 24, 2015
Im sitting in the Larnaka International Airport reflecting on the Marc Augs idea that airports are
quintessential examples on hyper modern non-places. Indistinguishable from one another and
catering to displaced travelers, airports both ameliorate and exacerbate the sense of placelessness by
being both familiar and non-local at the same time. As airports have become increasingly operated
by multinational corporations and beholden to international security standards, they have only
become more homogeneous in the 21st century.
At least thats a simplified version of his argument brought up to date by some recent observations.

On the ride to the airport, though, my colleagues Brandon Olson and Dallas Deforest reminisced
about old airports and their distinct character: the old Athens airport with its flippy list of arrivals
and departures, the old Larnaka airport where you disembarked onto the tarmac with its distinct
smell of the sea and jet fuel, and the chaotic nature of regional airports in Turkey. Maybe the deplacing of airports is a more recent phenomenon for many places in the world than Aughas
Of course the airport in Cyprus has the added complication of being a product of the conflict that
has seen the northern part of the island being governed by an unrecognized state. Prior to the
invasion of 1974, the airport for the island was in Nicosia. It now stands in the UN controlled
demilitarized zone. Few places on earth more poignantly reflect the character of late modern
political space than these extranational zones which linger at the margins of formal political
jurisdictions. At the same time, the old Nicosia airport has become a very local symbol of the
islands complicated last. It is simultaneously non-place and an highly nuanced political symbol.
I think my flight is starting to board now, but I wanted to write down a few thoughts (on my iPhone
no less) while they were fresh in my mind. My next post will be from Greece!


Adventures in Podcasting in Absentia! Richard Rothaus and Tom Isern talk

Heritage Renewal
May 22, 2015
Summer is upon us. Bill is in Cyprus and Greece doing real archaeology, and Richard is set upon by
various lesser North American archaeological endeavors, so get ready for some innovative summer
podcast programming,
Caraheard Season 1,Episode 10: Richard and Tom Isern talk about Heritage Renewal and GermanRussians
In this episode, Richard discusses the Heritage Preservation Renewal with Distinguished Professor
Tom Isern, of North Dakota State Universitys Center for Heritage Renewal. We recorded this
episode in our luxurious hotel suite in Stanley, North Dakota, prior to a session of the Man Camp
Dialogues at the wonderful Sibyl Center. North Dakotans will recognize the mellifluous voice of
Isern from his Plains Folk radio show. Richard really sounds like a mouse with a cold when
mismatched such.
During the episode, Tom talks about why Renewal, not Preservation, is a worthy and appropriate
goal. Richard bemoans the state of historic preservation as a profession. We both agrees that we
are not sentimental about historic preservation as a cause, but we are committed to life and
communities on the Great Plains. We discuss how the once traditional adversarial relationship with
the environment of the Northern Plains has changed with the latest settlers and generations. We
discuss how the study of history has developed in North Dakota and the Northern Plains, and note
what some of us see as the unusually damaging interpretation of North Dakotas grandfather of
history, Elwyn Robinson.
Apparently the State really is so small that one historians too much of the too much mistake can
have a lasting impact. The short version there is strong strain of belief in the Northern Plains that
residents are victims, not agents. Richard and Tom think thats really detrimental, and lets
opportunities slip by. Tom exercises his rights as a tenured professor, and makes a strong
interpretation of the behavior of the North Dakota legislature. Tom asks, in a cross-partisan way:
how much can we tighten our belts before we strangle ourselves? and wonders why we tolerate an
attitude of dont get your hopes up.
Want to know how embedded this sentiment into Northern Plains culture? Enjoy this sign from an
official employee bulletin border in the State Capitol.


But, we end on very positive notes about how there is a generation that very much wants to bring
renewal to the Northern Plains and North Dakota. When people want to stay, and there are no jobs,
they will create them. We also discuss Toms work in building German-Russian heritage tourism,
and Richard opines that it is an idea that is just the right amount of crazy. We actually have a really
vigorous discussion of this topic about 40 minutes in, to make up for the egg-headed beginning of
our discussion.

During editing Richard noted he really, really needs to work harder at creating context.
Theres an easter egg at the end of the podcast.
Some links:

Take the time to read Bills blog post about our adventures in podcasting:

Read William Cronons The Trouble with Wilderness, or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature.

Walter Prescott Webbs The Great Plains: A Study in Institutions and Environment (1931).

Elwyn Robinson, The Themes of North Dakota History (1958).

Want to know more about the history of history in North Dakota? Read Bills History at the
University of North Dakota 1885-1970. Robinson is mention about 150 times.

Ski Pulks !

The Welk Homestead and Senator Robert Erbele


Oh no, North Dakota couldnt possibly afford a new Governors Mansion.

Richard references The High Line, but doesnt (of course) explain.

Some German-Russian locations: Prairie Bells Grotto!Dinosaurs on the Prairie ! The

Napoleon White Maid ! Hutmacher Farm !

Enjoy the fabulous Isern TripAdvisor Reviews! I dont dine out on the plains without
checking here.

And for those who are wondering, the Mighty Milo is doing just fine this summer except that he
decided to eat a bunch of pebbles which gave him a wicked tummy ache!


Summers are for Ideas

May 20, 2015
Summertime is a great time for ideas, problem solving, and field work, but its not a great time for
blogging or any kind of long-form writing. I do keep a little notebook of ideas and keep notes in my
phone using the irresistibly twee Vesper application for my iPhone.
So, I have a few idea, most of which I (subjected?) shared with Scott Moore over the last few days.
1. Polis: City of Work. This summer weve been working to understand an industrial area of the site
of Polis-Chrysochous. It was an area that probably did not enjoy as much attention as the
monumental remains of the city in the recent Polis: City of Gold exhibition and catalogue. This was
a shame, because we have a ton of evidence for production both in the area where were working
including a ceramic kiln and some evidence for possible glass production, metal working, terra-cotta
sculpture, and probably other activities that are not associated with the glamorous life of
monumental buildings, well-appointed sanctuaries, and other elite manifestations of ancient
2. Wall and Holes. This year, the small team at Polis right now has focused on an area laced with
walls and deep trenches. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to associate the trenches with walls and
walls with floors and surfaces with fills. The big problem is that many of the excavators struggled to
see foundation cuts in the difficult soil. Compounding this (and probably the major reason that
foundation cuts went undetected) is the numerous later burials in the area and the constant
rebuilding and adaptation of the area.
The end result is that we have walls, we have fills, and we have surfaces, and it is very difficult to link
any of these together. So we have to find a way to publish the site that recognizes the challenges
associated with the excavations and the limits to our knowledge as well as the potential the site and
excavation have to contribute to archaeological knowledge on the island.


4. Wall atop Walls. One of the coolest things about our corner of the Polis site is that it features
walls atop wall over a span of nearly 1000 years. The basic grid plan of the area was probably
established by the Hellenistic period and it persisted into Late Antiquity and probably beyond. As a
result, the area of our current work has massive evidence for the reuse of architecture throughout.
While the use of spolia is fairly well studied for monumental architecture like fortification walls and
churches, it is not as considered in its most banal and practical form. Our area provides a window
into the everyday life of an ordinary neighborhood at Polis on Cyprus. The reuse of blocks, the
cuts, fills, and reconstructions, and the collapses and debris are all preserved as the fabric of the
areas history.
3. Zombies and Ceramics. This summer, Ive had the distinct pleasure of working alongside an
expert on Roman and Late Roman ceramics and zombies: R. Scott Moore.
Ive begun to prepare a treatment for a small-budget film that features Scott Moore as the only man
who can save humanity from the onslaught of zombies propagated through contact with Late
Roman ceramics. The first zombie, of course, was John Hayes whose work defined the field of
ceramics in Late Antiquity. The disease soon spread to a group of scholars desperately trying to
understand how to use his volume on the Roman ceramics from the site of Paphos. Others are
stricken working their way through his volume on the Roman and Late Roman fine wares from the
Agora or material from Sarahane in Istanbul. Graduate students are particularly susceptible, but the
cursed virus slowly begins to take down all the ceramicists in the Mediterranean, then excavators,
then site directors, and finally tourists.
Only Scott Moore remains immune. No one knows why or how, but what is more important is that
he is the only person who can read Late Roman pottery without becoming a zombie.


Travelers Accounts and Formation Processes

May 18, 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed a recent article in the Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and
Heritage Studies by my fellow WARP staffer Scott Gallimore: The Saddest of Ruins: Travelers
Accounts as Evidence for Formation Processes at Hierapytna, Crete. Scott considers travelers
accounts of ancient Hierapyta on Crete, the site of his dissertation research, as evidence for
archaeological formation processes.
This is a cool project for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it provides a useful archaeological
and intellectual context for early travelers accounts of the ancient landscape. Traditionally, scholars
have recognized the value of these account and often bring them into their consideration of a region
as something of a bridge between antiquity and the modern era. Many early travelers, particularly
those explicitly interested in antiquities like Cyriac of Ancona or the much later William Martin
Leake provide a faint echo of our own archaeological interests and archaeologists have often
borrowed their perspectives (critically, of course) as a way to see landscapes radically changed my
industrialization, mechanization, and other transformations of the modern world. At their best,
scholars have sought to understand the various perspectives that these early travelers and portoarchaeologists brought to their seeing and writing; at their worst, scholars have seen earlier travelers
as another source of data to be mined in an effort to reconstruct some kind of authentic ancient
Scotts article offers a different approach to how ancient travelers can and should be used. They
represent a guide to understanding time and process in the long gap between the creation of ancient
buildings and our work to reconstruct and recognize archaeological remains. In particular, Scott is
clever in noting how travelers often tend to recognize short-term transformations to the local scene
ranging from earthquakes, attacks, or changes in political or economic regimes. They are less savvy
when it comes to understanding long-term change, but this is actually better for archaeologists.
Many early travelers present static, rusticated, and ruined backdrop against which they set their
moralizing views. The curious thing is, as Scott shows quite cleverly, this backdrop provides points
along a continuum that actually subvert the travelers intentions by revealing more gradual but no
less significant processes so crucial in the production of modern archaeological sites.
In other words, the tension between the short-term catastrophes and the enduring ruins in the
earlier travelers provides an intellectual framework for formation processes that tend to oscillate
between moments of dramatic collapse and long periods of gradual deterioration. Whether this is
universally true, is open to debate, but there is definitely enough anecdotal evidence for
archaeologists to be familiar with this kind of tension: walls will continue to stand as long as the
building has a roof, but when the roof fails, the walls will absorb water into their matrix and erode
much more quickly.
Once you finish enjoying Scotts article, be sure to check out the rest of this issue which includes a
series of articles on the archaeological challenges associated with the division of Cyprus. Some good
perspectives offered here. Ill write up something on these later.


Photo Friday: Good Week at Polis

May 15, 2015
A good productive week at Polis.

This little guy provides evidence for garden gnomes in the 6th century A.D.



Changing Landscapes of Rural Cyprus

May 14, 2015
I was pretty interested to read the latest article by the Athienou Archaeological Project team in the
most recent issue of Journal of Field Archaeology: Shedding Light on the Cypriot Rural Landscape:
Athienou Archaeological Project in the Malloura Valley, Cyprus 2011-2013. The article documents
the most recent few years of excavation at the rural sanctuary of Athienou-Mallora which is just to
the north of our coastal site of Pyla-Koutsopetria in southeastern Cyprus.
The article focused on the dynamic nature of rural sites and contribute yet more evidence that
challenges the view of rural life in the Mediterranean as backward and somehow less prone to
change than life in urban centers. The sanctuary of Athienou-Malloura clearly underwent a number
of significant changes over its long history and there was ample evidence for the reuse of even
prestigious objects (like monumental and life-size sculpture) in renovations throughout its active
history. Of particular interest was the presence of lamps with Christian symbols dating to Late
Antiquity along with lamps with less overtly religious symbolism. This hints that the sanctuary might
have been the site of some kind of syncretic religious practices at the end of its long life. We still do
not know much about the afterlife of pagan sanctuaries on Cyprus especially when compared to
the considerable scholarly attention paid to the late life of sanctuaries and temples in Greece.
The article also features a brief report on the resurvey of several sites documented in the Malloura
Valley Survey in the early 1990s. Returning to these sites nearly 20 years after their initial survey
confirmed once again the dynamic character of the Cypriot countryside. While the results of this
work were rather less surprising with mechanized agriculture and modern building practices
intensifying the neglect witnessed by abandoned rural structures and sites, it was nevertheless
revealing how little remained visible at abandoned mud brick buildings. In one case the entire
building had vanished; in another, the mud brick walls had collapsed into the stone soccle at such an
accelerated pace that human interference was suspected.
The only bummer about the article is that I received an offprint from a colleague which was great,
but I the offprint does not provide access to the supplementary material which requires a Manley log
in to see. While the information on these pages is presumably supplementary and not vital to
understanding the content of the article, it is nevertheless a bummer that I cant see it. It is one more
example of how we no long own content in a true sense, but simply rent access. As I work with
some of the same authors on this article to develop a paper+digital+web edited volume based on
papers from the Mobilizing the Past conference held this spring, Im going to have to think hard
about how to ensure persistent access to our supplementary material on the


The Walk to Dinner

May 13, 2015
Two days with some thunder in a row has given us some interesting skies to enjoy on our evening
walk to dinner.

And some interesting light to savor during our evening meals.



Will you start blogging again meow?

May 11, 2015
Im sorry are you saying meow?

Do I look like a cat to you, boy? Am I jumpin around all nimbly bimbly from tree to tree?


Polis Notebooking Season

May 8, 2015
Before the dirty, exhausting, and incremental (lets say) season of actual field work begins in the
Western Argolid, Im taking a few weeks to work amid notebooks, pottery, and architecture in the
village of Polis-Chrysochous on Cyprus this summer.
People who read my somewhat jet lagged and unapologetically grumpy post from yesterday may
have some idea of what Im up to, but I should probably be a bit more specific. Over the next few
weeks, Scott Moore, Brandon Olson, and I will be working our way through the final gaggle of
notebooks from area E.F2 excavated by the Princeton Cyprus Expedition on Cyprus. Over the last
few years, we have focused on sorting out the stratigraphy and chronology of the 6th to 10th
century AD basilica-style church at the site, and now were turning our attention to its larger context
in the urban grid.
Unlike most peoples idea of what archaeologists do, were not digging. Were not even walking
around the countryside. In fact, were spending our time in doors, staring at laptops and in
storerooms surrounded by dusty trays of ceramics. (We walked over to the site itself yesterday and
tried to orient ourselves on the basis of the notebook we had been reading, and lets just say it was
not entirely successful). Were pouring over notebooks from trenches excavated 20 years ago and
looking at context pottery to make sense of the excavated contexts. Most of the areas were studying
have material that dates from the Hellenistic, Roman, Late Roman, and Byzantine periods.
The notebooks are a decidedly uneven affair. Some are models of efficient descriptions of contexts
and features. Other notebooks are baffling and frankly psychedelic odysseys into the excavators
mind. Sorting the pseudo-stratigraphic relationships from these notebooks requires patience and the
tolerance for a certain amount of informally probabilistic interpretation and fuzziness that typically
archaeological analysis avoids. The uneven character of the notebooks makes every day a wild ride
between straightforward interpretation of archaeological contexts and wild comedy (er.. tragedocomedy excavation is destruction, kids, remember that!). Scott Moore gives an impression of our
work on his blog.
Our plan this season is to sort out the history of the area south and west of the basilica which in the
Hellenistic and Roman period appears to be a busy thoroughfare and an industrial area with a kiln,
perhaps some metallurgical workshops, and maybe domestic space. There is a well preserved road
with rather extensive drainage system designed to manage the flow of water down the slope of the
hill on which the site sits. After the Roman period, the area seems to have been somewhat neglected
with the drains being filled in, burials made on the road, and other signs of neglect and some slight
hints at destruction. Our current research questions focus on the process of change in the area and
whether these were punctuated by earthquakes or other destructive episodes or simply the changing
function of the space through time.
So this morning, were off to the Princeton apotheke to begin sorting out the ceramics from the
trenches. Wish us luck!



In Polis on Cyprus doing Archaeology

May 7, 2015
Im not recovering from jet lag.
But Scott Moore and I are making our way through the last handful of notebooks from the
neighborhood of the South Basilica at the site of Polis on Cyprus. For lovely pictures and witty
remarks go to his blog here.
Right now Im tired and negotiating notebooks that can excellent, but right now they look more like

My response to this notebook and to archaeology right now:


More when I feel triumphant.


Archaeology of Home
May 6, 2015
As Ive just arrived on Cyprus, Im thinking about home.
This last week, I had the pleasure of giving a short tour of our 19th century home to a group of
graduate students in my colleagues, Cindy Prescott, material culture seminar. I took a little time to
prepare a list of things that Id talk about when taking students through an actual house.

Heres the list:

1. Local History. One of the lovely things about our house is that it dates to the mid to late 1880s.
The rail road comes to Grand Forks in 1887 connecting the community with the more settled and
commercial east. As a result, our house has little of the prefabricated character of many homes in
Grand Forks from the 1890s and early 20th century. As homeowners, of course, we pay the price
since every window is a different size and the house lacks the charming, if ubiquitous catalogue
woodwork of many more modest homes of a decade or two, but as historians we enjoy that our
home likely dates to right around the arrival of the railroad to our community and the changes in
local domesticated architecture associated with easy access to catalogues and prefabricated forms.
We also recognize that our house is on the southern edge of town when it was built. While were
now comfortably surrounded by neighbors who built along the grid of streets established in the
1890s, the steeply pitched roof of our house and its unusual form sets it apart from the more
common four-squares that surround us.
2. Architectural Stratigraphy. There is only a little evidence for the architectural stratigraphy of our
house because it underwent relatively few additions and modifications in its 120+ year history. This
is a great challenge for students used to expecting dramatic changes in the form of houses and
pushed them to notice subtle things gaps in the hardwood floors or how continuous siding

obscured the discontinuous construction of a small garage in the back of the house. In fact, we can
argue that the garage has three clear phases: original garage, a small extension, which was then
(maybe in the 1950s) covered with asbestos siding.
3. Type Fossils. In archaeology were always looking for type fossils that can give us absolute-ish
dates to the relative phases preserved in stratigraphy. In my house, we noticed an iron, in-grain, facepinched, cut nail that provided a date for the only major edition to the houses basic shape. These
nails usually date to the late 19th century and probably date the edition to the first decade and a half
of the homes life and is probably contemporary with the arrival of indoor plumbing.
4. Social History. In America, houses are getting bigger and rooms are getting bigger. These facts
obviously relate to the history of the home as a place for family relations. Our late 19th century
home continues to show evidence of small rooms, for example, despite the decision in the 1950s to
remove the wall between the front parlor and the formal dining room. These small rooms reflected
the divisions between the space for formal display and places for domestic work. As that division
broke down and social roles changes, spaces in the house changed and are clearly visible in the
architecture. While our house will never have a great room, there was clearly an interest in creating
a more open living space and less an interest in formal, functional divisions.
We also got excited to discover that the garage was extended, probably in the 1950s when cars got
bigger, but not enough to accommodate the larger cars of the 1960s and 1970s. At some point in the
1970s an additional two car garage was built, and amusingly enough it has proven too small for my
10 year old pick em up truck. So as houses have gotten bigger so have cars.
5. Excavations. All this has made me more and more interested in conducting a small scale
excavation in my backyard. The house sits at the cusp of a number of developments historically in
the southern part of downtown Grand Forks ranging from plumbing to construction practices. As
Ive said, the excavation will be remove the remains of a sand box from the backyard, but if Im
going to dig that out, I might as well go a bit deeper just to see if we can find any cultural deposits
that shed light on the history of the house.
Before we do that though, I want to go through the excavation reports from after the 1997 flood in
Grand Forks. Apparently, there is a wealth of grey paper reports on excavations in Grand Forks.
Without having seen them, I have this naive optimism that they could be the basis for a little article
on the archaeology of a modern small town.


Books and Libraries

May 4, 2015
Over the last month or so, the fate and future of the Mighty Chester Fritz Library has been the topic
of much discussion on the beautiful campus of the University of North Dakota.
One of the great things about having a relatively long running blog is that I have some ready-made
made content from the archive about libraries. You can read my thoughts here, and a response here,
and my response to that response here.

If youre in North Dakota, I would also urge you to check out Micah Blooms exhibit titled Codex at
the North Dakota Museum of Art (and more here). Without giving too much away, the exhibit is a
collection of books collected after the Souris River flood that ravaged Minot, North Dakota in 2011.
Bloom has arranged with archaeological precision. The exhibit calls on us to question the nature of
books as objects by looking at them in a range of contexts from a clinical lab-like installation to a
book cemetery. The answers that the exhibit provides are not neat and tidy, but range from the
sentimental absurdity of the book cemetery to overly detached and clinical space of the laboratory.
The death of books is strangely moving, but also reassuring. The disappearance of the codex, like
the scroll before it, will not mark the end of civilization.


Dont get me wrong, I love books. In fact, I love books enough to have spent most of my adult life
reading them, writing them, and most recently publishing them. At the same time, I can relate to
Blooms ambivalence toward books as objects. As we barrel through the so-called Digital Age,
people have begun to see books as endangered objects and begun to venerate them not only as a
convenient form for the transmission of knowledge, but as sacred objects whose very physicality
(touch, smell, and even sound) infuses them special authority.


Some of the ideas explored in Blooms exhibit parallel those that Richard Rothaus and I discussed in
our podcast last month in the context of looting and destruction of antiquities in Syria. The sight of
destroyed antiquities rouses even the most clinical archaeologist from their well-ordered laboratory
and forces them to engage with objects on an emotional level.
The conversation about the future of the library has caused a similar kind of emotional response
from faculty, students, and the administration. Our library, like the books destroyed by the Souris
River flood, is an ambivalent place. It is not strong enough (in the humanities at least) to be a
research library, but is too large and too traditional to be seen as simply an undergraduate library.
Moreover, the library is dated. It has the stuffiness of a traditional research library and lacks the
amenities common to most campus main libraries. We dont have a coffee shop, climbing wall,
many group study spaces, or the laid back environment that has transformed libraries into the new
student union. Our library wants desperately to be a serious place set apart from the frivolous needs
of the ephemeral undergraduate student, but this seriousness is a front largely designed to encourage
students, faculty, and visitors to take knowledge seriously.


The Might Chester Fritz should not try to hard to be a serious place. It is not a research library, but
it has value for campus as a place to gather and as a source of access to a world knowledge set apart
not by its appearance in sacred codices, but by copyright restrictions, hyper-abundance, and complex
search algorithms. The library of the 21st century (which is still the future here in North Dakota) will
encourage students and faculty to wrest knowledge from this complex network of sources, combine
it in new ways, and break old limits on how knowledge containers are used, disseminated, and
In short, the library of the future has to be a place of PLAY. It must be a place where students and
faculty feel comfortable transgressing the staid mores and serious comportment of traditional
knowledge preservation and dissemination. If that means that the old, solid walls of the library must
give way to campus wide access or that shelves of scarcely read volumes must give way to
collaborative study areas, climbing walls, and coffee shops, then back up the moving trucks, applaud
the contractors, and contact Micah Bloom to document and study the remains of Library As Book


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

May 1, 2015
With the field season right around the corner and a stack of ornery, unfinished projects staring at
me, the last thing I needed was a string of days in the mid-70s with low humidity and a very eager
dog. But, despite my best efforts, I cant control the weather or the dog, so my productivity this
week ground to an awkward halt as I took in some vigorous rounds of late afternoon ram ball,
ram elephant, and ram gross and wet rawhide with the yellow dog.
I did, however, manage to set aside a bit of time to make a list of quick hits and varia. Id like to
humbly recommend listening to our most recent podcast as well!

Heroism in the Greek immigration crisis.

Some Blegen.

Greek Jews in the WW II resistance.

From the ASOR blog: a popular summary of recent work at Caesarea Maritima.

Real currency in virtual worlds.

How the AHA is thinking about digital scholarship.

The difference between digital history and digital humanities.

Digital Humanities: the tower of Babel.

Digital History: A digital history project on the oral history of a lost African-American
neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia.

Why we need an independent digital humanities.

The story of the North Pacific Railroad car in the gravel quarry in Montraill County.

Whats this?

Congratulations to Sharon Carson!

Katmandu in the 1970s.

Seaweed farms in South Korea from space.

The End of the College Essay?

Perhaps the best document on the web.

40 Years of the American Home.

Early experiments in sound.

The UNESCO International Jazz Day 2015 concert.

What Im reading: Steve Martens and and Ronald Ramsay, Buildings of North Dakota.
University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, Virginia 2015.

What Im listening to: Alabama Shakes, Sound and Color.


An Aerial View of Milo


Adventures in Podcasting 9: Whats in your bag?

April 30, 2015
In this weeks episode, Bill asks Richard whats in your pack, and we discuss equipment, and then
we transition to whats in your truck. We transition to stories of the legendary Ohio State
University at Isthmia Van, and discuss the archaeology of stuff field archaeologists leave behind.
Caraheard Season 1, Episode 9: Richard and Bill talk about what's in your bag and truck
We have two inspirations for this weeks podcast. ASOR series has a fun series: Whats in your dig
bag. And Bristol carried out the most amazing archaeology of a van project: The Van/InTransit.
Be sure to watch the van movie. And some van blogging.
Since Richard had a chance to talk about whats in his field bag, I thought Id add my bags contents
here. (I did a version of this a few years ago with my more serious bag). Im a survey archaeologist
who works in the Mediterranean so my bag tends to be a bit less comprehensive than Richard:
GPS unit. After my long-serving Gecko was stolen, Ive upgraded to a Garmin Oregon 600.
In the Western Argolid, we upload aerial photographs to the Oregon 600.
A couple cameras: My main field camera is the Panasonic GX-1 with a good lens. The days
of carrying heavy, more delicate DSLR in the field are more or less over for all but the most
determined archaeologists. Ill also carry a Cannon ELPH 135 which cost about $80 on Amazon.
Rite-in-the-Rain notebook. I used the No. 374.
Zebra pens. I insist on using Zebra pens pronounced as in this R-rated video or as in the
name Debra.
A cheap Suunto compass.
A click-click-click meter stick.
A north arrow.
iPhone 6.
Copy of my permit.
A Special Request to Isthmia Alumni: Please send us your white van stories! Seriously we want
to write this history and we need your input. Fire drills in the village of damned! Squirting Bill and
Dave with the windshield wipers! Fire! Mountain road turn arounds! Trips to Epidavros!
richard.rothaus at
[Its a busy week in ND, with Bill prepping for a field season and Richard doing suit-wearing type
activities at the State Capital, so consider this a keyword list, not prose].
High points include:
Bill prompting Richard to keep the episode moving along.
Richard explains his dig bag and backpack contents.
Bill refers to Richards bag as a stable entity
Whirl-pak bags (Richard lied he doesnt use 5 mil).

Richard explains his technique to label photos with a white board, and Bill asks a critical question.
Bill discusses the importance of tags and how to get them right.
Richard mocks North American archaeologists
Bill and Richard discuss why notebooks and pencils.
Soil Knife, and the less useful obnoxious Ka-Bar.
Richard shares a grave desecration anecdote. Bonus: A Local Mecca For Research tells about
those crazy days of Mille Lacs research.
Bill discusses why Richard really should carry pin flags.
Panty wipes, horsey tape, super glue, aspirin, steroids and first aid kits for real archaeologists.
Compass clinometers.
Bill points out the black turtleneck principle (no, not that black turtleneck).
We discuss that archaeology of field vehicles and what archaeologists leave behind.
Richard and Bill tell the secret tales of abusing the generosity of the OSU Isthmia excavation
vehicles, and learning how to be self-sufficient archaeological grownups.
Bill explains how city design impacts the location of bus stations and hotels through amusing stories.
Bill and Richard talk about how travel difficulties and how they make partnerships strained.
Driving through fires!
Secrets of owning a vehicle as a foreigner immersed in a Byzantine bureaucracy.With actual lead
Toward the end we tell THE CARBURETOR STORY and THE STOLEN BACKPACK stories.
They are epic.
Dimitri Nakassis on wandering and why he likes archaeology.
We conclude discussing why real archaeologists drive manly trucks.
Episode Postscript: Richard had an on-air epiphany when he realizes he did something terrible to
Bill, and that event hardly registered in his memory. Listen to get the story, but here is some
additional information Paige Rothaus provides: The event occurred the year the Gypsies asked us
how to use a passport to get to America. That means this was the year Richard was doing a great
deal of work at Lechaion and he befriended the young men at the Gypsy camp so that he could
leave his equipment around and not have it disappear. By the way, Romani is a better term than
Gypsies, but no one understands what you are saying if you use Romani.)
The opening track on the podcast is 80-Rs Pacific Rim.You can listen to it in its entirely here.


Richards Equipment List


The front of the OSU Isthmia van, with a very young Bill Caraher and backpack (which probably he
doesnt have anymore [Bill note: actually thats the replacement backpack, which I do still use!]), and
David Pettegrew with backpack (and very handy belly pouch) and, um, a fine staff member.

The back of the OSU Isthmia Van, with Richard Rothaus and Carol Stein planning some awesome
discovery. Also notice the tool belt. For many years I was a tool belt and canteen guy. That
works when you have minions to carry things for you. Richard once left his pack on the wrong side
of a mountain and everyone got an extra 2 hrs in the van to remedy the error. After that, a minion
was assigned to always know where Richards bag is.


The OSU Van with Sam Fee, Nathan Meyer, Dan Pullen, and, um, a fine staff member. This is after
the van caught on fire. Again. A Call for help if this van bursts into flame sticker has just been

The OSU Van slumming.


The Grey Escort! With Tom Tartaron, who apparently just spray painted [] on a
rock. is one the many Greek political parties.

The OSU van with Ed Reinhardt, um, a fine McMaster Student, Amber Demorett, Lee Anderson,
Ben Rothaus and Richard Rothaus. We are tieing metal tubes onto the van so Dr. Reinhardt can do
vibracoring in one of the Korinthian marshes.


Oh no! Greece is on fire and Richard needs to get to the airport, or ice cream, or something.

Richard s Truck
[Not visible]
Bills Truck


Some Notes on Recording a Podcast

April 29, 2015
Its been about three months since Richard Rothaus and I started recording the Caraheard podcast.
Tomorrow, well release our tenth episode. Along the way, weve learned a few things about
podcasting and about our audience, and I thought it would be fun to share some of what we learned
after just a few months worth of effort.
1. Production. So far, weve been pretty pleased with our production process and the final results.
We both use Blue Yeti microphones which seem to do a great job picking up our voices and not all
the ambient noise in our home studios (except, of course, for Milos editorializing). Pop guards
definitely help, and I think that, if we continue to do this, some kind of microphone boom arm
(which might involve upgrading our microphones) will also help isolate the microphones from my
tendency to thump my desk while recording.
Richard and I mostly record over Skype with each of us recording both sides of the conversation
because Ive discovered that it is possible to forget to hit the record button on my end Recently,
though weve had the chance to record face to face into a single microphone. This involves the
listener hearing more of the studio space (think 1950s jazz) and we might be looking to figure out
how to record into two microphones and mixing our recordings to produce a clearer recording.
For mixing, both Richard and I are becoming increasingly at ease with Adobe Audition CC,
although I will admit that Im not entirely what the various file transformations do, and it appears to
be a suitable platform for podcast production with a pretty modest learning curve.
2. Distribution. Were using SoundCloud to host our podcasts through their podcasting beta
application which makes an RSS feed available for other applications including iTunes. So far, this
works pretty well. I get updates from Overcast on my iPhone whenever we post a new podcast.
The only downside of this set up is that we dont know how many people are listening to our
podcast except through the statistics provided by the SoundCloud page. From that page, we know
that each podcast has had about 50 listens with a couple of our more popular, and older, podcasts
getting closer to 100. To me this is an acceptable listener base especially when we add in a handful of
listeners from iTunes.
It also strikes me as likely that podcasts have a longer tail than most blog posts and our podcasts
will continue to get a few listens per week for the next few months. In fact, looking over the
intriguing corpus of ASOR podcasts, it seems like there is a clear correlation between the age of the
podcast the number of listens.
3. Guests and Remote Recording. Next week, I depart for Greece and Cyprus and leave Richard
Rothaus alone with the podcast. (Im frankly terrified.) Since my internet connection is not always
the most stable, so we probably wont do much in the way of live recording. In the place of that, I
will take a little recorder with me to do some field recordings for the podcast, while Richard will
work to have guests come onto the podcast to fill in for me.


One challenge with using guests is that Richard and I both have pretty decent recording set ups, but
our guests may not. Moreover, Richard and I both have worked out how to record both sides of the
conversation and to split the conversation to improve recording quality. So bringing guests and
recording remotely onto the show will push us to manage sound quality and levels from a range of
locations, technologies, and participants.
4. Format. One of the most consistent comments made by listeners is that our podcast is too long
and too unstructured. Thats fine with us.
The goal of our podcast is to capture the informal academic conversations that have such an
important impact of the more formal disciplinary knowledge. This means our chats will be rambling
and our arguments such as they are anecdotal. If people find it too tedious and unstructured for
their tastes, thats fine; they can read our articles or read the blog). Well be satisfied with a smaller
audience who enjoys the more unstructured engagement on archaeological topics.
A few podcasters whom I enjoy have made similar argument about podcasts and noted that they are
only popular among a small, but typically committed audience. Because podcasts involve a greater
commitment of time on the part of the listener and because it is difficult to break them into bite-size
fragments for circulation or occasional consumption, podcasts will always be a kind of acquired
taste. It is telling, for example, that podcasts rarely go viral.
5. Endings and Beginnings. So Richard has become our typical sign lede for each podcast
although were excited to introduce a new introduction prepared by Richard this week!
Endings, on the other hand, are trickier. Sometimes, Richard and I seem to agree that the
conversation has reached a useful end. Other times, I feel like weve wrested the good from a chat
and want to wrap up and Richard has just one more thing and Im sure Richard has felt the same
way. Since we usually record from different locations, and we dont have a backchannel throughout
the podcast, we have to rely on a shared sense of timing. I expect well get better at this with time,
but for now, wrapping up a podcast remains a challenging thing to do.
For all the readers of this blog who have become listeners of the podcast, thanks!!


Summer Reading List

April 28, 2015
My summer reading list is a catastrophe this year. Its too long, too diverse, and too saddled with
obligations to be fun. Plus, I have work to do for most of the summer so no clear down time set
aside to enjoy reading.
Oh well.
Heres my summer 2014, 2013, and 2011 reading lists.
Archaeological Theory and the Contemporary World
(One of my favorite archaeology stories (see this weeks podcast) is when David Pettegrew brought
(seemingly) two-thirds of his comprehensive exam reading list with him to Greece to read during
our two field seasons. Of course, this was the year that the projects Ford Escort died and we had to
take three or four buses from Ancient Corinth to Neapolis in Laconia to take a ferry to Kythera. We
had to overnight in Sparti and this involved walking, uphill, from the bus station to our hotel near
the acropolis. David had to carry approximately 250 pounds of books across the city of Sparti on
what must have been the hottest day of the year! I remember looking back at him lugging his bag
and thinking, Im never going to take a stack of books with me to read in the field)
Benjamin Alberti, Andrew Meirion Jones, and Joshua Pollard, eds. Archaeology After
Interpretation: Returning Materials to Archaeological Theory. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, Calif.
Robert Chapman and Alison Wylie, Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice.
Routledge, New York 2015.
Chris Fowler. The Emergent Past: A Relational Realist Archaeology of Early Bronze Age Mortuary
Practices. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2013.
Andrew M. Martin. Archaeology Beyond Postmodernity: A Science of the Social (Archaeology in
Society Series). AltaMira Press, Lanham, Maryland 2013.
William L. Rathje, Michael Shanks, and Christopher Witmore, eds. Archaeology in the Making:
Conversations Through a Discipline. Routledge, London and New York 2013.
Ancient History and Archaeology
(One great thing about keeping up in the scholarship on Late Roman Greece and Cyprus is that it
moves pretty slowly. There are a few books each year or two that are absolutely MUST READS and
a gaggle of dissertations and a swarm of articles. Rebecca Sweetmans book is a must read. The
downside of this is that to understand Late Roman Greece, I find myself having to read a bunch of
books from other regions. Mostly this is really fun, but every now and then the enormity of the
scholarly output overwhelms me)


Rebecca J. Sweetman, The Mosaics of Modern Crete: Art, Archaeology, and Social Change.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2013.
Jonathan Conant, Staying Roman: Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439-700.
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2012.
For Flights and Fun
(My wife got me a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday so I can read a bit more comfortably on
flights and in poorly lit Cypriot and Greek hotel rooms!)
Werner Herzog and Paul Cronin, Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed. Faber and Faber,
London 2014.
Neal Stephenson, The Seveneves: A Novel. William Morrow, New York 2015.
Thomas Pynchon, The Bleeding Edge. The Penguin Press, New York 2013.
Paul Kastenellos, Antonina: A Byzantine Slut. Apuleius Books, Garrison, NY 2012.
(Follow the link!)
James Bradley Wells, Kazantzakis Guide to Greece.


In Praise of Parking
April 27, 2015
Over the last few years, parking problems have plagued my home town of Grand Forks. The most
recent uproar has focused on demolishing a blighted building and a few homes to provide additional
parking for the local high school, but the problem with parking is larger than this one case. Any
discussion of the new library is dominated by conversations about parking. So, over the weekend I
sought to put parking in a historical and practical perspective in a letter to the editor. As per usual,
my letter to the editor soon was too long to publish in the local paper, so I thought I might include
it all here.
Having traveled extensively in the region and nationally, I can say with confidence that downtown
Grand Forks is on the verge of what many call the Yogi Bera Paradox (or the Yogi Beradox for
short): downtown is so crowded that nobody goes there any more. Just this last week, my wife and
had to walk almost three blocks in the blustering spring wind to get to dinner at a local restaurant.
By the time we arrived at our destination we looked like figures in Arthur Rothsteins famous dust
bowl photographs. For a town looking to the future, we can do better.

A common sight in downtown Grand Forks.

I think its important to remember the important place of parking in our nations history. Parking
lots represent part of the proud legacy of the Greatest Generation, won on the beaches of
Normandy, the jungles of the South Pacific, and the crowded, dirty streets of Wartime Europe.
When the proud veterans of WWII arrived back in the US, they refused to huddle in the crowded,
depression era cities, but pushed out into vast underutilized farmland surrounding the decaying

urban cores and boldly carved out new suburbs, strip malls, and office complexes with ample
parking for all Americans who could afford it. For many, the tragedy of WWII and the absence of
convenient parking in European cities were closely related phenomena, and these shaped the postwar American landscape.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Cold War was won in parking lots. While Soviet
Russians literally shuffled through the bleak winter of communist rule with only rare opportunities
to putter about in pathetic Lada crapwagons looking for parking outside shops with empty shelves,
Americans owned the roads in state-of-the-art vehicles the proudly carried us from our attached
garages to the parking lots of abundant suburban shops, sports stadia, and big box stores. Parking
lots stood proudly at the center of our national consciousness. The Pentagon, for example, stood as
much as monument for American freedom and national power as a monument for convenient
parking and access. The Pentagons parking lots connected the center of the military-industrial
complex to the sprawling suburbs of Northern Virginia that Andrew Friedman has termed
Americas covert capital. It is hardly a surprise that the famous Vietnam Era protests at the
Pentagon took place in the well-known mall entrance parking lot. During the Cold War, parking
lots were quite literally the theater of both power and protest.
For those of us who came of age during the Cold War in suburban comfort, parking lots were places
of wonder. Empty on weekends, parking lots easily became athletic fields for football and basketball
and playground for our bikes and skateboarding exhibitions. The tension between the marginal
locations of parking lots and their central utility made them places for teenagers and young adults to
socialize in unstructured ways after school or on weekends. This traditional of tailgating in parking
lots before the big game or before a major concert embraced the liminal status of the parking lot as a
place where society could tolerate slight transgressions. Teenagers indulged in underage drinking,
experimented with the ole wacky weed, and canoodled under the dim lights of parking lots across
the US. Younger kids could only be fascinated by the archaeological remains left strewn about in the
parking lots which became provenience for our collections of bottle caps, beer cans, crack vials,
hypodermic needles, and loose change. As we became adults, parking lots offered a chance to
display our victories in the contests of capitalism. The bigger, newer, fancier car, the best parking
spot, and the overflowing trunk of gifts at the holiday season are hallmarks of the American
Returning to Grand Forks, it is clear that the city must invest in downtown parking not just for
convenience, but as a bulwark protecting the American way of life. I can easily identify several lots
downtown which could serve this purpose. The blighted, empty lot at Demers and 4th street seems
ripe for conversion to street level parking. Further east, the strange bandstand and stylized paddle
wheel in the park at the corner of Demers and 3rd st. could also serve as street level parking when
not in use for other events. The bizarre and tragic little Cream of Wheat park with its dilapidated
clock and neglected landscaping could also become urban parking and combined with the blighted
lot to its southeast. Without much effort a collection of parking lots developed from blighted,
neglected, or underutilized areas of downtown could quickly be arranged to serve as a core of an
interconnected parking network serving the entire community and setting the central business
district apart from outlying residential areas.


A quick glance at a Google Earth map reveals a half-dozen under-utilized and blighted spaces for
parking in Grand Forks.
A more ambitious city administration could recognize that the words park and parking share a
similar root and have a special place within the history of urban development. I can imagine an
interconnected network of parking lots would forming a parking belt around the city that
represents an updating of the venerable, but outmoded green belts of early modern cities. Prior to
the widespread adoption of motor cars, European cities frequently had green belts surrounding
their urban core. Some have observed that these green belts have roots in Biblical town plans:
the Lord said to Moses, Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the
inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns. The
pasturelands around the towns that you give the Levites will extend out fifteen hundred feet from
the town wall. (Numbers 25:1-2, 4). In more modern times, such belts served both practical and
ideological purposes. They functioned to protect housing values in the city by limiting sprawl, to
provide places for recreation, and to control the flow of traffic into and out of the urban core. In the
21st century city, this parking belt would provide practical access to parking for visitors to
downtown, it would allow for more ambitious and higher density development of the urban core,
and it would provide places for American capitalist expression and unstructured recreation.
Moreover, in an era where American cities are under constant threat of terrorist attacks, the parking
belt could also serve as a place for first responders to gather in the event of attack as well as a
defensive cordon around the city.
Grand Forks would do well to consider Gods command to Moses in their contemporary planning,
the practical necessity for parking in a 21st century context, as well as the historical role that parking
has played in making this country great. The construction of a continuous parking belt around
Grand Forks would almost certainly become a source of pride for the community and an
opportunity to embrace the important role that parking has played in making us Americans.


April 24, 2015
Today (in Australia and New Zealand, and tomorrow in the US and Europe) is the 100th
anniversary of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) landing at Gallipoli in 1915
with the goal of capturing Constantinople from the Ottoman Empire. The Gallipoli campaign
proved to be as bloody as any in the Great War with forces from Australia and New Zealand losing
over 10,000 men. More than that, however, the troops from Australia and New Zealand brought to
their respective homelands a sense of national pride as the Knights of Gallipoli won widespread
admiration. British journalist Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett famously remarked:
There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and storming the
heights, and, above all, holding on while the reinforcements were landing. These raw colonial troops,
in these desperate hours, proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Aisne,
Ypres and Neuve Chapelle.
Reports like this reached Australia and New Zealand by the end of April (heres a editorial printed in
the Sydney Morning Herald from April 30, 1915) and from 1916, April 25th was commemorated in
Australia and New Zealand as ANZAC day.

ANZAC Day 1922, Manly, Queensland (via The Wikipedias)

Heres a page about it from the Australian War Memorial and heres a guide provided by the
government of New Zealand.
The Gallipoli Campaign was significant for Turkey as well with Mustafa Kemal led the resistance to
the allied landing. Kemal emerged from the War as Atatrk, the leader of the new Turkish nation.
Recognizing the significance of the Gallipoli campaign for Turkish, Australians, and New
Zealanders alike, he commemorated the soldiers who died there in a speech in 1934:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives You are now lying in the soil of a friendly
country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to

us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours You, the mothers who sent their sons
from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in
peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
My Australian wife and I usually listen to one of various versions of Eric Bogles insanely depressing
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda which must rank among the most powerful anti-war songs
of the Vietnam Era. I prefer the Pogues version:
The young people ask what are they marching for, and I ask myself the same question


Punk Archaeology Project Update

April 23, 2015
Its been just over 200 days since The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota published
their inaugural volume: Punk Archaeology.
Since that time, the book has been cited twice. Once in Koji Mizoguchi, A Future of
Archaeology, Antiquity 89 (2015), p. 20: Moreover, we should not be too bothered by the
existence of established media and the media hierarchy. High- quality e-books (e.g. Caraher et al.
And once by Sara Perry in her contribution to the Alison Wylie and Robert Chapman, Material
Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice. (Routledge 2015): Crafting Knowledge with
(Digital) Visual Media in Archaeology.
The book has been downloaded well over 1000 times (and likely about twice that) via my blog and
viewed over 5000 times on Scribd. The blog post dedicated to the book has been viewed 3,800
times. The book is available for purchase on Amazon, but weve only sold around 50 copies.
According to Shawn Graham and Ed Summers, the link for Punk Archaeology was the second most
tweeted link from this past weeks Society for American Archaeology meeting, and this has
accounted for about 5% of the books total downloads.


In constrast, the second book from the press, Visions of Substance: 3D Imaging in Mediterranean
Archaeology. (2015) has about 100 downloads over the past 100 days and 1200 views on Scrbd. The
webpage has been viewed about 270 times. My hope is that this book becomes a bit more popular in
the fall when it could be a useful, accessible, (and free) addition to a Mediterranean archaeology
Overall, Im pleased with the performance of the first two books from The Digital Press! If you
havent checked either book out, please do!


Slow Archaeology, Publishing, and Collaboration

April 22, 2015
Yesterday, Brett Ommen released, as a kind of epilogue, a podcast made up of recordings of Joel
Jonientz, him, me, and Mike Wittgraf. In my little section of the podcast, I talk about what
collaboration meant to a guy like Joel as an artist who was willing to work with folks in the
At the same time, Ive been working on revising an updated version of Slow Archaeology article
before I head to the Mediterranean this summer. In my revisions to that paper, I try to put a bit
more emphasis on the social organization of archaeological work and how modern archaeological
practices, including the growing use of digital tools, has tended to reinforce longstanding social
divisions. For example, digital tools have tended to exaggerate the role of field teams excavator
and field walkers as data collectors capable of (and obligated to) producing detailed, pure data
that project directors analyze later. In fact, the view of the archaeological process as fundamentally
destructive has pushed archaeologists to place ever more emphasis on the efficient extraction of
information from the field. In fact, at the Mobilizing the Past Conference, a comment I made about
whether we were perhaps focusing too much on efficient data collection was met with a stern
reminder that as archaeologists we need to collect as much information from the field as possible to
compensate for our destruction of archaeological contexts. As Gavin Lucas (and others) have rightly
critiqued the idea that a site can be reconstructed from the documents that archaeologists produce
during excavation and that this reconstruction will somehow reveal the processes that produced the
site. Lucas offers the useful observation that this view of excavation frames it as the opposite of
construction. Construction begins with plans and ends with a finished building. Excavation starts
with a completed context and finishes with a plan view. The archaeological builders of these
backward buildings tend to occupy the same role in archaeology as manual labor does in
construction. Excavators engage in the dirty, physical phase of the (de)construction process (at least
in the traditional view of archaeological practice and knowledge production) and, as a result, occupy
a subordinate social position to the trench supervisor (the contractor) and the project director
(perhaps the architect). To be clear, Im not saying that I agree with this or even the idea that
excavation is destructive (which implies a finality to this event rather than a stage in a continuum of
formation process), but our interpretative assumptions contribute the social organization of
archaeological practice.
Slow Archaeology emphasizes field practices as the proper space for archaeological interpretation.
Collecting data is not distinct from analysis and interpretation and any practice that segregates data
collection from analysis in the name of efficient and exhaustive recording is guilty of the neglecting
the primary context for archaeological knowledge production: the trowels edge or the survey unit.
Now, back to Joel. Joel was willing to collaborate with anyone who could pique his imagination, but
he was totally unwilling to subordinate his role in the creative process. So, if he created a poster for
your event, he became part of the event. He viewed collaboration as an intensely democratic process
and while he was willing to accept critique, he demanded that his views carry weight and that
everyone around the table have a voice.


In many ways, Ive tried to carry on his perspectives in the development of our Digital Press at the
University of North Dakota. Ive taken to calling it a cooperative publisher which breaks down the
barriers between the author, the editor, and publisher. Rather than the author standing apart as
content creator and the rest of the publishing process being regarded as subordinate (and maybe
even a bit subservient) to the process of authoring content. This not only reinforces a social division
between the intellectual work of writing and the (traditionally) manual work of layout and
typesetting, but also supports a system that uses this increasingly outmoded division to limit the
circulation of intellectual work and to extract value from its production. This is not to say that
traditional publishers and editors do not add value to scholarly work, but rather to ask whether this
division of academic labor is worth the cost.
Joel saw collaboration as a continuum of practices rather than a division. As a result, the value of
collaboration was not generated by those who engaged in one part of the process negotiating their
cut of the final results from the those who engaged in another part. Collaboration obligates and
entitles every participant (and certainly someone as skilled and assertive as Joel) to both their share
and to the final product. This, of course, requires a tremendous amount of trust and a willingness
compromise. I hope that I can continue to develop the willingness to trust my collaborators and to
find ways to compromise for the greater good.


Always Touch the Art

April 21, 2015

A year ago tonight my friend Joel Jonientz suddenly died. Over the past year, Ive had plenty of
opportunities to think about the mark that he made on our community, friends, and my life.
At his memorial service, his colleague Lucy Ganje made a stack of letter press cards that read: He
Loved a Bad Plan. This is absolutely true, and was a common, endearing, and supportive (in a
backhanded kind of way) remark that he made often enough during the 5 years or so that I knew
But one story he told has stuck with me even more than his love for a bad plan. A few times, Joel
told me about his habit of touching works of art. Apparently, he would go into museums and wait


for an opportune moment to go up to paintings and touch them. At first, he argued that as an artist,
he was interested in encountering the artists technique in a firsthand, tactile, haptic way. But in a
few conversations, he told me that he just enjoyed that immediate encounter with art.
As you might imagine, I was equal parts horrified and jealous of his willingness to make physical
contact with objects in a museum. As an archaeologist, Ive been schooled to understand that even
prolonged looking at certain works of art will lead to their rapid demise. Photographs are almost
always forbidden (and photographs of people posing with objects threaten the very soul of the

This is a photo by my buddy Tim Pasch which I have ruthlessly cropped. The hand is Joels
daughter who is being held up by his son, Oskar, to touch his mural in downtown Grand Forks.
Tim recorded a great version of The Grateful Deads Ripple to memorialize Joel.
The more I thought about his habit, however, the more I think I understood what it meant. Joel was
willing to try his hand at nearly anything. He was first-and-foremost an artist, but he also developed
a video game, he co-produced a podcast, he was planning to score a space opera, he rebuilt my
porch, he co-founded an academic press, he worked with Mayan children to produce animation, he
co-founded an arts and culture conference, directed the Working Group in Digital and New
Media, he wrote academic papers on the history of animation, he actively sought out collaboration,
and he still had time to be a good friend, a good father, and supportive member of the community.
In short, Joel made sure that he touched as much art as possible in his life. In a world where we
regularly encounter people who are too busy or really working on saying no, Joel was actively
touching the art.
People who read this blog know that making time to collaborate is is a bit of a pet cause of mine. I
suspect that I got some of these ideas from hanging out with Joel for a few years. Heres a tribute
that our friend Brett Ommen produced for Joel based on their work together on Professor Footnote
and some conversations that Brett, Michael Wittgraf, and I had shortly after Joels passing:
Joel Jonientz Tribute by Brett Ommen
So, as a little tribute to my late friend, I invite everyone to touch the art. Go and check out Joels
blog, go and watch one of his insane little videos, go and listen to one of his podcasts, or go and


leave some flowers by his mural in downtown Grand Forks (but if you do that, be sure to touch
it!). Or listen to his laugh.
Or, go and download a copy of Punk Archaeology, which he designed and laid out, and we
dedicated to his memory. (Or go buy one here if you want to touch it.)
Or at least read his chapter from Punk Archaeology: View this document on Scribd
Its funny, the month Joel died I had learned that Paul Worley was going to leave town to take a job
elsewhere; Brett Ommen had decided to resign his position at the University and put his house on
the market. I was worried that Joel would go on sabbatical and leave me stranded by myself in
Grand Forks. The reality was much worse.


The Future of a More Public Byzantium

April 20, 2015
I had a lovely weekend in Boston at the Mary Jaharis Center at Hellenic College Holy Cross and
quite enjoyed a range of graduate student papers on Byzantine related topics. The program,
hospitality, and conversations with colleagues was first class, and it provided a window into the next
generation of Byzantine studies professionals as well as some frank conversations about how
Byzantine studies can engage a wider audience.
As per usual, Ill offer a few observations:
1. Byzantium and the Margins. While the papers presented at the conference were not necessary
representative of all the work being done by graduate students in Byzantine studies in the U.S. right
now, it does allow us to observe some trending topics in Byzantine studies. In particular, I was
impressed by the work being done around the margins of the traditional Byzantine world. While
there were a handful of papers on theology and liturgy, for example, the conference saw little
attention to the canonical texts or buildings of the Byzantine capital and a greater interest in
geographic and conceptual edges of the traditional Byzantine world.
For example, there were papers on Genovese settlements in the Black Sea, on the art of the Red
Monastery in Egypt, on Danishmend and Frankish coinage with Byzantine iconography, on attitudes
toward iconoclasm in Arab lands, and attitudes toward the Jews in Byzantium. A paper that began
with an image of Theodore Metochites at the church of the Chora in Istanbul, soon departed for
Italy and Serbia to understand the headwear of Byzantine elites. What all these papers indicated to
me is that the next generation of Byzantine scholars will be less fixated on defining and articulating
what is essentially Byzantine and more focused on considering Byzantium in a relational way and
locate Byzantine culture and society at the intersection of various currents of interaction and various
distinct, but related communities. While this is not a new trend in the study of Byzantium (and
reflects larger trends in the study of the premodern Mediterranean), it was remarkable to see how
deeply this notion of Byzantium has permeated graduate student research.
2. Byzantine Data. I was also interested to see how many of the papers drew either explicitly or
implicitly on databases. I began to wonder where the great gaggle of data being produced by
graduate students as the basis for their arguments goes after they defend (and publish) their
dissertations. I got to thinking about a data clearing house for Byzantine related datasets that could
support a wide range of research. I began to worry that these bespoke datasets could molder on a
hard drive for years after a research project is done, and, at the same time, think about how these
databases could provide important complements to ongoing or future research. I wonder how
frequently we re-invent the wheel when we dont share our data and whether making dissertation
datasets available would encourage scholars to produce collaborative datasets to the benefit of the
larger Byzantine Studies project.
I have to admit that Im as guilty of this as anyone because my dissertation dataset had lingered
relatively untouched on my laptop for years (although to be fair, my dissertation has been available
as a free download since 2004!). Perhaps thats what got me thinking about how these valuable
troves of data could expand what Byzantine Studies has to offer the larger community of scholars.


3. Digital Centers and Byzantine Studies. One of the points that Jim Skedros brought up during our
lunchtime panel is that there is no single outlet serving to make Byzantine Studies accessible to the
general public. Instead, our field relies on personal blogs and a diverse set of institutions like
Dumbarton Oaks, the Metropolitan Museum, BSANA and the Mary Jaharis Center to provide
support for the study of Byzantium rather than a central institution like the Archaeological Institute
of America or even the American Schools of Oriental Research. Considering the small number of
scholars working in this field and its trans and interdisciplinary nature, it is particularly difficult that
our energies and output are scattered over so many disparate institutions.
I wonder whether one of the institutions committed to the health of Byzantine studies should
convene a conference that discusses ways to open the field of Byzantine studies to the wider
academic and popular world. The goals of such a gathering would be to establish guidelines and
support for a Byzantine outreach page with a dedicated (if not full time) editor, regularly updated
content, and a system for driving traffic, dissemination in various (print?) formats, and archiving.
These efforts require institutional support and by in even if it does not extend to any substantial
financial investment. Having a single destination for outreach within academia and beyond would
benefit the various stakeholders and perhaps even create a place for scholarly communication on
various Byzantine issues and forge a stronger sense of community between various institutions.
4. Theory and Practice. Finally, I detected a certain aversion to theorizing Byzantine studies both
from the students in the panel and the participants in the lunchtime roundtable. I think our aversion
to theory contributes to the struggle to connect the world of Byzantine scholarship to the larger
project of the humanities or even Mediterranean history. Theoretical terms for whatever their
benefit in interpreting and analyzing evidence from the past, provides a venue for engaging scholars
working with similar approaches in other periods and fields.
Engaging the popular media and the general public will also require some theoretical savvy on the
part of scholars of Byzantium. As the Middle East is going through a particularly dynamic and
unsettled period, Byzantinists must be particularly sensitive to any effort to lend a historical
perspective to events in this region without awareness of Orientalism, post colonial perspectives,
and various models for articulating past perspectives to present events. The graduate students and
panelists surely have the knowledge and understanding to make Byzantium relevant to a wider
audience, but showing their framework more explicitly will make Byzantium a more active
participant in producing useful pasts.
5. The Chapel. Finally, no post on Byzantium would be complete with a photo of a church. In this
case, it is the chapel on the Hellenic Holy Cross campus that is modeled (loosely) after the church of
the Holy Apostles in the Athenian Agora. According to Kostis Kourelis, the church was designed by
Stuart Thompson who had quite a few other high-profile commissions in both Greece and America.



Friday Varia and Quick Hits

April 17, 2015
The countdown to fieldwork has begun in earnest, Im trying my best to keep my priorities in order
despite a trip to Boston (which will be fun), unseasonably warm weather (which has been great), and
a few pressing deadlines (which Im working through).
These pressures, however, come with the territory and wont keep me from posting and you from
enjoying a little list of quick hits and varia:

A long article in Archaeology on the excavations at Gournia on Crete (my third favorite
Mediterranean island).

A New York Times article about an illegal excavation in Lecce, Italy has captured the worlds

Text, tattoos, and pilgrimage in the Early Christian World.

An interview with Gavin Lucas and Victor Buchli on the origins of archaeology of the
contemporary world.

Some more on the B-movie pageantry of ISIS Iconoclasm.

Byzantine inscriptions for free.

A Byzantine cemetery in Istanbul.

Greek Easter Rocket War!

Every ring-tab beer can might now be an antiquity (well, not really). I expect a vigorous and
illegal trade in this artifacts to begin.

The Museum of Modern Arts digital vault.

Nicholas Feltron on photography and data visualization.

Another review of Atari: Game Over and an interview with Jim Heller, the mastermind of
the Atari dump.

If you dont understand kerning, you cant be President. Biden presents particular kerning
issues, but easy to meme.

Things out of place.


Modernist gas stations.

What Im reading: William L. Rathje, Michael Shanks, and Christopher Witmore,

Archaeology in the Making: Conversations through a Discipline. London: Routledge 2013.

What Im listening to: Some local music: Mandalynne Panic, I Sense Harm.


Adventures in Podcasting 8
April 16, 2015
This week, Richard and Bill welcomed their first guest into the studio: Andrew Reinhard. We
convinced Andrew to talk to us about his research on Archaeogaming which is the archaeology in
and of video games. We became particularly interested in his assertion that meatspace is no
different than the virtual space of games. This, as you might guess, triggered some vigorous
discussion that eventually devolved into Bill citing Pierre Bourdieu and railing against capitalism,
Richard interviewing his 8-year-old son and comparing capitalism and video games to religion, and
the homunculus who operates Andrews flesh robot almost leaping out of his head. Needless to say,
a good time was had by all.
Caraheard Season 1, Episode 8: Richard and Bill chat with Andrew Reinhard about Archaeogaming
The opening and closing track on the podcast is 80-Rs Pacific Rim. You can listen to it in its
entirely here.
Meatspace is a thing.
Over 19 million people have bought the PC version of Minecraft which is apparently Minecraft:
Savior of Education and Marginalized Kids, according to the Fargo Forum.
There are only three characters you need to know about in Minecraft:
Steve your default character

Herobrine your nightmare:


Notch the Creator:

Read a bit about Herobrine. Then read a bit more. This seems to be the ur-CreepyPasta.
Good lord, do you live in a box? Learn about CreepyPasta.
And, well, we only briefly touch on him, but Slender Man is mixed up in the this a bit he is the
inspiration for the Endermen. You should probably be aware of the tragic, bizarre and sad, Slender
Man stabbing perpetrated by two 12 year old girls in Wisconsin.
A super-brief explanation of why Minecraft is so popular at Kotaku.
Richards son Matt reminded him that his prattle about Minecraft needs to be informed by an
appreciation of DWARF FORTRESS. Fair enough. Richard, a historian, responds ZORK a
version of which he played on the mainframe at CampVandyland a million years ago. But Richard
also concedes that Zork is not the same.
We dont recommend going down this rabbit hole, but here are approximately 2,880,000 videos
about Herobrine on YouTube. (For perspective, Richards count is 19, Bills is 18, and Dionysuss is
Mancamp Moment of the Week: ManCamps in Grand Forks, North Dakota! It wont be different
in the sense that every type of workforce housing that exists in the world exists in Williston.

A Review of Butrint 4
April 15, 2015
Yesterday, I reviewed some of the larger projects that Im working on and emphasized that I didnt
really need to finish all of them to feel accomplished on sabbatical. There are a handful of projects
with pressing deadlines (or long overdue deadlines) that had to happen before I left.
For example, I am the author for the Working Group in Digital and New Medias section of the
SOAR survey. This is dreadful, bureaucratized, drivel, but it has to happen before I leave for the
Eastern Mediterranean.
I have also agreed to turn my paper on slow archaeology for the publication of the Mobilizing the
Past conference and this paper is due August 15 thanks to some impossibly ambitious deadlines set
by the publisher.
Id like to have a book laid out by then so my authors could review galley proofs at their leisure over
the summer. Im not too optimistic about that (too many moving parts), but it is possible (if just
Finally, I had a very overdue book review of I. L. Hansen; R. Hodges; S. Leppard eds., Butrint 4:
The Archaeologies and Histories of an Ionian Town. (Oxbow 2013) that was sitting almost
complete on my computers hard drive. I first posted my thoughts on this volume here back in
August of 2013 (yikes!), but now can offer my completed review:
View this document on Scribd


Lessons from a Sabbatiquoll

April 14, 2015
Despite my effort to keep a balanced perspective on sabbatiquoll, I slowly but surely lost my mind
as the end of the my year of freedom, rest, and recovery approaches.

So, Ive learned five lessons and these largely echo the lessons that I learned (and tried to avoid) last
time I took a year of leave. I guess Im incapable of learning.
1. Time, time, time. Over the last 80 days, I diligently used Nick Feltrons Reporter app on my
mobile phone to document what I did with my days. Reporter asked me approximately 4 times a day
(a mode of 5) what I was doing. I would then answer a simple survey that would provide data for
The most simple question it asks is whether Im working or not. I answered yes 64% of the time.
Since I generally was awake at least 14 hours a day (conservatively), I reckon I was working about 8
hours a day, maybe a bit more. That means that I worked around 60 hours per week.
2. Write, write, write. Of that 60 hours per week, I wrote about 65% of the time. I spent the rest of
the time editing, reading, and in meetings which all account for over 5% of my work time. In
hindsight, I probably spent too much time writing and not enough time reading (6.6% of my
working time) especially as I look at a stack of unread books for the summer field season, but it was
a conscious decision to get as much writing done as possible and load up my folders full of written
text for the long, dark time between the end of this sabbatical and the next.
3. Alone, so alone. I was alone 60% of the time this year, and 32% of the time I was with my wife.
That leaves 8% of my time with other people. While Im not particularly bothered by being alone, I
did come to find it a bit oppressive. I suspect the main reason that I was alone so often is that I
rarely left the house. I spent 80% of my time in my house and 37% of that time in my home office
(29% downstairs in our family room and 12% in the kitchen or workout room). This coincides well
with my leisure time activities. 34% of my leisure time was spent eating or drinking primarily in the
evening in the kitchen and another 30% of my leisure was spent watching television. 16% of my

time was spent on walks either in the workout room on the treadmill or with the mighty Milo-dog. I
counted time with Milo as being alone.

4. Preloading my next two years. I promised myself that I would get things done over sabbatical, but
I did not promise that Id finish things. I was really hard to move a number of projects along
without wrapping any of them up (well, except this one). I think I succeeded in keeping my eyes on
my next couple of years when Ill return to teaching full time (or at least university life full time!),
and setting up a slate of projects that I can finish while occupied by other responsibilities.
a. Learning Layout. I spent a good bit time over sabbatical learning how to layout books using
Adobe InDesign. I was able to work on some manuscripts without interruption and learn techniques
to streamline the production of books. This will allow me to keep my little press moving forward
next year.
b. Digital and Analogue for PKAP. I made steady progress working on preparing a digital copy of
PKAP I and am working on getting support from ASOR. We also made a good start on finishing
the work with PKAP II. We will need to do some data normalizing over the next 6 months and
some editing and revising on the manuscript, but much of it is complete.
c. Man Camp Projects. Several significant parts of the North Dakota Man Camp Project have
moved forward including an edited volume with Kyle Conway, a book proposal for the Tourist
Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch, a roughed out edited version of our interviews (Voices of the
Bakken), some outreach, and an almost completed manuscript for submission to Historical
Archaeology (or someplace similar). All of these projects will require attention in the fall, but most
of them have significant momentum.
d. Polis-Chrysochous. Unfortunately, my work at Polis-Chrysochous became the awkward step-child
of my scholarly attention. I did not move it forward as much as I would have liked this year, but I
did get some preliminary commitments to publishing both the notebook data and the finds data in


digital forms. Plus, we have a manuscript for an article that is in pretty decent shape (I think) and
will help us guide our 3-week summer study season and will set up some work for next year.
5. Service. As an academic, I tend to be pretty self-involved. My projects trump almost everything
else in terms of setting priorities and absorbing energy. Over sabbatical, however, I allowed myself a
bit more mission creep. I committed myself to several new, and hopefully productive, service
projects that range from stepping up my commitment to institutions that mean something to my
various communities like the American Schools of Oriental Research and the North Dakota
Humanities Council and taking on some new responsibilities with North Dakota Quarterly and
(pending a vote) the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute. A colleague of mine here
at the University of North Dakota and I discussed how rewarding it has been to work within our
scholarly communities in ways that advanced the work of others as well as our own. I took that
conversation to heart and want to continue to seek out opportunities to build communities with
shared academic interests and goals.


Articulating Atari
April 13, 2015
This week, Andrew Reinhard, Richard Rothaus, and I met for a day to discuss a publication plan for
the Atari Excavation project. While we all agreed that there is enough intellectual substance from
this experience to warrant an edited volume, we also thought that the best way forward was to
produce a traditional archaeological report which could provide a basic description of our work and
an introduction to the challenges that we faced working on a rather unusual salvage excavation.
The main point of this article, it seems to me, is that the archaeology of the contemporary world
represents an awkward challenge to traditional archaeological methods and methodologies. As a
result, it provides us with a chance to explore the border between real and fake archaeology and
consider practices and questions that frame authentic archaeological engagements with the world.
1. Excavation. As an academic archaeologist, Im used to being very involved in the excavation
process. While it is not uncommon for a project to use a bulldozer to remove the top levels of
sediment or surface debris from a site, generally we break ground, by hand, starting with the plow
zone. At the Atari dig, all of the excavation was done by a huge excavator. Making matters worse,
the landfill was remarkably unstable making it dangerous the approach the sides of the trench and
impossible to enter the trench. This made first hand observation of the stratigraphy difficult.
2. Stratigraphy. Fortunately, the stratigraphy of the site was rather simple. The excavated area was a
trench cut into the desert which was then filled with a three levels of trash and two levels of soil.
The levels were very obvious from the material in the excavators bucket and in the scarp when it
was possible to approach and photograph the trench.
The deposit reflected 5 distinct depositional events with the earliest being the deposit of Atari games
spread across the lowest level of the trench. Subsequent deposits involved two dumps of household
trash both covered with top soil. Unlike excavations of pre-modern sites, our stratigraphic
observations could be confirmed by first hand observation of the deposits themselves. The previous
operator of the landfill confirmed the levels of trash and topsoil and photographs existed for the
dump of Atari games.
3. Artifacts. The goal of our dig was to confirm the presence of the Atari deposit and to sample the
content of this deposit. We were aware from the start that the games would attract interest from
collectors and museums. In fact, members of the team had contact with museums prior to the start
of excavation and we prepared collections for the city of Alamogordo, which owned the games, for
distribution to cultural institutions with an eye toward preserving representative and meaningful
At the same time, we knew that the city and the local historical society would sells some of the
games on Ebay to raise money for the community and to offset costs of storing and inventorying
the games. We caught some flack in social media circles for participating in a project where we knew
that some of the artifacts collected would be sold. To be honest, Im still a bit ambivalent about this,
but only because considering the role of real archaeology in fortifying the market of excavated
objects is tricky business when the artifacts do not qualify under any existing law as protected. You
can buy a used Atari game on Ebay without as far as I am concerned ethical compromise.

Moreover, objects of greater significance and older vintage discovered in other archaeological
contexts from farmers fields to suburban garages regularly circulate in the market without much
protest from the archaeological community. As an archaeology of the contemporary world develops
over time, archaeologists who participate in this kind of research must come to a more clear
understanding of how their work influences the market for the goods that they study. As for the
Atari Excavation, Ill stand by my earlier argument that the games gained value as much because of
the media frenzy around the documentary film as our work as archaeologists.
4. Time, Toxicity, and the Media. Our time at the site was extremely limited and in this way our
work paralleled the experience of salvage archaeology projects that operate in conjunction with
contractors working on a deadline. Likewise, the media company had budgetary limits and deadlines.
Moreover, landfills are toxic and opening a landfill involves a certain amount of environmental risks.
As a result, it is never wise to leave a landfill open for longer than necessary. These variable
constrained our access to the site and the scope of the excavation.
During our time in the field, these limits were frustrating. We would have liked to have greater
access to the trench, to material removed from the trench (other than the games), and have
witnessed a more deliberate pace of excavation. After reflecting more, however, I am not as
convinced that a slower pace or more extended time on site would have produced more knowledge.
The limited complexity of the stratigraphy, the instability of the trench itself, and the very clear goals
of the excavation would not have rewarded a significant greater time (and risks) spent with the
trench open.
5. Authenticity. The issues summarized in the points above play a key role in determining whether
our engagement with this project had archaeological authenticity. All archaeology involves
compromises dictated by the environment, political, social, and economic circumstances, and
research questions, but archaeologists tend to instinctively recognize authentic archaeological
research. The growing interest in archaeology of the contemporary world, however, complicates this
as archaeologists have come to recognize all contexts as potentially archaeological and all artifacts as
potential objects of study. The abundance of contexts and material encountered in every day life
requires both tremendously flexible methods as well as a willingness to filter objects and practices
that do not advance a clear research question.
In some ways, archaeology of the contemporary world has the potential to sketch out the limits of
archaeological practice and disciplinary knowledge. Ive received some negative reaction from
archaeologists to both the North Dakota Man Camp Project and the Atari excavation. While some
of it is typical disciplinary sniping, other critiques at least feel more substantial and complex. Our
hope with this article is to attempt to respond and to anticipate some of the critique of what remains
a very new approach to archaeology.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

April 10, 2015
Yesterdays visit by Andrew Reinhard was hectic, but great.
Andrew and I started the day with a Skype presentation for the Digital Heritage Meets Interactive
Storytelling Conference at the University of York. Andrew then talked to history majors and
graduate students in our department about academic careers outside of academia and his work in
archaeological publishing in particular. We then headed over the Gorecki Alumni center for an
interview with the local news, WDAZ, and an interactive display of vintage Atari games. We
wrapped up the day with a showing of Atari: Game Over and a panel discussion. While the crowd
was not quite what we hoped for, the entire day was exciting enough to be declared a success. Ill
post a link to the recording of the event when it become available! In the meantime heres a link to
the coverage in the Grand Forks Herald and heres a link to a short piece on Prairie Public Radio.

Today will be more proceed at a somewhat less frantic pace and feature some time to work on a
publication plan for the results of the Atari dig and to record a podcast focusing on Archaeogaming.
In the meantime, Ill offer a modest list of quick hits and varia for your weekend reading pleasure:

RIP Richie Benaud. I came to cricket rather recently, but Im glad that I had a chance to
experience the legendary Richie Benaud.

What we get wrong about the Fall of Rome.

Ottoman Athens.

The odd and tragic politics of Northern Cyprus.

What Austerity in Greece Looks Like.

Minimalist Istanbul.

More cowbell.


Some thoughts on looting in Honduras, and this is a good example of what happens when
you become unhinged about ISIS looting.

Punk in Cuba and in Russia.

The worst place on Earth.

A high-res music challenge to David Pogue.

What Im reading: D. M. Wrobel and P.T. Long eds. Seeing and Being Seen: Tourism in the
American West. Lawrence, Kansas 2001.

What Im listening to: Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp.

Come on! Drop something!


Weeks of Wonder
April 8, 2015
If youre a big Bill Caraher fan (and if you read this blog then Im assuming that you find me vaguely
amusing or, at very least, share some of my interests), then there is plenty to keep you entertained
this week.
Tomorrow, as you probably know, is the 7th annual Cyprus Research Fund lecture. Itll feature
Andrew Reinhard, Raiford Guins, Richard Rothaus, and Bret Weber and well talk about the
excavation of Atari games in Alamogordo, New Mexico last year, have a viewing of the documentary
Atari: Game Over, and discuss the archaeology of the contemporary western United States more
broadly. Festivities start at 3:30 with some vintage Atari games set up to be played. To get an idea of
the kind of thing thatll likely come up check out Andrews blog, Raifords blog (especially note his
time spent as a research fellow at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester!), and Richards blog.
If you cant make it to the event, do not fear! You can watch the documentary for free here (or get it
on The Netflix) and then watch our round table event starting around 5 pm for free on our live
stream here.
For a preview of our discussions check out the most recent Caraheard podcasts here.
If you cant make the Cyprus Research Fund lecture, maybe you can hang out with some of the
North Dakota Man Camp Project in Ellendale next weekend?
The great folks with the Man Camp Dialogues, The Institute for Heritage Renewal, and The
Ellendale Historic Opera House, and the North Dakota Humanities Council sponsored our event
on Friday. If the last opportunity to present our work in a free-flowing dialogue is any indication,
this will be a rewarding evening for everyone involved.


If youre not that into the archaeology of the contemporary world and arent based in North Dakota
(which I suppose is possible), you can check out a different version of my dog-and-pony show at the
Mary Jaharis Center at the Hellenic College Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts on April 18th
where I will attend their annual Graduate Student Conference on Byzantine Studies and participate
on a panel with some real luminaries in our field to discuss Byzantium in the Public Sphere. Ive
already blogged a bit about this last week.
So, if Im a bit scarce on the ole blog here for the next couple days, I hope youll understand!


Adventures in Podcasting: Caraheard Season 1, Episode 7

April 7, 2015
Or History Will Be Heard, But via Archaeology of the Recent Past, Not Your Study of the
Oppressed Black-Haired Irishmen with Excessively Large Canine Teeth.
This weeks podcast is early and short, because we are super-excited about some audio and
podcasting we will be doing from the 7th Annual Cyprus Lecture and North Dakota Premiere
of Atari: Game Over. If you cant make the premiere in Grand Forks on 9 April, you can watch the
documentary on XBox Video, or Netflix. Atari: Game Over has an IMDB rating of 7.2 from 368
(!) users, and you can watch a video review of the video by two dudes here.
Listen to the Cyprus Research Fund Lecture Live HERE. And be sure to celebrate our sponsors:
The Cyprus Research Fund, The College of Arts and Sciences, and The North Dakota Humanities


Caraheard Season 1, Episode 7: Richard and Bill talk about history, archaeology, and the public
But, first, Bill and Richard discuss historians who have become concerned that they have lost their
public, and how public activities and outreach, like a crazed dig in Alamogordo, NM might address
that issue. We also discuss whether the Archaeology of the Recent Past is an outreach gimmick, or
whether it is something that is helping the science of archaeology grow. For our jumping off point,
we discuss/attack/mock a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Thomas Bender,
How Historians Lost Their Public.
Bill makes the case that specialized studies full of technical language are appropriate, and that calls to
be less-specialized can be condescending, and lead to dumbing down the discipline. He points out
that specialization is good in cancer doctors, but somehow bad in historians, and that makes no
sense. Being accessible doesnt produce new knowledge, Bill notes, technical and specialized writing
does. Richard sort of agrees, but argues that there is plenty of room and opportunity for historians
to break out of their uber-specialized cubbyholes if they want, and if they dont want, they shouldnt
complain. The public arent crying out for more historians to engage them, as they have so much to
watch and read from other sources, says Richard. Rather an insecurity within historical communities
generates these cries. Bill notes that there is also real push back from funding agencies about
outreach, and that is cause for concern. We seem to end up agreeing that there is a need and room
for general practitioners of history and specialists in history, and perhaps there is no crisis at all. Bill,
however, suggests that he sometimes expects people to pay attention to him, while Richard is
resigned to never being heard.
Richard admits that he started working on the archaeology of the contemporary world because he
thought it would be easy (for outreach and students), but he has since been converted to thinking
that it actual has significant contributions to the field. Bill discusses ways archaeology of the recent
past has been done and applied to actually make the world a better place right now, especially studies
of trash. Bill questions whether outreach via the recent past is useful, or is it so bizarre, like digging
up Atari cartridges, that it is just a novelty and actually diminishing rather than enhancing dialogue
with the public. Richard and Bill discuss how such projects can wind up with other professionals not
taking the work seriously. Richard talks about some work that has been done on the archaeology of
fraternities, and how the The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi is so very relevant right now. Richard claims that
winners try to solve problems through outreach rather than trying to be a policy wonk. Bill talks
about how non-exotic archaeology can be effective help produce responsible citizens. We digress
into a brief discussion of the potential iconography and archaeology of UND Fighting S___x Ice
Dragons (?) logos and paraphernalia. We close by referencing Andrew Reinhards bleeding-edge
venture into Archaeogaming.
The Links to things we talk about:
That obscure website where you can buy HISTORY books
Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (for FREE).
Stacy Camps Teaching With Trash: Archaeological Insights on University Waste Management.
Rathje and Murray, Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage.
Here is some coverage of the director of the NEH calling for that agency to become more focused
on humanities for the public good.

Laurie Wilkie, The Lost Boys of Zeta Psi: A Historical Archology of Masculinity at a University
Fraternity.(Be sure to enjoy the hilariously nitpicky Amazon review, from (surprise!) a member of
the fraternity from 50 years ago).
National Science Foundation grants being questioned, as covered by scientists and a non-scientist.
Get your no longer Fighting S____x, not yet Ice Dragons (?) UND wear and paraphenalia at the
Sioux Shop.
A handy bibliography of Contemporary Archaeology.
Black-Haired Irishmen quit being racist.
Big Canine Teeth really, quit being racist.
Andrew Reinhards IMDB Page.


Archer, Atari, and Tourism

April 6, 2015
This weekend gave me the last little break before the race to end of my sabbatical. So I took a bit of
time to try to understand what Im doing with my academic life. In particular, I tried to figure out
why Ive been so fascinated with the Atari excavation, tourism, and the T.V. series Archer. What
brought these three things together?
Reading parts of Marita Strukens Tourists of History this weekend helped bring my research into
greater focus. She considered the relationship between kitsch and tourism, arguing that both have a
way of simplifying the complexities of the world and promoting a kind of innocent detachment.
Kitsch often evokes the simple pleasures of childhood and frequently emerges at moments of
trauma as a kind of social therapy that restores the world to recognizable order. Sturkens work, for
example, examines the appearance of kitsch in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and
contemplates the innocence of a Twin Towers snow globe purchased from vendors serving tourists
at Ground Zero in New York.
The ritual of visiting a site of trauma as a tourist provides the modern visitor with a way to organize,
apprehend, and ultimately control the power of the traumatic event. Viewing the Bakken, for
example, rationalizes the oil patch in a way that allows for action and allows the visitor to experience
the rhythm and reality of extractive industries in a way that photography, video, and media coverage
leaves open ended. In fact, tourism has tended to emphasize authenticity of experience as a way to
transcend the limitations of a world shaped by media and seemingly outside our reality. The
immersive character of tourism makes it real.
As numerous scholars have noted, all tourism is a form of industrial tourism. So tourism of
industrial sites like the Bakken make the connection between our industrial world and the sites
of industrial production explicit. Driving on a busy Bakken highway with trucks, equipment, and
workers engaged in the extraction of oil from deep beneath the earth makes clear the link between
tourism and industry, but framing this encounter as tourism allows the visitor to the Bakken to
realize this as a form of authentic experience comprehensible as part of a larger view of the region
and its activity. In short, by understanding the inconvenience, danger, and processes at play as a
tourist, the Bakken becomes part of a shared world that allows the tourist to tame and organize
reality by subjecting it to modern criteria of experience.
The resurgent fascination with Atari games in the 21st century represents an effort by a middle age
population to reclaim their childhood innocence. As I noted in my review of Zak Penns Atari:
Game Over documentary, the excavation of Atari games from an abandoned landfill is like so many
archaeology of the contemporary world projects in that it endeavors to systematize our past
experiences. Like the modern encounter of tourism, archaeology of the contemporary world renders
the recent past understandable. By recreating and reordering our experiences it allows us to manage
the trauma of the past, evokes a lost innocence, and bringing the complexity of a uncertain world
into order by appealing to archaeologys claim to authenticity (and authentic knowledge). In the case
of Penns documentary, this process is couched in explicitly Freudian terms. Digging into our own
past (and the past of Howard Scott Warshaw, the developer of the E.T. Atari game), we discover
parts of our primordial childhood and makes our past and our present seem normal, under control,


and safe. Our childhood experiences are valid and linger just below the overburdened and neurotic
world of the adulthood.
Finally, this brings us to Archer. Ive started watching the first four or five season of the T.V. show
called Archer. I think it probably dances the line between being a legitimate hit and having a cult
following. The 30-minute, animated TV show centers on the antics of Archer, a secret agent for the
free-lance intelligence firm called ISIS run by his overbearing mother. Archer is a handsome former
college lacrosse player who drinks, parties, and shoots his way out of innumerable jams. While at
times crass, cavalier, and irresponsible, Archer is perpetually innocent. He lacks any clear moral
compass (unlike his beautiful and perpetually conflicted ex-girlfriend Lana), but also lacks any clear
guile. He is honest and literal to a fault. In fact, he represents the American middle and upper-class
male as the perpetual innocent. Archer is the same person who remains fascinated with Atari and, as
the shows frequently flashbacks make clear, continues to struggle to overcome and understand his
own emotionally empty childhood.
Archer resonates with a generation of American males who are looking for a way to stay innocent in
a world that seems impossibly complex. Tourism, nostalgia for our kitsch-inflected childhood, and a
TV show staring a child-man who always makes the right decisions because he is capable of any
moral reasoning, all reflect strategies to organize our past and our present in a comprehensible,
authentic, and un-ironic way.
For more on this check out my Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch and come and see a showing
of Atari: Game Over with a panel discussion and vintage Atari games starting at 3:30 on Thursday at
the Gorecki Center on the lovely campus of the University of North Dakota.



Friday Quick Hits and Varia

April 3, 2015
Its been a busy, if unproductive, week here at Archaeology of the Mediterranean World
headquarters, but I am convinced that spring is just around the corner, my field work will start in
just over a month, and next week is the annual Cyprus Research Fund lecture featuring Andrew
Reinhard and Raiford Guins, plus an interactive display of vintage game consoles. What could be
more cool?

Well, one thing could be more (if not more cool) is this little interview that Richard Rothaus and I
produced for the American Schools of Oriental Research blog and podcast series:
"Interview with the Author: Pyla-Koutsopetria I," Featuring William Caraher
So, the flurry of activity probably accounts for the dearth of quick hits and varia, but hopefully it will
be enough to satisfy my loyal readers until Monday morning.

A restored bath and hamam in Paphos, Cyprus.


Using drones to document looting in Jordan.

Oh look! More on ISIS destruction and the antiquities trade.

A nice summary of significant issues related to the dating of Jesuss crucifixion. (H/t to
Sebastian Heath)

Work by Dumbarton Oaks on the Holy Apostles.

The sounds of the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

A statistical critique of the Little Ice Age.

Learning to see data.

And related to above, architectural cocktails.

Mike Tysons abandoned mansion.

Muppet mash-up of The Humpty Dance.

Typographicas favorite fonts on 2014.

Ive been studying videos like this to help with the presentation of our next PKAP methods

Fractured exhibit on the impact of the oil boom in Ellendale, ND.

Fishing with Babies in the Bakken.

A couple cool stories from Inside Energy:

Material masculinity: We started packing up. Bedding, clothes, protein powders, dumbbells,
and whatever else we had accumulated. None of us are good at goodbyes, so when we were done we
just drove off.

Anger over the persistence of high rents in the Bakken.

What Im reading: C.P. Jones, Between Pagan and Christian. Oxford 2014.

What Im listening to: Miles Davis, Original Mono Recordings.


Defining an Early Christian Archaeology

April 2, 2015
As my sabbatical winds down, Im starting to get excited about next year. One of my main tasks will
be to edit the new Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology. The biggest task will be
determining whether Early Christian archaeology actually exists. Most scholars, for example, will
accept the existence of a Late Roman archaeology or an archaeology of Late Antiquity. When
pressed, some will even accept the existence of Byzantine archaeology. But what about an Early
Christian archaeology? As Ive blogged about before, the use of the term Early Christian archaeology
in English is historically rare and has become common only in recent times.
This past week, I finally got around to catching up with the Journal of Early Christian Studies and
enjoyed Robin Jensens fine consideration of Early Christian art. She argued for the existence of a
distinct group of practices and sensibilities identifiably as Early Christian art. She went beyond
century-old assertions that that Early Christian art was merely a debased form of later Roman art or
the product of a marginal community with limited access to top quality producers. Instead, she
argued that Early Christian art employed a distinct pictorial rhetoric that supported theological
interpretations of the sacred history preserved in their scriptures. Practically speaking, this form of
expression was most clearly manifest in the regularized, if highly abbreviated, images of important
historical moments in the Christian (and earlier Jewish) narrative that featured important figures like
Noah, Daniel, Jesus, Mary, or Lazarus. On Christian sarcophagi, various figures representing
relevant stories could be mash-up and combined in a single object without any concern for an
overarching narrative. In this way, Early Christian art was distinct from the more coherent
mythological narrative present in contemporary relief sculptures. The key to unlocking the meaning
of Early Christian art was not embedded in the meaning of a single mythological narrative, but in the
theological overlap of various, highly abbreviated references in a single space. Christians recognized
this theological overlap, Jensen argues, because of their familiarity with exegetical writings, sermons,
and other efforts to explore the intersection of Christian theology and history. Jensens focus was
largely on the 3rd and 4th century, but I suspect similar practices continued later. In fact, I wonder
whether an increasingly iconic depiction of non-Christian scenes in Late Antiquity reflected the
steady adoption of Christian ways of seeing.
If we accept, then, that Early Christian art has a certain set of practices that make it distinct from
Roman art, can the same thing be said about their broader material culture? And is this sufficient
basis for a Early Christian archaeology:
To my mind, this issue has to involve three lines of inquiry, all of which deal with the tricky work of
considering the existence of a Christian world that is distinct from the secular or non-Christian:
1. Christian Material Culture. What kinds of practices and objects constitute a Christian material
culture? For example, we can identify Christian attitudes toward relics as a particular attitude toward
a relatively clearly identified class of object (manifest in the archaeology as reliquaries and pilgrim
ampullae, for example). We can certainly recognize liturgical furnishing as a distinctly Christian class
of object especially when identified in the context of Christian liturgical space. Grave markers,
jewelry, textiles, certainly represent examples of material culture linked to Christian bodies, but do
lamps or table ware decorated with Christian symbols identify Christian households? Moreover, can
we identify Christian uses of everyday objects that are distinct?

2. Early Christian Landscapes. As with most archaeology of antiquity, evidence for individual
practice tends to be difficult to disentangle from the incremental process of site formation. While
landscapes are no less susceptible to site formation processes, it becomes easier to recognize
patterns of activity across a larger sample and at a larger scale. In this context, the location of Early
Christian churches might indicate patterns associated with creating a Christian landscape. The
location of Christian cemeteries is another potential influence on production of a distinctly Christian
landscape. Archaeological practices designed to consider specific questions related to the creation of
Christian space on a regional scale could bring attention to the intersection of specifically Christian
landmarks and spaces otherwise regarded as secular.
3. Objects of Faith. Finally, what does it mean to recognize an object or landscape as Christian? As
any number of scholars have noted, Early Christianity was not a monolithic institution, community,
or mode of expression. There were multiple often competing Christianities. Moreover, being
Christian did not exclude one from also being involved in traditional practices of the community,
including sometimes those with competing religious claims. In this context, it would appear quite
difficult to associate an object with a community outside of the narrowly defined role of religious
practice, ritual, and associated spaces. On the other hand, if Christianity is a totalizing discourse,
as Averill Cameron proposed many years ago, then perhaps the function of objects and spaces in
everyday life would take on a Christian meaning. Understanding the meaning of these practices in an
archaeological contexts transforms the material culture of Roman and Late Roman world into
objects, buildings, and places of faith even if the explicit link between Christian practice and
meaning is lost. In this context, much like the context for understanding Christian art proposed by
Robin Jensen, the reading of practice in the archaeological record can almost always exist within a
Christian discourse.


Beyond the Book

April 1, 2015
This post will seem pretty ordinary to anyone who has thought critically about the digital humanities
or digital archaeology over the past few years, but since Im up, its early, and Im thinking, I thought
Id post it anyway.
Last fall, my co-editors and I saw our first book appear from our work at the site of PylaKoutsopetria. About six months earlier we had published the data from our site on Open Context.
Unfortunately, since the book only appeared in paper, there was no way to connect the PKAP I
volume and the Pyla-Koutsopetria book. The great thing about being an author, though, is getting
page proofs (although the worst thing is having to read through them one. last. time.) Page proofs
are usually just .pdfs of the final draft of the book, but theyre also a bit of a blank canvass. They
provide the author or authors with all the value of layout and copy-editing (provided by the press)
but also flexibility modify the content.
So, I began to go through the catalogue section of the volume and insert links connecting the
various objects in the catalogue to the entries in Open Context.
For example:
94.29. Rim (fig. 4.10, reproduced at 1:2). Diam.
= uncertain, PH = 0.020, PL = 0.035, Th. (rim)
= 0.006, Th. (body) = 0.005. Medium-grained,
yellowish-red fabric (5YR 4/6) that is poorly fired
with a discolored gray exterior and a discolored
dark gray slip (10YR 4/1 to 7.5YR 4/4) on the exterior. Fabric contains rare, sparkly inclusions.
With one click in Open Context, you can move back to the survey unit where the object originated,
Unit 94; and another click allows you to see photos of the artifact here, here, here, here, and here.
More recent updates to the Open Context database will expand the links throughout the volume.
My edition of the book will be much better, more dynamic, and potentially more accurate than the
paper original.
Pretty cool, right?
The problem is, how do I circulate this modified version of the book. Technically, I do not own the
copy of the book that Im modifying so I cant really circulate it. So what I have is a private
circulation book that has significantly added value on an Unofficial Digital Edition.


So I got to thinking about my press and dynamic books. I know this is old turf for people thinking
about the future of the book, but I have a current project at my press that will initially have only a
very limited circulation. Bret Weber and I have been working to layout a collection of interview
transcription from our work on the North Dakota Man Camp Project, which the Digital Press at the
University of North Dakota will publish. The book is tentatively titled: Voices of the Bakken, and
some time soon Ill produce a snazzy cover for it (soon as in, um, today; see below).
There are two issues. First is that we need to sort out the organization of the interviews and decide
whether we might obscure the identities of some of our informants (although we dont have to
according to our IRB paperwork) or contextualize certain aspects of our interviews more
Second, we are in the process of developing online digital content for this project. Since our dataset
is relatively large, well likely publish parts of it over time rather than all at once. So the book will
continue to accrue online content as we make more available. At present, though the book is in a
private alpha which will probably expand to a private beta before being made available as a public
beta sometime before the end of the year. The public version will then get a version number 1.0 that
will be updated over time. The book then becomes an entity undergoing continuous development,

like a piece of software, until it is formally retired. The final publication of the book, then, is the end
of its existence as a living document rather than the start.
Im not saying that this will be the cover, but Im also not saying it wont be the cover. (Note the
Gill Sans for the cover. I really, really wanted to use Cooper Black which to me invoked the 1930s
and industry, but it was just too heavy to use in this mock-up.)


Byzantium and the Public Sphere

March 31, 2015
In a couple of weeks, I head back east to the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture at
the Hellenic College Holy Cross to be on a panel of scholars who use traditional and digital means
to build a broader audience for the field inside and outside of the academy. I suspect my blog
caught their attention or a series of posts a couple of years ago on marketing my Byzantine history
class to unsuspecting undergraduates.
In these blog posts, I complained that the place of Byzantium in most master narratives presented
to college students, limits how we can present the Byzantine Empire to an unfamiliar audience on
campus. Some of these approaches are useful. In my very traditional history department, Byzantine
history serves as another way to complicate what the students understand to be the Western
tradition. To simplify this discussion (as I would present it to undergraduates unfamiliar with
Byzantium), the Byzantine world has a Western pedigree: it represented the persistence of the
Roman Empire, it was ruled and populated by people of the book (Jews, Christian, and Muslims),
and it partook in familiar practices that ranged from Hellenic philosophy, to architecture, forms of
literature, and political history. At my lowest points, I found myself saying: Dont worry, it will be
far more familiar than the world of Tolkien or George R.R. Martin! (Putting aside that these worlds
were made up and featured, you know, dragons). In my best moments, I found that I could channel
my inner Anthony Kaldellis.
Appeals to familiarity, of course, only serve to highlight the things about Byzantium that are utterly
unfamiliar. On a short flight this past month, I read over Averill Camerons slim volume titled
Byzantine Matters. The book provides a useful, if incomplete view of trends in the field over the
authors influential career (or since the publication of Ostrogorskys History of the Byzantine
State in 1969. More than that, her book is accessible and generally indicates some profitable lines of
inquiry that challenge the traditional view of Byzantium as a theocratic despotism satisfied to simmer
gently beneath the ponderous weight of Orthodox uniformity. This approach not only offers a way
to open up Byzantium to questions that are profoundly Western (e.g. what was the relationship
between church and state?), but also to urge students to see the study of Byzantium as a way to
critique Orientalism and its view of unchanging, almost unthinking traditionalism. This may be a
hook to ensure that Byzantium belongs to all of us, and belongs to mainstream history. Lest
we imagine that Cameron went all populist on us, she also calls for renewed attention to Byzantine
religious writing (sermons, theological treatises, et c.) as works of literature. Nothing is likely to
broaden the appeal of Byzantium more than combining the study of literature, with all its theoretical
pretensions, with the study of theological texts which were probably bored the vast majority of the
Byzantine world. That being said, this suggestion does follow her overarching argument for hidden
complexity in the Byzantium world.
I dont think that I was invited to this panel to share my penetrating understanding of Byzantine
historiography, however.
I think Ill try to inject a few observations.
1. Blogging Byzantium. Over the last 10 years or so, there has been a constant presence of Byzantine
bloggers on the web. In most cases, these blogs are pretty traditional, text-driven places. None of us

have truly embraced the potential of social and new media although a few of the blogs feature
videos from time to time.
There are a few exceptions. For example, there is Lars Brownworths 12 Rulers of Byzantium which
started as a podcast and has expanded into a media empire featuring videos and a book. The Cry for
Byzantium Twitter feed of Alexius I Comnenus pushes Byzantium into the social media sphere. The
/r/Byzantine page on Reddit appears to be thriving.
The typical Byzantine Blogger, however, is pretty textual with the occasional image of a domed
church or a map. There are, of course, a few panoramic views of Byzantine churches and a
mishmash of mostly outdated efforts to create interactive maps of Constantinople or whatever.
Generally speaking, scholars of Byzantium have stayed on the sideline of recent trends to create a
more dynamic web. These kinds of projects require significant funding and, perhaps more
importantly, a clearly-defined audience.
2. Byzantine Archaeology as World Archaeology. I need to work this into a fuller post at some point
in the near future, but one observation that my buddy Kostis Kourelis made a few years back is that
a meaningful subset of Byzantine archaeologists also do archaeology in their local communities.
What brought this to mind was David Pettegrews recent work on mapping 19th century Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania and the Greek community there. Kostis has been involved in my North Dakota Man
Camp Project and various initiatives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he teaches. The willingness of
archaeologists of the Byzantine world to engage in the archaeology of their local communities hints
that Byzantinists are not as disengaged as our scholarly output might suggest. In fact, it suggests that
some of the trends in Byzantine archaeology resonate with issues prevalent in world archaeology.
For a discipline that almost takes a perverse pride in its idiosyncratic conventions, this is a significant
revelation and offers hope for Byzantinists everywhere that our skills and professional interests can
have a direct impact on local communities in North America.
3. Mash-Up and Convergence. Finally, Ive been thinking a bit about how our scholarly production
books and articles rarely extend beyond their academic audiences and rarely enjoy lives outside
of their final, published copies. The divergence between academic works and popular books could
not be more stark as influential popular books often feed a growing participatory community
engaged in fan fiction, form the basis for transmedia productions like films and video games, and
spawn communities of commentators and critics. George R.R. Martins mostly-depraved Game of
Thrones series of books and TV series is just the most recent and perhaps most visible example.
As Byzantinists contemplate engaging the public sphere more fully, it might behoove us to consider
the changing the changing state of popular media. How do we ensure that our books and articles
become living, media entities that go beyond their utility to a small group of scholars? Do we push
to make our work available in open access? Do we work harder to contribute to linked-data
practices? How does our work interact or intersect with the larger media universe?
To my mind, this is not simply about making our work known to more people, but making it more
accessible to audiences who think about media in new and more dynamic ways. Books and articles
are more than just forms of scholarly communication or instruments designed to get tenure, but
simply aspects of an increasingly dynamic media universe that extends beyond the life of a
publication, its physical or digital form, and goals of the academic author. How can Byzantine
studies engage this world?

The Soon and the Summer

March 30, 2015
I bought by tickets to Greece for next summer and I need to buy my tickets from Athens to Cyprus
this week. After a year away from my work on Cyprus to focus on the Western Argolid Regional
Project in Greece, Im going to return to Polis-Chrysochous for a three-week study season starting
May 5. Then heading to Greece for almost two months on May 25th or 26th. This all means that
planning for the summer has to start now.
First, the next few weeks will prove to be busy, but exciting.
On April 8th-11th, Ill host Andrew Reinhard and Richard Rothaus on campus for a public showing
of the documentary, Atari: Game Over, and an academic round-table on the archaeology of gaming
and the contemporary world.
On April 7th, I take a quick trip to Fargo for a dissertation defense.
On April 18th, Ill be in at the Mary Jaharis Center in Brookline, MA to participate in a roundtable
on Byzantium in the Public Sphere and somehow simultaneously at a Man Camp Dialogue
presentation in Ellendale.
Over the same stretch of time, I need to put the finishing touches on two sabbatical projects. One is
the final round of revisions on the North Dakota Man Camp Project paper for Historical
Archaeology, and the other is a book proposal for the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch, which
is become a more and more compelling project every passing week. The book proposal is virtually
done and I have a meaningful draft of the manuscript in hand. Now all I need to make is a few final
touches and pull the trigger. Im also doing the final revisions on an article for Internet Archaeology
on archeological blogging.
At the same time, Ive been trying to put together the kit of necessary summer gear that has to be
ordered and sorted out before the start of May.
1. New Laptop. My three year old 15-inch Dell XPS has finally become unusable thanks to a
combination of Windows 8 and some kind of nagging hardware issues. So I have to order a quadcore Dell Precision 15-inch today with 16-gb of ram. 3D image processing takes a tremendous
amount of power.
2. New GPS unit. My trusty, 10 year old Garmin Gecko was stolen from my 12-year-old truck this
past fall. We used Garmin Oregon 650s this past summer in Greece because we could upload aerial
photographs to them and they had 8-megapixel cameras. In turns out that the cameras were not
particularly useful and drained the battery. So this summer, Ill purchase a Garmin 600 which is the
same unit without a camera.
3. Camera. I love my Panasonic GX1, but the camera will be going on its third field season and has
enjoyed such exotic opportunities as being used in a landfill in a dust storm, being lugged up every
elevation in the Western Argolid without a lens cap, and several trips to the froze tundra of North
Dakota. My hope is that it survives this summer, but I bought a fall back camera, a Canon

ELPH135, which is discontinued and sells for less than $90 on Amazon. Its nowhere near as good
as the Panasonic, but its small, cheap, and good enough for a backup camera.
4. Microphone. With my career as a podcaster slowly gaining momentum, I need a small, decent
USB microphone. Suggestions? For our podcasts, Ive used a Blue Yeti, but this is a heavy
microphone and I need to save some weight for, you know, three months of clothing.
5. Music. Living away from home for this long of a time is hard on me for a range of reasons (wife,
dog, house, other responsibilities), but part of the thing that makes it hard is that I go from being
alone most of the time to being surrounding by people most of the time. My escape is listening to
music. To facilitate this, I have seriously upgraded my mobile music kit. First, I got a pair of new
Audeze EL-8, closed back headphones and a little bird has hinted that Ill get a new ALO Rx MK3
B+ amplifier which appears to be getting phased out of the ALO line-up and is now available at
steeply discounted prices from their warehouse page. The amp is probably overkill for the EL-8s,
but I suspect even in single-ended mode (balanced cables are not yet available for the EL-8s) itll
provide a bit more oomph for the relatively efficient EL-8s as well as the option to move to a
balanced set up in the future.
6. Books. Usually I make a request for summer reading recommendations, but this summer, it looks
like the American Journal of Archaeology has that all sorted out for me. Im going to be working on
a review article featuring several new books on the archaeology of the contemporary world and the
growing interest in materiality among archaeologists. That being said, Ill need to track down a few
recreational books to read this summer, preferably with spaceships in them.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

March 27, 2015
Were in that delightful time between winter and spring when its still below freezing in the morning
but warms over the course of the day. There are enough clouds in the sky to give us beautiful
sunrises and sunsets, but not so many to keep the strengthening sun from providing that little extra
warmth on our afternoon walks. Its a lovely time of year. I only wish that it didnt extend from early
March to the middle of May here in North Dakotaland.
Before I start my usual list of quick hits and varia, I want to remind you to check out my buddy
James Bradley Wells new book of poetry, The Kazantzakis Guide to Greece, which is available
for pre-order here. Its $12.40. Preorder it.
Also, check out our Call-for-Papers for the Bakken Goes Bust? Conference in October, and do
listen to the most recent Caraheard podcast.

A new book on the Greek terrorist group November 17th.

Blessed are the cheesemakers.

The first Greeks of Harrisburg.

And, related, immigration as infographic.

The American Numismatic Society Magazine gone digital.

Fictional and Real Artifacts at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.

Ohio State: Where Everything is For Sale.

A pretty brutal take down of Medium.

A stirring podcast on river activists.

Bar fight insults as academic papers.

Some anxiety, but no real slow down for Bakken communities, and housing in Watford City.

Anyone who has taught in college knows that engagement only matters to administrators
and assessocrats.

Star Wars in the City.

Why Paul Worley loves the Charleston RiverDogs.

NASCAR archaeology.

Late Addition: The Teletubbies in Black and White with a Joy Division Soundtrack.

Tasmanian whisky cleans up at the World Whisky Awards. Ive tried Sullivans Cove Double
Cask, and its well worth the difficulty of getting it.

What Im reading: H.K. Rothman, Devils Bargain: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century

American West. University of Kansas Press.

What Im listening to: Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just
Sit; Big Jon Atkinson, Boogie With You Baby.



Poetry for Greece

March 26, 2015
My post today is about poetry. It is also an advertisement. Its not, an advertisement for myself,
which will probably come as a shock to many of you.
My old friend James Bradley Wells has prepared his second book of poetry, The Kazantzakis Guide
to Greece. His first book of poems, Bicycle, appeared a few years ago and you can get it here. He
also wrote a book on Pindar.
If you like Greece and like poetry, then you should pre-order a copy of his book.


So, Im advertising Jamess poetry book here for a few reasons. First, the book is about Greece and
is due to appear on July 15th. While I complained that this publication date made it impossible for
me to take the book to Greece and read it after a long day in the field, James assured me that the
best time for reading this book is in the late summer as I reminisce (fondly at that point) about my
times in Greece while sitting on my front porch ignoring the start of the semester.
Some of the poems came from his time at the American School of Classical Studies when we had
neighboring rooms in the annex. He introduced me to performance theory and Erving Goffman
and Richard Bauman, and patiently (tried to) explain to me how their ideas could expand my reading
of Pierre Bourdieu and Anthony Giddens. To this day, I have never felt smarter (and more humble)
than when I was sitting at Kolonaki Square with James on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee,
talking about our work.
I can clearly recall his excitement when he returned from Crete having seen Katzantzakiss tomb in
Heraklion. So while Im just making my way through a generously-offer (ok, I begged) manuscript
now, I can already hear certain rhythms in his poetry that remind me of my time in Athens over a
decade ago, and the list of sites evokes will only be more meaningful to people who endured the
famous American School Regular Program. The American School should certainly pre-order a copy
and add it to their collection of work produced under their auspices.
Finally, the book is being published by a small, but award winning press in Georgetown, Kentucky:
Finish Line Press. They are counting on a certain number of pre-orders before theyll begin
production. While this might horrify those of us used to working with larger commercial ventures or
subsidized academic, university presses, these kinds of strategies are what small presses need to do
to make ends meet. What I like about this system, though, is that it makes buying this book less of a
straight commercial transaction (I want, so I buy) and more of a decision about whether one thinks
this kind of thing should exist.
Here is some of the poetry:
I do not have the tonguefeel for nomenclature.
Names of things are the second fork beside
a dinner plate. I never know just what
to say if checkerspots, coppers, elfins, azures,
metalmarks light upon salvia, lavender blossoms,
coneflower, or coreopsis. If cedar waxwing
or purple finch complains when I compete
with them and pick serviceberries, I do not know
the words to mark the surprise of its being the case
that these creatures heckle me so. Nomenclature clouds
me over, but the panorama of wing
possesses me. A skybound gods same unsayable
hemline trailing down the aisle of times

cathedral, wing and horizon are the same.

Heres some more, a ghazal (which is not the same as an antelope, but some form of poetry). For
those who know something about poetry and the ghazal, in particular, check out the last line for
some insider, poetry cleverness. This is what happens when someone who studies Pindar:
Olympia in nimbostratus October chronicles the word nas.
Zeus Olympios, Phidias art, Jesus Pancrator, each Lords nas.
Gold leaf, ivory panels, glass sheets, jewels, and copper fixed
to wooden core, the skyscraping icon dwelt in gods nas.
One of the ancient worlds seven wonders, Phidias sculpted
Lord Zeus icon in his unquitting workshop, this replica nas.
Libation vessels, golden censers, the table where the reverent
offered bread, Antiochus pillaged the Jewish Lords nas.
Assyrians handwove a woolen curtain dyed in Tyrian purple,
the Temple veil that Antiochus offered at Zeus nas.
Archaeologists discovered sculptors tools, terra cotta molds,
centuries after Christians repurposed Phidias replica nas.
I belong to Phidias inscribed on the bottom of a cup.
Lichened, pockmarked column drums, Greek is a language scarred by nas.
So pre-order copies of his book for yourself (because its good), for other people (as a gift), and for
the entire community. Doing what we can for small presses like this to thrive and for passionate
work to see the light of day is good for everyone. Plus, the book only costs a penny less than $12.50.


Three Unrelated Things: the Homeshow, Lemonskinheads, and the UND

Writers Conference
March 25, 2015
Sometimes I get a backlog of blog ideas and I realize that it makes more sense to push them out in a
disjointed post than to wait for some opportunity to expand each idea into a individual posts. I
realize that this violates a rule of writing which states that writers should give their ideas room to
stretch out and not cram too many thoughts together in one place. Ive never been good at that.
So here are three unrelated things combined in a single post:
1. The University of North Dakota Writers Conference starts today! If you spend any time at the
University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks, or in North Dakota, you know about the Writers
Conference. In fact, if you know anything about UND at all, its likely to be their long tradition of
hosting one of the great writers conferences in the U.S. As people might recall, the Writers
Conference was almost sacrificed to budgetary priorities advanced by careerist administrators
looking to prove that theyre tough enough to stand up to faculty and make hard choices.
Fortunately, the community and donors rallied to save the conference.
This year the theme is The Other Half and will feature women writers who write about gender
and race. But as always, the Writers Conference is more than that, it is an opportunity to hear writers
talk about their craft. The lunchtime panels are completely enthralling and well worth sacrificing a
lunch hour! So go and check it out this week!
2. The Home Show. This past weekend, my wife and I went to the Grand Forks Home Show. Id
never been to such a thing! Apparently the purpose of the home show is to show off various ways to
improve, change, or repair ones home. According the local newspaper, over 150 vendors rented
booths at the show and thousands attended. As an archaeologist with an interest in the
contemporary world, the Home Show fascinated me. Here in one place was an example of many
objects that might appear in an archaeological assemblage from a modern home. There were three
or four booths showing off cook pots, for example, and we know from our experiences in Bakken
that cookware is often left behind when a temporary settlement is abandoned. There were two or
three vendors showing off windows, which if our home is any indication, are a common object set
aside in provisional discard even when they have been replaces (and can, in the right hands, be the
objects of salvage). There were several firms advertising landscaping services by elaborate displays.
Because the materials in these displays are relatively low value and designed for a particular space,
they tend to persist at a place and accumulate traces of earlier landscaping efforts. Unsurprisingly the
vendors at the show were almost all men, suggesting that the materiality of the home and its
immediate environs continues to be something constructed (in a physical sense) by men even if the
gender balance between the visitors appeared more even.
3. The Empire Theater and Usama Dakdok. Last week, the anti-Muslim speaker Usama Dakdok
came to Grand Forks. He was brought to town by one or another conservative evangelical church
and sponsored by the local conservative Christian radio station. Dakdok is know as an inflammatory
speaker and leverages his Egyptian heritage to purport inside information about Islam to help
Christians convert their Muslim neighbors. His talks have a pseudo-academic structure where he

presents his more authentic translation of the Quran and compares it unfavorably apparently
almost at random to passages in the Christian Bible. Whatever one things about Christian-Muslim
relations, Dakdok provides very little substance and considerable fuel to already enflamed audience
who fear the imminent arrival of ISIS type militants, Sharia law, and anti-Christian pogroms in their
small town.
His reputation proceeds him, of course, and in many communities he struggles to find a venue to
spout his venom. This has apparently allowed him to play the victim and to demonstrate the urgency
of his message. The grand plot against God-fearing Christians is already well underway, because his
truth is being suppressed. As a few of my colleagues pointed out, this kind of rabble rousing has a
long history in American political life where conspiracies, secret knowledge, identity politics, and
playing the victim often combine to fuel the fires of hatred.
In light of this situation, I expressed disappointment that the Empire Arts Center (our local early
20th century movie house turned to an arts center) agreed to host a speaker like Dakdok and
suggested to some colleagues that the Empire Arts Center might no longer be a great venue for, say,
a lecture series organized by the International Studies program to explore ideas of global diversity.
Two things made our conversation all the more emphatic. First was a confused Op-Ed piece in the
Grand Forks Herald which somehow celebrated the Empire Arts Center for allowing hate speech in
its venue as an important opportunity for the community to consider Dakdoks views as a valid
contribution to a global conversation on religious difference. Second, with the appearance of some
anti-immigrant graffiti directed at Somali immigrants in town, the Herald cautioned us from jumping
to conclusions and claiming that our community has a race problem. Ironically, if the views
expressed appeared in a venue like the Empire rather than on the wall of a local strip mall, then,
according to the Herald we should celebrate the vitality of civic conversation: Some claim
Dakdoks speech was beyond the pale. But a big reason for the United States world leadership and
enormous strength is the fact that we trust debate not repression to resolve political quarrels.
The upshot of our conversations is a meeting with the folks at the Empire, mediated and facilitated
by a city council member and some fine folks at the University of North Dakota. We do not want to
damage the Empire as a civic institution because its a great venue, a good partner, and an asset to
the community, but we do want to make sure that we expect more them. Its not that were angry,
were just very disappointed.
One good thing to come out of all this is that I discovered calling Usama Dakdok, Evan Dakdok is
pretty fun (for me). Its a mash-up of Dakdok with the drug-addled lead singer of the Lemonheads,
Evan Dando. Evan Dakdok is the frontman of a band called the Lemonskinheads. So thats fun.


Adventures in Podcasting 6
March 24, 2015
Were rolling out Episode 6 in our first season of Caraheard a bit early this week because our
unofficial, non-sponsor The University of North Dakota Writers Conference, begins tomorrow at
10 am.
Richards show notes have been putting mine to shame so I need to step it up today. In this weeks
episode we discuss the storage crisis in archaeology prompted by a recent forum in the Journal of
Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies. I start with the observation that
everything is getting bigger and expanding (as Woody Allen once observed, the universe is
expanding) except archaeological storage. In fact, companies like Amazon have multiple warehouses
ranked among the largest buildings in the world and theyre patrolled by ROBOTS. Richard returns
us to archaeology and contextualizes the storage crisis within larger issues of archaeological method
(including storing artifacts in plastic bags purchased from a guy who sells pomegranate seeds).
Richard and then Bill, finally, get to the point that storage crisis is a proxy (war?) for larger issues
within the discipline, before returning the discussion to the reality that modern consumer culture is
rapidly becoming part of that archaeological record. So maybe, the archaeological universe is
Enjoy this weeks podcast, check us out on iTunes, and feel free to drop us a line in the comments
here, over at, or via email. Let us know how wrong we are, what would make
listening to our podcast better, or anything else!
Caraheard Season 1, Episode 6: Richard and Bill talk about the storage crisis in archaeology
Some things we mention during the podcast:
First, the Morag Kersell et al. forum in the JEMAHS is here, and my blogged response is here.
The famous (and lets hope ironic or at very least post-ironic) Lansing Community College job ad is
The Tragedy of the Commons.
I could not find a link to Richards flocks of hypersexualized rabbits, but Im sort of fine with that.
Richards dissertation.
R. Scott Moores dissertation on the pottery dump at Isthmia.
Heres a brief biography of Paul Clement who was the director of the UCLA excavations at Isthmia.
Heres a discussion of the Fountain of the Lamps.
Heres an example of what can be done with material in storerooms excavated many years ago at
I think weve linked to Corinth excavations before, but here is a link again.
Heres David Yoders article in Advances in Archaeological Practice titled Interpreing the 50 Year
Rule: How a Simple Phrase Leads to a Complex Problem.
Finally, if you want to buy a genuine American antiquity, you can go shop here.


Call for Papers: The Bakken Goes Bust? New Research on Communities, Challenges, and
Culture in the Bakken Oil Patch
March 23, 2015
Over the past month, Ive been working with Kyle Conway and Carenlee Barkdull to organize a
conference on new research, challenges, and culture in the Bakken oil patch. We are particularly
interested in research that considers how the patch is adapting to the current decline in oil prices,
production, and activity in the Bakken, but we also recognize the the current bust might not be a
permanent state so we are equally interested in works that considers changes in the Bakken related
to any number of political, social, and economic issues.
Some of our motivation comes from the time that Kyle and I have spent editing the Bakken Goes
Boom volume. The papers in this volume are, in general, fine and sophisticated, but are also a bit
preliminary. We recognize that we only captured a sliver of the important research taking place in
the Bakken and, in many cases, on the the preliminary results of this work.
So the Digital Press has teamed up with the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines to hold
a one-day conference on Friday October 30th at the University of North Dakota. We hope to be
able to run a couple of formal paper sessions and a couple of workshop sessions where people from
the arts, humanities, and social sciences discuss their work and the work presented in the formal
papers. We plan to have a
Heres the call for papers. Abstracts are due July 1. Contact me for more details.
The Bakken Goes Bust?
New Research on Communities, Challenges, and Culture in the Bakken Oil Patch
For most of the past decade, the Bakken oil boom has generated unprecedented economic growth,
population increases, and industrialization in western North Dakota. For much of this time,
researchers in North Dakota and surrounding states have worked to understand the impact of the
Bakken Boom on the state, the participants in the new economic growth, and long-standing
communities in the affected regions. The rapid changes in region, the difficulties acquiring reliable
data, and the myriad of interrelated challenges and opportunities facing the Bakken region have
spurred creative projects and research initiatives prompted by wide range of challenging questions
concerning the impact of the boom.
The Bakken Goes Bust? conference invites abstracts for contributions (<250 words) from scholars
involved in all area of social science and humanities research, teaching, and creative work that
explore the challenges associated with the Bakken oil boom. While this conference encourages
submissions on any recent Bakken research, we are particularly interested in research and creative
activities that embrace the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences, considers the rhetoric
of boom (and bust), examines the impact of social or new media on communities, situates the
Bakken boom in a national or global context, or explores issues of crime, discrimination, and social
justice in the patch.
The one-day conference will feature formal papers as well as interactive workshop sessions over the
course of a single day. A public event in downtown Grand Forks will offer a critical capstone to the

days events and provide an opportunity for socializing and outreach. The one-day conference will
be held at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND on Friday, October 30th. Abstracts
are due by July 1.
The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota has expressed interest in publishing the
proceedings of the conference as a companion volume to their Bakken Goes Boom book slated to
appear in the fall of 2015.

Part of the fun of this conference is that were working with almost no budget so were approaching
it punk rock style. In other words, were not going worry about whether every participant has a
awesome UND branded folder and note pad. Were not going to get anxious about whether every
stakeholder has embossed invitations. We want to have actual conversations about the art, culture,
and social world of the Bakken rather than to use this event to showcase how much UND cares
about some imaginary place or problem or thing. We just want to do it. To show how punk rock I
am, I did ignored the Oxford comma in the poster. And, I made the poster myself. Yeah!


So we need a poster in black-and-white with a type-o that we can staple to bulletin boards across


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

March 20, 2015
This is a busy time of year for sports fans with the Cricket World Cup and the NCAA Basketball
Tournament going on at the same time and the baseball players preparing for their summertime
contests. Im sure there are other sports as well. I think I heard something about ice hockeying.
Despite the distractions, I did manage to pull together a little gaggle of quick hits and varia to watch
between overs, quarters, or trimeters (or whatever ice hockeying has). Enjoy!

It seems as though the looted antiquities from Apamea in Syria were not going to support

Along similar lines, there was something crazy about this National Geographic video on the
destruction of antiquities by ISIS.

Here is a satellite image showing the spread of nighttime darkness in Syria. What they need is

Liminal Fabric: Byzantine Textiles.

Photos of Pompeii.

A 2nd century BC Roman camp designed to keep an eye on pirates!

More on Cypriot antiquities stolen after the 1974 invasion.

Eric Cline generously answered almost all the questions sent his way on his Ask Me
Anything at Reddit.

Barry Strauss on the Death of Caesar.

3D scanning and the law.

A very clever little project: the Panopticam!

Maps of World War I in Ottoman Lands. (Save this to review next month.)

Are digital services speeding up our world?

A cool article on the next fastest woman in the world.

Heres a little interview that I did on the Slow issue of North Dakota Quarterly.

Who wouldnt want this job?

Median salaries for professors at various ranks at various kinds of 4 year schools.

Punk games.

A cool map that shows the decline of well starts since the price of oil has dropped.

The Healthiest fonts.

What Im reading: J. Skarstein, The War with the Sioux. Trans. by M. Gjellstad and D.
Skjelver. Forthcoming.

What Im listening to: Courtney Barnett, A Sea of Split Peas; Matthew E. White, Fresh
Blood; Glen Hansard, It Was Triumph We Once Proposed.


After owning the dog park


we rest.


Adventures in Podcasting 5
March 19, 2015
This episode of Caraheard contains an interview about Bills new book (to minute 56), and some
particularly brilliant discussion of archaeologists and our perverse relationship with the media
(minute 56 and after). If you are super pressed for time, buy the book and listen to the media
portion (says Richard Bill may disagree).
Caraheard Season 1, Episode 5: Richard and Bill talk about archaeologists and the media
Leave a comment at 14:02
Richard interviews Bill about the new book: W. Caraher, R.S. Moore, and D.K. Pettegrew, with
contributions from M. Andrioti, P.N. Kardulias, D. Nakassis, and B. Olson., Pyla-Koutsopetria I:
Archaeological Survey of an Ancient Coastal Town, American Schools of Oriental Research
Archaeological Reports 21, Boston, MA, 2015. This part of Caraheard will also appear as part of the
American Schools of Oriental Research Podcast.
Pyla-Koutsopetria I presents the results of an intensive pedestrian survey documenting the
diachronic history of a 100 ha microregion along the southern coast of Cyprus. Located around 10
km from the ancient city of Kition, the ancient coastal settlements of the Koutsopetria mircoregion
featured an Iron Age sanctuary, a Classical settlement, a Hellenistic fortification, a Late Roman
town, and a Venetian-Ottoman coastal battery situated adjacent to a now infilled, natural harbor on
Larnaka Bay. This publication integrates a comprehensive treatment of methods with a discussion of
artifact distribution, a thorough catalogue of finds, and a diachronic history to shed light on one of
the few undeveloped stretches of the Cypriot coast.
During our discussion, Bill exaggerates the excruciating boredom of the first few chapters, while
Richard points out that there are pictures and even the names of the cannon-fodder field walkers.
Richard also manages to mispronounce almost everyones name, including, shockingly, P. Nick
Kardulias name. P. Nick Kardulias, the man who took a soft, weak, ignorant, and insufferably
Richard under his wing and taught him to be the ultimate field archaeologist. The man who taught
Richard that if you want to stack you coins by size, ignore the mockers and do it. Well, done
Bill answers some questions that are the heart of the ASOR interview:
What got you interested in becoming an archaeologist?
Of all the places you could have worked, why Cyprus? And why Pyla-Koutsopetria?
How did you choose the area to survey, and how large is the area youre surveying?
Who works/worked on the survey?
What kind of technology did you use to aid you in this survey?
How long does surveying a square take? How many squares did you survey?
What kinds of remains are you finding/did you find at PKAP?
How long does it take to analyze artifacts you find?


What is the significance of these remains? (And more crudely) Why should people care about your
What can one look forward to when reading this book, and are there any special features?
If the area was such an active trade spot, why is it no longer?
After the book interview, Richard and Bill talk for awhile about archaeology and the media. We
discuss how we love to complain about simple errors, how archaeology benefits from coverage, the
medias love of archaeological hype, and how the weird reactions reveal the insecurities of
Some Links!
We talk a bit about the Pyla-Koutsopetria Archaeological Project and also the Eastern Korinthia
Archaeological Survey. And also the Rough Cilicia Archaeological Survey.
The ManCamp Dialogues (Killdeer, ND) Frenzy:

Bill and Tom Isern on Prairie Public

KFYR and again on KFYR


Bismarck Tribune

Dickinson Press

Billings Gazette

Richard gets the lead on the Sunday best quote page at Bismarck Tribune Figure it out,
future generations, figure it out!

Future generations can figure this out

Josh Wheelers The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard in Harpers. Josh claims Bill got
spooled up.
Emily Guerins Meet The Men Who Study Man Camps in InsideEnergy.
We never get through a podcast without referencing The Ohio State University Excavations at
David Pettesherd Pettegrew has a most-respectable blog: Corinthian Matters.
Courtesy of the Wayback Machine, and with great embarrassment, here is Richards webpage for the
aborted Ciudad Blanca project: The Rio Platano Cultural Landscape Project. Short version: If
children with sawed-off shotguns guard the used clothing stores, its not a good place to take
students on a project.
Take a look at this article on Mayan sacrifices, that also discusses media hype and looters. New
Evidence of Ancient Child Trafficking Network.


Seventh Annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture: Andrew Reinhard and Raiford Guins on
Digging E.T.
March 18, 2015
Im super happy to announce the seventh annual Cyprus Research Fund Lecture. This year, well be
joined by Andrew Reinhard of the American Numismatic Society, in person, and Raiford Guins of
University of Stony Brook, online, as well as Richard Rothaus (NDUS) and Bret Weber (UND,
Social Work) to view and discuss the documentary Atari: Game Over. A showing of the film and a
round table discussion will occur from 4-6 pm on April 9 at the Gorecki Alumni Center on the
beautiful campus of the University of North Dakota. As per usual, the event will be streamed to a
global audience.
But wait, theres more! The good folks in the Working Group for Digital and New Media are
coordinating a legacy media exhibit where well have a working Atari 2600 and Atari 5200 that
folks to come by and play. Well even have at least one game hooked to an old school CRT

This years talk is pretty exciting because well go beyond the standard format of lecturer at the
podium and bring something interactive to the event. It will also be the first Cyprus Research Fund
talk that will specifically deal with work in which I was involved (although David Pettegrews talk
from 2010 included some nice photos of me in Greece!). As readers of this blog know, I participated
in the Alamogordo Atari Expedition which Andrew Reinhard coordinated and directed. We wrote
up some of our observations in an article for Ian Bogosts Technology page at The Atlantic, and
Andrew Reinhard has been on a global speaking tour.
This will be the first time that the academic archaeology team has come back together to reflect on
the documentary (which I review here) and the idea of excavating a fragment of our recent past.
Weve chatted informally across social and new media platforms and periodically in person, but we
havent had a chance to sit down together and think critically about what we experienced. I hope
that this will be the first of a few chances to do that and to make our thinking together as public as
possible so that the community can feel involved in understanding the significance of their own
Mark you calendars now!


Past Cyprus Research Fund Talks:

2013/2014 Sarah Lepinski, Archaeologies of Dcor: Interiors in the Roman East
2012/2013 Dimitri Nakassis, Paupers and Peasants and Princes and Kings: Reconstructing Society
in Late Bronze Age Greece.
2011/2012 Kostis Kourelis, Byzantium and the Avant Garde: American Excavations at Corinth, ca.
2011 (Bonus Talk) Eric Poehler, Pompeii in the 21st Century
2010/2011 David Pettegrew, Setting the Stage for St. Pauls Corinth
2009/2010 Michael Fronda, Anarchy Rivalry and the Beginnings of the Roman Empire


Surviving Sabbatical: Tourism, Landscapes, and The American West

March 17, 2015
The last two weeks have been a little rough and awkward here at Archaeology of the Mediterranean
World Headquarter. I spent much of the first 7 months of sabbatical juggling projects and trying to
get enough projects going so that I can roll them out gradually over the next 4 or 5 years. This was
fun and exciting the way that new projects are always fun and exciting (or at least more fun and
exciting than old projects).
Unfortunately, over the last couple weeks, Ive had this feeling that I need to finishing something.
Two articles are in the able hands of a co-writer, my PKAP 2 manuscript is probably close to being
ready for our last field season, and contributors should be receiving their contracts for an edited
volume sometime soon. None of these projects (barring a remarkable outburst of productivity from
one particular, delay-prone coauthor ahem, hint, hint) are likely to be completed before I return to
my teaching duties.
And then theres the other project. On my first sabbatical, I decided right about this time of year to
write a paper called Dream Archaeology. This paper is still in process in various forms and has
been given as an invited lecture a few times. It was fun to work on, but never really matured into
something publishable at a top tier journal. This sabbatical, its the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil
Patch, and I am committed to making this manuscript happen and it not becoming the next Dream
Archaeology paper.
So this week I wrote a book proposal for the Tourist Guide to the Bakken Oil Patch, and my
current plan is to submit it to Left Coast Press by the end of the month (I was trying to decide
whether I should mention where Im sending the proposal, but figured that it couldnt do any harm,
right?). Im also working on revising a few of the chapters that can easily engoodened so that the
press will receive something close to a complete manuscript for a short book (ca. 30,000 words). To
do that, Im targeting three things:
1. Landscapes. This project started as a landscape project. I love driving through the Bakken. In fact,
driving through the Bakken is almost as involving for me as walking along a road or path in the
Greek countryside (almost!). Like an American suburb, the Bakken is meant to be driven, and by
driving along its main arteries or dusty side roads, we become part of the Bakken oil boom itself. My
heroic truck blends in among the other working trucks, semis, and equipment rigs. The blurs of
pipes, tanks, trailers, drilling and workover rigs (thanks, Chad!), construction projects, shelter belts,
and distant farms reinforces the idea that the Bakken is both a modern non-place (in that some of
the features in the landscape could be transported anywhere or could appear almost anywhere in the
world) and deeply rooted in a specific place, history, and topography (not to mention the geology of
shale oil and the Bakken). This intersection between the profoundly modern and the local makes the
Bakken landscape compelling both as a general commentary on our contemporary world and as a
moment of historical significance for North Dakota and the American West.
2. Tourism. In a fit of hubris, I decided that I could not only write a tourist guide, but also write
about tourism. I felt that my time as a tourist in Greece, Cyprus, Australia, and places in the U.S.
qualified me as a regular consumer of tourist literature and travel guides to engage in writing one. I

think that my guide is a respectable imitation of such tourist staples as the Blue Guide or Baedekers.
At the same time, my reading of a few of the classic Federal Writers Project accounts of western
North Dakota, eastern Montana, and elsewhere gave me another point of reference for my project.
Considering the literary luminaries who wrote for that program (and, significantly, my addiction to
adverbs in particular), I can only say that I tried to writing in their spirit.
Writing about tourism, however, was clearly a bridge too far. First off, the amount of literature on
tourism is staggering (scholars of tourism need tenure too, it would appear), and even such marginal
practices as dark tourism, toxic tourism, and poorism (the organized touring of poor and
disadvantaged communities). Next, the conceptual frameworks for tourism are wide-ranging from
the structuralism of Dean Maccannell to the post-modern critiques offered by John Urry and Tim
Edensor. Some of this stuff is pretty straight forward, but I feel like using tourist studies to
understand landscapes (and how we in the modern world construct landscapes) in a critical way will
be a massive challenge. Not only has modern tourism (whether industrial, toxic, eco, or otherwise)
played a role in how we see modern landscapes, but it has also contributed to issues of heritage,
archaeology (of the modern world), and conservation practices. It is pretty clear that Im out of my
depth here.
3. The American West. In my first year at UND, a bunch of us met with our dean of arts and
sciences at the time. As per usual, there was a low grade panic about lack of current funds, lack of
future funding, and the impossibility of compensating for previous lack of funds. When the dean
asked us about our research plans for the next half decade, I muttered something about needing a
local project that is relatively more insulated from financial vagaries of both local and federal
funding agencies. While Ive been lucky enough to keep funding for my foreign projects going, Ive
also worked to develop some very basic scholarly understanding of the American West and North
Dakota history. Id say that I have an advanced undergraduate knowledge of these fields.
For the Tourist Guide, Ive had to bolster this a bit more by expanding my reading into the history
of extractive industries in the West and their ambivalent relationships with communities dependent
on these industries and struggling with costs of this kind of development once the extractive
processes stop being fiscally viable. Some communities recognize the extractive industries as part of
their history and seek to celebrate this heritage. Others have seen extractive industries as a kind of
cautionary tale that requires constant revision to reinforce the critical links between industry,
settlement, and the environment. This tensions can produce stories that are neither mutually
exclusive nor overly complex, but this requires attention to nuance and narrative grounded in a
sweeping understanding of Western and environmental history. Telling one story or the other is a far
more simple task (and one that Im probably more qualified to undertake) than trying to tell both at
the same time.
So, I head to Cyprus in about 6 weeks and then I have another month or so when I get home
(interrupted by family visits and another field work trip to the Bakken) to get my feet under me on
these issues. Seems like this will probably be another one of those shaky sabbatical projects that
lingers around my productive world like a bad smell


Storage Wars
March 16, 2015
If you have an hour, go and check out the recent forum on the storage crisis in archaeology in the
awkwardly named Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies. Morag Kersel offers
a nice essay framing the storage crisis in Eastern Mediterranean archaeology, and argued for reexploring the potential of long term loans as a way to alleviate some storage pressure by distributing
significant artifacts or those under study to other institutions. Her argument is that while there are
some absolute limits to amount of material that can be stored, most of the current storage crisis
revolves around social, political, and economic realities that result in unequal access to storage
facilities and technology.
If foreign projects had to make provisions for storage and curation of artifacts prior to excavating,
some of the burden for storage and curation of artifacts would shift from the host country to the
guest excavators. Unfortunately, aside from a very few major excavations, the relationship between
excavator and host country remains far stronger than between the excavators institution and the
host country. Because excavators change schools, depart projects, and even die, sustainable funding
can never be tied exclusively to a project or individual. In fact, Ive worked on a large and relatively
well-funded foreign expedition supported by a school with the resources to provide sustaining funds
for an artifact storeroom containing material under study. When the project director retired, funding
to sustain the project began to decline, and we have recently learned that it will be discontinued
entirely leaving the storage of the artifacts under study in limbo. While I dont understand the
politics behind the decision to cut funding to the project, I suspect it was not being guided by a clear
sense of archaeological ethics and responsibility to the scholars, host country, or objects involved.
At the same time, I recognize that few academic institutions are likely to commit to funding for
storage of artifacts in a foreign country indefinitely, and any expectation that they might do so
probably represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how global higher education works.
Even if we understand that changing the fundamental structure of higher education funding is
beyond our grasp, I do think that it is possible to change some of the expectations within our
discipline, or at least recognize that the storage wars are partly a problem situated at the very core of
the discipline. So while there is not an immediately available solution to the storage problem within
the grasp of the archaeology, there are ways that we can ameliorate the issues related to storage
moving forward. And some of the steps that we can take to ameliorate future storage problems will
also allow us to think critically about the structure of the discipline today.
1. Recognizing the Tragedy of the Commons. One of the key issues facing academic archaeologists
today is the pressure to develop our own projects particularly excavations to both train students
and to elevate the profile of our institutions and write large national grants. Much of the pressure
archaeologists feel, however, is from within the discipline. While Kersel and company locate the
pressure to excavate as inherent in the discipline of archaeology, I think that this obscures the real
source of pressure to do field work.
So junior scholars desperate for jobs and tenure develop projects that produces material that
contributes directly to the storage problem. The discipline could, just as easily, put pressure on these
vulnerable junior scholars to study material excavated from projects years ago that languishes,
orphaned in overstuffed storerooms. While subjecting artifacts to careful study does not necessarily

obviate the need to store them for future generations (and in some cases knowing what is in a
storeroom makes the decision to store or display an artifact even more complex), it does ensure that
artifacts could be moved into more compact and less accessible storage.
Convincing the senior members of the discipline to encourage junior scholars to study material
excavated years before deserves study before new material is excavated or collected is a difficult task.
It involves recognizing that earlier excavations even those conducted in unorthodox or less than
optimal ways produced information that is deserving of study even for faculty at elite universities
who have the resources to fund continued excavation. In fact, researchers at these universities must
take the lead.
2. Survey and Sampling. Its not just excavation that produces material exacerbating storage issues.
Intensive pedestrian survey has become even more intensive over the past decade and has tended
toward even more robust sampling methods. At the same time, intensive survey has two advantages.
First, our (and I consider myself a survey archaeologist first and foremost) collection strategies are
grounding in sampling. In other words, the quantity of material we produce whether for storage or
for study in the field, is dependent, in part, on the sampling strategies that we use. Excavators are
more or less stuck with whatever artifacts come our of trench. Once excavated, artifacts cannot be
either left in place or returned to their original archaeological context. In other words, the context of
these sherds has been irrevocably altered putting some pressure on the archaeologist to save as
much as possible to ensure that as much information could be recovered as possible from the
trench. In short, there is a greater ethical imperative to save artifacts from an excavation than from a
survey where artifacts left un-sampled remain in an archaeological context that existed prior to the
intervention of the archaeologist.
Second, several authors identified the possibility of returning artifacts to the field after study (socalled catch-and-release methods of artifact collection). Intensive survey has used these practices
for years and projects like the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey (EKAS) were able to
generate significant data from assemblages collected, analyzed, and left in the field with only a very
small subset of diagnostic material returned for long-term storage. Artifacts collected during
intensive survey are often very clean compared to excavated ceramics and, at the same time,
undiagnostic pottery from survey has less potential for analysis than undiagnostic pottery from
excavated contexts. Whereas the association between undiagnostic material (coarse ware sherds, for
example) and more diagnostic types of material from excavations can lead to our identification of
certain plain pottery types through their consistent association with stratigraphy and other artifacts,
the absence of stratigraphic control in intensive survey makes it nearly impossible to seriate and
identify undiagnostic material from surface contexts. As a result, undiagnostic pottery from surveys
tend to have less potential to generate future archaeological knowledge. So if in-field analysis of
pottery is combined with responsible sampling practices, we not only leave behind in the field an
assemblage that can be revisited by future archaeologists, but we also limit the quantity of material
entering long-term storage.
3. Remote Sensing and Low Impact Archaeology. Finally, the last forty years have seen a flourishing
of remote sensing and non-destructivey practices in archaeology. Projects that lack funding or
infrastructure for the sustainable storage of artifacts can nevertheless make an impact by using a
combination of surface survey and remote sensing. A shift within the discipline toward more
sustainable archaeological practices and away from the big dig model of field work has benefits
that go beyond just mitigating the storage crisis. First, as funding in the humanities becomes more

challenging to get, keep, and develop, remote sensing practices and small scale surveys offer ways to
collect meaningful assemblages of data without the added expense of physical expropriation,
conservation, curation, and storage. Moreover, remote sensing practices leverage technological
innovations that ally archaeology with their cousins in the STEM disciplines. Archaeology will never
be a STEM discipline (and keeping our feet set in the humanities has real value), but, at the same
time, encouraging more sustained interest in technologically mediated field practices allows the
discipline to draw on funding traditionally reserved for STEM programs. Finally, a greater
commitment to remote sensing allows for more targeted excavations when those kinds of
interventions are necessary. By limiting how much archaeologists need to expose to answer research
questions, we can limit the amount of material that enters into over-burdened storage networks.
It would be naive to suggest that intensive survey, remote sensing, and a renewed attention to
excavated but unstudied material will solve the storage problem. Salvage excavations, ongoing
excavations and surveys, and orphaned material will continue to tax existing storage infrastructures.
In a perfect world, the foreign universities that encouraged and supported excavation would step up
with funding to help ameliorate problems in host countries (as well as at home), but this kind of
responsible action seems beyond the scope of most institutions. At the same time, the discipline of
archaeology should be capable of responding to the challenges facing the practical realities of
producing disciplinary knowledge. This will involve a critical look at existing academic expectations
as well as support for new ways of producing archaeological knowledge.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

March 13, 2015
Its been unseasonably warm in North Dakotaland this week and so Ive managed actually to enjoy
the first few outdoor runs of the season. Not only do I feel slightly more fit, but my later afternoon
shuffles have given me plenty of time to reflect on my sabbatical year.
Such reflection was not particularly productive, so to prevent anyone else from wasting good
thinking time this weekend, I offer a little gaggle of quick hits and varia.

Lots of articles on the antiquities situation in Syria. I wonder how much of the recent
handwringing about antiquities reflects a sense of helplessness among the global middle class when
confronted with something as difficult to understand as ISIS (which is to take nothing away from
the genuineness of the sentiments expressed)?

Some dont feel that they deserve antiquities.

Others feel differently (scroll down to read James Cumos strange little letter to the New
York Times.)

Plundering by satellite.

Syrian efforts to save antiquities.

Racing to save antiquities.

The Archaeology of Salt.

A few thoughts from a fiction writer on Linear B names.

Do not carve your name on antiquities.

A crisis of archaeological storage is at hand.

Slow Reading.

Hoarded maps to the rescue!

The closing of Sweet Briar college is very sad for all involved. I did not realize that Ralph
Adams Cram designed many of the key buildings on campus. I wonder if the campus needs an
intensive pedestrian survey to document its material history before being transformed?

Some more media coverage of our work in the Bakken oil patch.

A predictable review of the NYTs profile of Kevin Carey and his book The End of College.

The highend headphone maker Audeze had its factory burgled.

What Im reading: a dissertation.

What Im listening to: Donald Byrd, Chant; Donald Byrd, At the Half Note Cafe.


I look so sad that I obviously deserve a treat, and

you can hardly tell that my cage door is open.

One long paw.


iPadless Archaeology
March 12, 2015
With this weeks introduction of the Apple Watch and the proliferation of wearable technologies
across the Android and Apple ecosystem, many archaeologists are celebrating the start of the
iPadless era. Archaeologists have long recognized the limitations of collecting survey and excavation
data in the field with an iPad, but the alternatives seemed either counterintuitive (for example, a
return to paper) or prohibitive (developing bespoke robots to conduct excavations). The greatest
difficulty being that the iPad was a completely separate piece of technology from the archaeologist
resulting in a series of movement and actions that were inefficient and emphasized the division
between the body of the archaeologist and the tools required to record archaeological interventions.
So, at the dawn of the iPadless age in archaeology, I offer a few observations.
1. The Fragile Tool. Any archaeologist who has used a portable, tablet computer in the field has had
the experience of dropping the device in a trench, feeling it slip from his or her hands into a roaring
rapid, or leaving it on the top of a field vehicle before leaving the field. The results of these events
almost always result in a destroyed device, the loss of data, and the reduction of the field teams
capacity to record information on a daily basis. Despite the more substantial form factor, iPads
proved susceptible to many of the same issues that plagued the use of notebooks or paper recording
forms. Because they were separable from the archaeologists body, they could easily be separated
resulting in the loss of data and equipment.
2. A Digital Tool in an Analogue Form. Imagine if the first iPod was the same size as a Sony
Walkman or a portable record playing device. The adoption of a familiar form may have overcome
some initial resistance to adoption, but ultimately limited the potential of the device. The standard
size of the iPad is essential similar to large-form paper notebook or a sheet of paper. This results in
the archaeologist engaging the device much like a piece of paper or notebook. It becomes a tablet on
which archaeologists inscribe observations, details, and images. In effect, the form of the iPad
reinforces that it is a replacement for paper, and accordingly it takes on very similar roles in an
archaeologists hands.
3. The Haptic Turn. Wearable technologies like the Apple Watch and Google Glass meld
technologies with the archaeologist bodies establishing a platform for archaeological recording that
does not involve the manipulation of a separate tool (whether it be a notebook, iPad, or, say, digital
camera). Not only is the movement necessary to engage with a camera or a tablet inefficient costing
a team hundreds, if not thousands of minutes over the course of a field project, but it divides the
task of excavating from the task of recording. As a result, data is lost in the movement from
excavating to recording because the goal of excavation (as we all know) is to collect data from the
excavation, not to collect data produced by the recording process. By dividing our work into
excavating and recording, we create an artificial barrier between our haptic experience as
archaeologists and the data we collect. As long as our recording methods are technologically and
physically separate from our work as excavators data will be lost in translation.
4. The Body. Apple Watch and Google Glass do not offer right now an immediate solution to the
translation of haptic encounters into data for analysis, but they do establish a platform as these
devices are aligned closely with the human body and have the ability to record what the body

encounters. For example, the Apple Watch has sensors designed to record movement as subtle as
changes in heartbeat in the wearer, and while it lacks its own GPS array, it communicates with a
phone or other device (securely tethered to an archaeologists body) to record the location of the
archaeologist. Combining location or position aware technologies and motion sensors, we are not
far from being able to recognize the difference between gentle troweling and going at a level of fill
with the big pick. If we introduce a device capable of capturing video at the eye level of the
archaeologist (like Google Glass), we may no longer need to separate the process of excavating from
that of recording. The very body of the archaeologist in all its subtlety and embodied knowledge
becomes a data collecting array.
5. The Cyborg. Wearables are the first step toward the creation of the archaeological cyborg in
which the biological advantages of the human body are seamlessly melded with the technology. The
excavation process and documentation processes will merge to ensure the collection of the mythical
pure data directly from the edge of the trowel, the archaeologists gaze, or the subtle movements
of the archaeologists body. The division between tools and the archaeologist will increasingly blur as
the goal of collecting every possible bit of data from the destructive process of excavation will be
within sight (and movement) of the field. The only limits, of course, is our ability to perceive the
data that our movements produce, but with technology will only enhance these things. Through ever
closer integration with technology, the archaeologist becomes an extension of the disciplinary
imperative to collect data.
As the destruction of antiquities and even ancient sites continues in the Middle East, archaeologists
feel increasingly pressure to ensure that every possible bit of data from a trench, survey, artifact, or
site is collected and preserved. While it might be impossible to protect every artifact (both ancient
and archaeological) during the excavation process, it is increasingly possible to gather incredibly high
resolution datasets that allow for the computer mediated reconstruction of archaeological reality.
Soon, the destruction of antiquities by such extreme groups as ISIS will be mourned no more than
corrupted sector on a hard drive completely backed up into the cloud.
The iPad, like the notebook or the paper form, was a momentary, if profoundly flawed, convenience
in the inexorable movement toward total data. The iPad era will be remembered with the same
affection that those misguided souls feel for paper notebooks, vacuum tube amplifiers, or fountain


Carl Blegen in the Warm Greek Sun

March 11, 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed the small volume titled Carl W. Blegen: Personal and Archaeological Narrative
edited by Jack Davis, Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan, and Vasiliki Florou and published by the Lockwood
The tone of the volume is pure American School. I mean that in a nice way. The contributions
which deal primarily with his professional life evoke sun-dabbled fall afternoons in the American
School saloni drinking tea and reminiscing over the great figures in the field of archaeology. There
was praise, some light-duty prosopography linking Blegen and friends to their equally distinguished
peers (and occasionally to students), some veiled references to Blegen household arrangements (and
equally broad assurances), and enough references to intrigue Blegenophiles and historians of
American archaeology alike.
Blegen, it would seem, was a genuinely nice person with only the barest suggestion that he could be
Minnesota-nice (a kind of deceptive niceness designed to move people along without unnecessary
conversation or disagreeableness). He was genuinely nice, generous with his time and knowledge,
and respectful to those who disagreed with him. For example, Blegen and Arthur Evans famously
disagreed on the origins and character of the Bronze Age civilization on mainland Greece. Evans
was convinced that Helladic civilization was an offshoot of the Minoans that he studied on Crete
whereas Blegen regarded mainland Greece during the Bronze Age as independent. Y. Galanakiss
and Y. Fappass contributions to the volume outline how despite the sometimes rancorous scholarly
debate, Evans and Blegen remains personally cordial. The correspondence between Blegen and his
close friend and collaborator Alan J. B. Wace showed just a touch of annoyance that they couldnt
bring the Evans around to their point of view.
The contributions from N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, R. Pounder, and E. French provide some insight into
Blegens personal and family life. Vogeikoff-Brogan offers what scant information is available about
Blegens family life prior to his career in archaeology. I was a bit surprised that the rather substantial
collection of material from Carls brother, Theodore, in both the University of Minnesota and the
Minnesota State Historical Society archives [update: Jack Davis just informed me that copies of the
outgoing correspondence from Carl to his family, including Theodore, in various Minnesota
archives were presented to the archive at the American School, so this was available for the authors
of the book.]. Id be curious to know whether some of these papers preserve correspondence
between Carl and his brother Theodore who became a prominent American historian and academic,
serving as president of the OAH and as the dean of the graduate school at the University of
Minnesota. (One wonders if he corresponded with Carl about his work to debunk the Kensington
Runestone toward the end of his life.)
R. Pounders contribution is perhaps the most intriguing articles in the collection. He examined the
rather unusual marriage of Carl and Elizabeth Blegen and Bert Hodge Hill and Ida Thallon Hill.
Elizabeth and Ida had an existing, intimate relationship and Blegen and Hill were close friends. The
four lived together in Athens as a quartet of presumably three intimate couples (Ida and Elizabeth,
Carl and Elizabeth, and Bert Hodge Hill and Ida). Equally intriguing was that both Carl and
Elizabeth become close to their teachers with Hill exerting an important and formative influence
over Blegens early career in Greece, and Ida being Elizabeths teacher at Vassar. In a world

increasingly concerned with both the structure of a proper marriage and the problems with
asymmetrical power relationships between students and faculty, Pounder presents the Blegens and
the Hills in a disarmingly innocent way.
E. French is the daughter of Blegens close friend and collaborator, Alan J.B. Wace, and offers some
personal memories of her encounters with Carl in their family home. Her contribution is one of the
few that capture some of Blegens puckish side as she described him and her father racing a train to
get the best hotel rooms at Mycenae ahead of some German colleagues. Apparently the Govs as
they affectionately called each other in their correspondence, were known for naughty boy
behavior as young archaeologists in Greece, but beyond the tale of their daring train chase, little of
that comes through in this volume.
This is a subtle book which I suspect was intentional. There is no indication that Blegen revealed
himself easily to the contributors choosing instead to allow his prodigious professional
accomplishments be his legacy. His humor comes across through calling Alan Wace, gov in his
correspondence, and his tendency to call academic works in progress a bilge. (One wonders how
many contemporary archaeologists would refer to their lifes work in such informal terms!). His
modern sensibilities come through in his unusual personal life and faint references to his interaction
with the famous Greek modernists collectively known as the Generation of the Thirties. It would
have been useful to understand how these interactions influenced Blegens own artistic sensibilities
including his literary output which he presented at the Literary Club in Cincinnati. Finally, I wish the
volume talked more about Blegens intellectual legacy through his students and colleagues. His life in
the field spanned such a crucial period for the development of Mediterranean archaeology that I
really wanted a more formal accounting of his intellectual, practical, and academic influences. But, in
the end, I suppose that many of these explicit statements of Blegens place in archaeological history
can be safely left understated much like the man himself.
One last thing, the color photo of Blegen by Manuel Litran on page 188 is remarkable. In particular,
it draws attention to Blegens eyes. There is something about the eyes of an archaeologist that
reflects the visuality of our field. Ive often thought that a photographic exhibit of archaeologists
eyes would be a compelling thing. This photo would certainly have an important place in that
collection, and that image as well as those painted throughout this book makes it a worthwhile
addition to any library.


A Weekend Walking and Talking Man Camps, Part 2

March 10, 2015
Yesterday, I summarized some of what I learned on my short research trip to the Bakken over the
weekend with the North Dakota Man Camp Project and to participate in the first Man Camp
Dialogue. In yesterdays post, I offered six observations, but only managed three of them before
straying into the tl;dr zone.
So here are the next three:
4. Toxic Tourism. Im getting increasingly interested in the idea of toxic tourism in the Bakken.
Toxic tourism originated with the environmentalism movement of the 1970s and developed forms
of tourism that emphasized tourism as a kind of activism by taking tourists to witness the human
toll of toxic environments. Toxic tourism has tended to reveal the uneven distribution of toxic waste
producers in the U.S. (and globally). They tend to cluster in and around economically disadvantaged,
minority, and marginalized communities which do not have the political standing to challenge
unscrupulous producers or the location and precautions associated with dangerous and toxic
For North Dakota, the stories of toxic conditions have tended to focus on the relationship between
oil producers and either the environment or pre-existing settlements in the Bakken counties. There
is certainly cause for concern as lax state and federal oversight has set the stage for what will almost
certainly be an environmental catastrophe on a regional scale. The dramatic views of large-scale
clean up work at various pipeline leaks

At the same time, there has been far less concern expressed publicly about the relationship between
environmental risks and the Bakken workforce (outside of justifiable concerns about injuries and
deaths associated with the difficult and dangerous work on oil rigs). In general, toxic tourism
demonstrates that proximity of toxic producers to homes and communities. In the Bakken, the
blurring of the line between domestic space and the space of work in the Bakken likely exposes
members of the workforce to toxic environments physically as well as socially as the well-maintained
distinction between the messy work necessary to make the modern world and the domestic enclave


Another aspect of toxic tourism in the Bakken is the legacy of earlier booms in the region. While we
have not done anything to systematically document the remains of earlier booms, this trip we
decided to stop and check out an abandoned well site Berge-FLB 24 which was spudded in 1981 and
is now plugged and inactive, but still stands just off US Route 85 in the Rawson oil field. Many of
the pumps and tanks from the 1980s oil boom have been removed for reuse or sold as scrap, but a
few still dot the landscape as haunting reminders of one potential future.


5. Man Camps and the Media. One of the boons of the Man Camp Dialogues has been a media
attention. We appeared on the front page of the Bismarck Tribune and in the Dickinson Press, on
several news broadcasts, and have continued to receive press inquiries. The genuine interest is
gratifying, but its been a bit of a challenge to explain to the media the scope and character of our
work. There seems to be a consistent interest in quantitative data: How many people live in
workforce housing? Has this increased or decreased?
These are legitimate questions, of course, and speak to both the concern for a workforce who is
often left to live in sub-standard conditions as well as an effort to find data that speaks to the
economy health of the oil patch and the North Dakota economy. Our work, however, focuses on
qualitative data which provides our project with a more complex narrative than the quantitative
arguments that the media expects. To be clear, this is not to suggest that quantitative data cant
reveal complex and nuanced stories, but the basic information that the media has tended to lead
with is not what our project has collected. In most cases, media members have been incredibly
patient with us and let us tell our story with all of its indeterminacy and ambiguity. For our part, we
keep trying to find new ways to explain what it is that were doing and what weve learned, and
keeping it focused enough to appear in a <1000 newspaper article or a <5 minute soundbite.

6. Man Camp Dialogues. Lately, Richard Rothaus and I have talked a bit about an archaeology of
care (listen to Richard muse about it in our podcast a couple of weeks ago). An archaeology of care
involves our being present and listening and observing which communicates to communities an
interest in their lives and their challenges and offers them a kind of affirmation that their experiences
are worthy of study and remembering.


Our engagement with members of the Killdeer community was particularly rewarding as the
community was willing to share their impressions of life as neighbors to workforce housing sites.
The most interesting comments involved dismay that some communities have resisted the
construction of workforce housing in their midst and genuine questions why this might be the case.
A few talked about the challenges faced at schools which have to constantly adapt to the ebb and
flow of students who follow their parents to the Bakken. Others offered some challenges to our
argument for the possibility of workforce housing sites becoming new, long-term settlements in the
Bakken observing that conditional zoning laws will make it difficult for these communities to persist
after the boom abates. The willingness of this community to discuss openly the opportunities and
challenges that they face during the Bakken Boom revealed a sensitive, intelligent, and sophisticated
approach to understanding the workforce housing situation. More than that, they ran strongly
counter to the oft-repeated stereotype of North Dakota communities being hostile, unwelcoming, or
even distrustful of the influx of outsiders arrived to work long hours in the oil patch.


A Weekend Walking and Talking Man Camps

March 9, 2015
I had an enormously rewarding and productive weekend walking around temporary workforce
housing sites in the Bakken oil patch this weekend and talking to residents of Dunn County in
Killdeer in the first our Man Camp Dialogues. As readers of the this blog know, Ive been
chomping at the bit to get out to the Bakken again this winter after oil prices began their slide in the
new year. A serious of complications prevented me from getting back out there until this past

I think I can summarize a good bit of my trip to the Bakken over six points. The first three, Ill offer
today and the last three, Ill offer up tomorrow:
1. Less Optimism. I traveled the man camps without our oral historian/ethnography Bret Weber
this weekend so I didnt do formal interviews (I do not have people skills, and Bret usually deals
with people so that the archaeologists dont have to.) But I did chat with folks as I wandered the
man camps, and the former optimism about the boom has certainly diminished some. A few folks
told me that they werent sure what the summer would be like, when production and construction
projects have traditionally increased, and others said, frankly, that there were planning to head home
and the boom was over. One guy even admitted to being trapped in the Bakken as his house was
rented out until the end of the summer and he could no longer get enough hours to earn enough
money to make it worth his while to stay in the Bakken.
2. More Development. For some reason this past visit to the Bakken, I was struck by the expansive
character of development in Watford City and the plans for growth in Killdeer. In our first trip out
to the patch, Bret and I mused about the two edge sword of the rapid development of permanent
housing in the Bakken. On the one hand, getting your workforce out of temporary housing increases
the chance that high-(economic)-value, community minded families stay in oil patch towns even
after the oil runs out. On the other hand, it puts long-standing and often-conservative communities
on the hook for costly expansions to local infrastructure. Its interesting to observe how quickly the
economic realities of the boom can change and how temporary workforce housing may still
represent the most dynamic and flexible way to keep pace with the challenges of the boom.

As we documented the abandonment of workforce housing sites, we recognized that ongoing

development complicated any simple understanding of settlement change in Bakken. We recognize
that some workers moved from temporary workforce housing sites to permanent apartments.
Moreover, the seasonal or even annual ebb and flow of the workforce meant that some more
temporary camps were below capacity.
3. Abandonment. I increasingly believe that any archaeologist who wants to really understand site
formation processes should spend a weekend in the Bakken with our team. Like geneticists who use
the short-lived fruit fly to explore mutation over numerous generations, informal workforce housing
sites provide remarkable case studies for exploring abandonment. This trip to the Bakken revealed
several phases on abandonment often occurring in rapid succession.
First, there were a number of abandoned RVs or trailers at these sites. Some of these units were
owned by companies that rented them to workers and are now left neglected as the demands for
temporary housing declined in the winter or with the dropping price of oil. Other units had their
occupants evicted or were simply abandoned in their lots with the previous residents forfeiting their
security deposit. Most of the abandoned units showed signs of rough use with damaged furnishings,
unspeakable toilets, and non-perishable foots stuff, pots and pans, and household trash strewn
about. Abandoned units are sometimes surrounded by broken objects, but also by objects that were
too large to easily remove like appliances, mudrooms, or outdoor furniture. In short, an abandoned
RV often shows signs of a move away from temporary housing entirely. Finally, there is often sign
of scavenging with valuable insulation pulled off abandoned units as well as parts of the RV itself.


Second, most RV parks remove abandoned RVs from their lots and dump them at the margins of
the park to make the lot available for the next resident. More frequently, it would appear, that
previous residents pulled their RVs out of their lots and moved on leaving behind various things.
The most common evidence for a recently departed RV is the tell-tale outline of insulation and
skirting left embedded in the ice around a unit. Extension cords buried in ice, sewage and water


hoses, and household trash strewn about typically indicates a recently departed unit. In some cases,
stack of insulation, shipping pallets, and other pieces of scrap, broken or difficult to recycle things
litter the ground. When considerable insulation is left behind, it suggest that the residents departed
the Bakken for warmer climes.


Third, in many of the better maintained RV parks, clean and tidy lots stood alongside abandoned
RVs and lots showing signs of recent abandonment. The objects left behind were either removed
from the RV park entirely, dumped around the edges for the part for reuse, or scavenged from the
site and reused. While I was documenting several abandoned trailers, a resident at the park was
collecting some material for shelves from a small pile scrap wood neatly stacked at the end of a
vacated lot. The same resident told me that he was going to stack some scavenged insulation and
plywood back on an existing pile of wood at another vacant lot so he didnt lose his deposit. Clearly,
abandonment practices demonstrate a number of strategies from the outwardly profligate
abandonment of an RV and its contents to the incredibly tactical practices of daily reuse.


More on my trip tomorrow!


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

March 6, 2015
It feels like a month since I offered some Friday Varia and Quick Hits! Im heading out to the
Bakken in a couple hours, but before I hit the road with a few CDs, my notebook, camera, and my
truck, I felt the inexorable draw of my laptop and the blog.
If you happen to be in Western North Dakota this weekend, be sure to check out the Man Camp
Dialogue event in Killdeer, Dunn County, North Dakota on Sunday from 1-3pm. Richard Rothaus
(NDUS and Caraheard podcast), Emily Guerin (Inside Energy), Aaron Barth (NDSU/Ft. Lincoln
Foundation), and Tom Isern (NDSU) will open a dialogue with the folks of Dunn County regarding
our research into workforce housing. Heres the link to more information.
For anyone not able to make it to Killdeer, but itching for more Richard and Bill, check out our
podcasts which are now live on the iTunes, on the Soundcloud, and include show notes posted here
and here.

WikiLeaks, Text, and Archaeology: The Case of the Schyen Incantation Bowls.

The media sometimes exaggerates archaeological discoveries. Im shocked.

Some more thoughts on how to prevent the looting of archaeological sites.

Crowd-sourcing 3D models of amphora from 2D illustrations.

On our podcast yesterday, we discussed a recent article in Atlantic Monthly called What
ISIS Really Wants. Heres a thoughtful response.

The Egyptian martyrs of Libya added to the Coptic Synaxarium.

The faltering fur trade of Kastoria.

Scrawled insults and epiphanies in marginal notes from Oxfords library.

Why the peer review process works, even if it doesnt.

Reasons not to visit Cyprus.

Millions of images from the worlds endangered archives.

This is what happens if you ask for corrections to a story that are designed to obfuscate the
real damage done by oil and gas producers in North Dakota.

Coding is not literacy.

That cool, but cut, solo by George Harrison from Here Comes the Sun.

Heres what nothing looks like.

The Tweet Deleters.

The Ghost in the MP3.

What if Wes Anderson directed the X-men.

What Im reading: P. C. Pezzullo, Toxic Tourism: Rhetorics of Pollution, Travel, and

Environmental Justice. University of Alabama Press 2007; Timothy J LeCain, Mass Destruction: The
Men and Giant Mines that Wired America and Scarred the Planet. Rutgers University Press 2009.

What Im listening to: Phosphorescent, Live at the Music Hall; The Wave Pictures, If You
Leave it Alone.


Susie told me that Im part wolf. Why are you saying otherwise?


Adventures in Podcasting 4: ISIS, Iconoclasm, and the Humanizing of Objects

March 5, 2015
Richard Rothaus and I once again ventured into the uncertain waters of podcasting. Content enough
with our efforts to discuss academia, our research, and our shared history, we decided to turn our
banter to more controversial topics.
So, this week, we discuss ISISs highly-publicized video showing their destruction of objects in the
Mosul museum. There has been some debate concerning the authenticity of these events and the
extent of the destruction, but they have nevertheless captured the attention of archaeologists and
antiquity lovers the world over.
Caraheard Season 1, Episode 4: Bill and Richard talk about ISIS and destroyed antiquities.
Of particular interest to us was how these videos pushed archaeologists to break out of our
scientistical mode of inquiry and actually express genuine emotional concern for these objects. The
ISIS destruction of these statues suggests that they saw these objects as potentially competing source
for authority, and this understanding of statues extends back at least to Late Antiquity where more
fanatical members of Christian communities defaced pagan statues (see below). Modern
archaeology, however, has tended to privilege a more dispassionate attitude toward objects. In fact,
it is only with the discovery and destruction of objects that archaeologists allowed to express
genuine compassion for the material evidence for the past. Outside of these circumstances, we
typically accept that even the most spectacular find is merely an arbitrary sample of an unknown
total number of objects, monuments, and sites. The ritualized destruction of objects by ISIS evoked
emotion (both the triumphant celebration of the destroyers and the anguished cries of the western
world) that trumped the scientific rituals associated with archaeological practice which work to
suppress emotional commitments to destructive practices of archaeology in much the same way that
the ritualized interaction between doctor and patient reinforces a kind of scientific objectivity.
Whats interesting to me (and not to speak for Richard here) is that recent work in archaeological
theory has made efforts to consider more critically the role of artifacts in the archaeological process.
Some scholars have advanced complex arguments arguing that objects have agency, require ethical
treatment, and provide the foundation for a more symmetrical archaeology. Witnessing ISIS
destruction of antiquities has provided an opportunity for even more conservative members of the
profession to humanize their objects of study as they abandoned their staunchly defended place
among the post-Enlightenment sciences and indulge in Romantic sentimentality. At the end of the
podcast Richard pushed me to consider the ultimate implications of an emotional investment in
these objects as he recounts the story of a young soldier from Minnesota who lost his life guarding a
museum in Iraq and the podcast concludes with Richards rather abrupt assessment of this. For him,
the agency of objects and their ethical treatment has very clear limits. Our hope is that our
discussion offers an provocative perspective to critically engage recent events!
Heres a link to the impressive joint statement by the AIA/ASOR/AAA/SAA/AAMD on ISIS and
heres a link to Wayne Sayles blog (for the post he took down, I can only provide a dramatic


I wont link to the video of ISIS destroying antiquities.

Heres a link to the Life of Porphyry of Gaza and Marinoss Life of Proclus.
Heres a link to the Atlantic Monthly story: What ISIS Wants, and heres a thoughtful response.
Heres a link to the The Egyptian martyrs of Libya added to the Coptic Synaxarium.
Here are some images from Richards book Corinth: First City of Greece (Brill 2000) which you can
purchase for the low, low price of $177.72.

Here are some resources regarding Pfc. Edward Herrgot.

Your Enthusiasm for Protecting Antiquities Cost Army Pfc. Edward J. Herrgott His Life
The full tale of Pfc. Herrgott, the first Minnesotan to die in the Iraq war (3 July 2003), is little
known. The news reports all read Herrgott, 20, of Shakopee, Minn., died July 3 when a sniper shot
him in the neck outside the National Museum in Baghdad. But here is a fuller account from our
fellow The Ohio State University Alum, Colonel Peter Mansoor:
Two days into my command, the Ready First Combat Team lost its third soldier since its arrival in
Baghdad and the first of my tenure. Private First Class Edward J. Herrgott was guarding the
Baghdad Museum when he was shot and killed by armed gunmen. I visited the location shortly after
his death and was shocked by what I discovered. The museum was not the one that contained the
ancient treasures of Iraq but was rather more akin to a wax museum for the enjoyment of locals and
tourists. The curator had removed all of the exhibits to a safe location to prevent their theft in the
aftermath of the war, but nevertheless CJTF-7 had ordered us to guard the place. The media frenzy
over the looting of the National Museum of Antiquities had provoked a knee-jerk reaction to guard
every place that could possibly be construed to have cultural value. The end result was that we were
guarding an empty structure, one made indefensible by the cavernous buildings that engulfed it on
both sides and parking garage several stories high across the street. The gunmen who killed Herrgott
had sneaked up a side alley and engaged him from the flank as he manned his position in the hatch
of a Bradley fighting vehicle.
I was determined to get my soldiers out of that death trap. . . .
Peter Mansoor, Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commanders War in Iraq. Yale University Press,

Note 1: Herrgotts Aunt is worth quoting: President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he
said, bring it on. They brought it on and now my nephew is dead.
Note 2: I didnt meet Col. Mansoor when we overlapped at the massive OSU. I met him while
working on a battlefield study of New Ulm, MN, his home town. If you dont think the world is
ruled by serendipity and The Ohio State University, you are mistaken. And we are fine with that.
Note 3: It looks like the Washington Post ran the Wax Museum Story on 8 July 2003, but Im not
100% sure.


The Man Camp Dialogues

March 4, 2015
Last year the inestimable Bret Weber and the local icon Tom Isern co-wrote a North Dakota
Humanities Council grant to support a series of conversations in communities across western North
Dakota about workforce housing.
The first stop will be Killdeer, ND where Ill be joined by Emily Guerin, Richard Rothaus, and Tom
Isern in our first Man Camp Dialogue. This is particularly fitting because Killdeer has had some
interesting press lately about their efforts to adapt to new housing needs.
Tom Isern and I were on Prairie Public Radios Main Street on Monday talking about our project.
If youre planning to attend the forum of want to read more about it, weve published a short study
guide which you can download here or purchase in paper here.
The good folks at the Dunn County Historical Society have also provided us with a great press
release which Ive included below:


Be part of the community conversation! Hear what your neighbors have to say!
March 2, 2015 (Killdeer, ND)The Dunn County Historical Society welcomes scholars from the
University of North Dakotas Man Camp Project to the High Plains Cultural Center in Killdeer on
Sunday, March 8, 1 3 p.m. Researchers will share findings from a two-year study on the temporary
housing systems that have sprung up throughout western North Dakota to shelter Oil Patch
workers. As part of the public forum, officially known as The Man Camp Dialogues, audience
members are invited to ask questions and share observations. Panelists include Project Research

Associate Dr. Richard M. Rothaus; Co-Primary Investigator William Caraher and Emily Guerin,
Inside Energys North Dakota reporter.
The North Dakota Man Camp Project has reached the point in development when it is ready to
engage in conversations to generate more questions and more insights, said Public Forum Project
Leader Tom Isern. We encourage the voices of those directly living the history of the Boom.
Everyone is welcome to contribute.
Man camp research shows similarities to towns and states historical agricultural and settlement
patterns Rothaus and Caraher have been touring man camps and documenting observations about
the camps environments. Some of their findings have been surprising, considering the often
underpopulated and underserved areas where the man camps are built.
Overall, they are pretty clean, said Rothaus. Not as clean as I would keep my yard, and there are
a few bad neighbors who are terrible slobs, but the camps are as clean as one can expect from
people working long hours with irregular services. The big camps, like Capital Lodge, are spotless.
Many man camps resemble other, if less temporary, communities in North Dakota. I think people
will be surprised to think about how temporary workforce housing sites are similar to small towns,
suburban subdivisions or even small cities that dot the landscape both here in North Dakota and
across the United States, said Caraher. The immediate impression of workforce housing might be
different, but once we peel back some stereotypes and look at what folks are really trying to do in
these settlements, well begin to see that things are more similar than different.
The Bakken Boom may encompass the largest and most dramatic industrial oil and gas activity that
many North Dakotans have witnessed and lived through. But, said researchers, crew camps have
always played a role in settling and developing the country, especially in the 19th-century American
The continued development of this practice into the 21st century is hardly surprising as remote
locations like the sparsely settled counties of western North Dakota continue to pose logistical and
economic challenges for resource extraction, said documents generated by The Man Camp Project.
Clustered outside or around the fringes of the longstanding towns in the area, the temporary
settlements represent the practical needs of an itinerant workforce.
Boom not easy for anyone; public forum welcomes all Bakken voices Although Caraher and
Rothaus are quick to say their research doesnt provide answers, one thing they found is certain:
Along with great prosperity and opportunity, the Bakken Boom has also created human hardship
and societal challenges.
We all are living in a world thrust upon us, said Rothaus. Residents have an oil boom to contend
with, whether they want it or not. Oil workers, driven by economic necessity, have descended upon
a place they didnt know existed and struggle with the boom as well. Opinions about the boom vary
widely, but what we do share is the life experience of crowded stores, high prices, traffic and lots
and lots of people coming and going. Few would choose to do it this way, but we are all here


Generating new avenues of research and helping people make informed decisions about the boom
in general and man camps specifically is the point of the March 8 public forum in Killdeer.
Our research was never meant to be the source of singular authority on workforce housing, but
part of the conversation, said Caraher. Wed like as many people in that conversation as possible!
Bill Flaget, president of the Dunn County Historical Society, agrees: This is an important
opportunity for Dunn County residents to learn about and comment on the effects that man camps
are having on their communities, he said. We are proud to work with the North Dakota
Humanities Council to bring this event to Dunn County.
This event is hosted by the Dunn County Historical Society and funded by the North Dakota
Humanities Council. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments served. To learn more: and


Mobilizing the Past Workshop Review, Part 2

March 3, 2015
Yesterday, I posted a review of the Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future Conference held last
weekend in Boston. This review focused on things that I really liked about the event. To be clear
and fair, the event was great, and it left me with tremendously positive feelings about the digital
future of our discipline. That being said, there remain opportunities for a more critical engagement
with the digital tools that we use.

In the second part of my two part review of the conference, I thought I would touch on some of my
key concerns as we continue to explore the potential of digital archaeology. Most of my critiques are
not focused on particular papers, but on the overall direction of digital archaeology as a form of
critical practice in the discipline. As they say, great conferences leave you with more questions than
answers, and I hope my comments below reflect this
1. Slow Archaeology. I tried to open a space for some critical engagement with my paper on Slow
Archaeology, but I fear that I mostly confused things. One benefit of having a blog is that I can
take a moment to clarify a few points. First, I was less concerned with the speed of archaeology than
my paper may have suggested. By invoking slow I attempting to shift the focus to the context of
archaeological practice and to interrogate the relationship between how we do things and why we do
things. So for me, slow meant critical practice which often, but not always takes more time.
Next, I tried to refer to the emphasis on the local in the slow movement. When we talk about slow
food, for example, were as likely to discuss the origins of the food as how long it takes to prepare it.
Slow food, despite its critical and practical limits, represents local cuisine, prepared with a sensitivity
to its economic, social, historical, and political context. By slow, I meant to shift our attention to the
entire processes of archaeology rather than just its convenience or efficiency. Finally, I made an
entirely unsuccessful effort to suggest that our investment in digital surrogates does have an effect
on the ancient objects that we study. To put it another way, we have opened a digital divide in our
discipline as we spend more and more time with digital objects standing in for physical objects and
2. Its a Mac World. It was pretty remarkable to see the preponderance of Apple gear at this
conference. IPads remain the preferred tablet in the field and FileMaker Pro seems to have ousted
Microsoft Access as the relational database of choice among archaeologys digital elite. This got me
thinking about how much the tools that we use and our relationship to particular manufacturers
shapes our approaches.


3. The Digital Divide. At the very end of the conversation several of us bantered a bit about the cost
of digital archaeology. One speaker suggested that digital tools should cost around 10% of the total
budget of a project; another suggested that if I project couldnt afford iPads, maybe they shouldnt
be excavating; and another person noted the trend of B.Y.O.T. (bring your own technology). I
recognized that it was the end of a long and intense day, but nothing revealed more about the role of
digital practices in archaeology than the very evident divide between projects who prioritize
investment and development of digital tools and those that do not. This seems to have manifest
itself not so much in the use of digital tools per se, but in whether we take the time to articulate the
significance of these tools in our archaeological workflow.
4. The Politics, Products, and Policies. I was a bit disappointed that there wasnt more discussion of
the rapidly evolving policies in host countries regarding the digital output of archaeological projects.
As several of our presenters pointed out, in passing, many indigenous communities, local
governments, and government agencies lack the infrastructure to access and manipulate the most
robust and complex archaeological datasets. Moreover, as digital surrogates of sites and objects
become more complex and precise (for lack of better terms), archaeologists are increasingly able to
take highly accurate copies of buildings and objects abroad for study in a way that they could never
manage with physical artifacts. I was curious to understand more about how these trends might
effect the politics of a archaeological work and our responsibilities to local communities, host
countries, and our discipline.
5. Context is Everything. I was really excited about the range of digital tools and practices on display
the conference. The best papers clearly demonstrated how digital practices solved particular
problems real problems that existed in traditional field practices. The most obvious problems
were the most simple: the fragility of paper documents, difficulties accessing dispersed character of
archaeological field archives, or inconsistencies of traditional data collection. Less obvious at the
conference were examples of digital tools solving the interpretive problems at the core of
archaeological practice. I found myself asking (in my own head mostly because people got pretty
sick of hearing me talk), how did these digital tools help you to understand the past better? Eric
Poehlers paper came close to this, for example, when he showed how a suite of digital tools
revealed the presence of a polygonal structure in the middle of Pompeiis famed Quadraporticus.
Many of the other papers, however, seem to have started with the less focused issue of whether it
was possible to do archaeology better. As I mentioned yesterday, I left the conference feeling like it
was possible to do archaeology differently, but without understanding the particularities of each
project, I struggled to understand how digital tool engoodened our field practice. Without taking
anything away from the fun and utility of experimenting and play in an archaeological context,
context remains everything even in the realm of digital solutions. Greater efficiency is not an
archaeological problem.
6. What is Data? This simple question led my back to work of the R.G. Collingwood. Whatever his
limitations are, he makes a simple point: for the historian and archaeologists, evidence (or data)
never exists on its own, but must be data or evidence for something. In Collingwoods mind,
evidence or data must provide a way to answers a question.
Now I recognize that archaeologists have an obligation to do more than dig a hole in whatever way
is most efficient in order to find an answer to a question. Much of the methodological turn in the
discipline has emphasized the need to answer questions responsibly and to strike the balance
between the destructive character of archaeological practice and the need to collect evidence for

particular questions. At times, however, archaeologists have confused the importance of data
collecting with the importance of question answering. If our goal as archaeologists is to collect all
possible information from a trench in the confidence that we can reconstruct the relationship
between all objects (natural and man made) displaced by our excavation, were bound to be
disappointed. In fact, Mediterranean survey archaeologists have long been accused of
Mediterranean Myopia in which the intensity of data collection impairs our ability to answer
questions on a regional scale.
I left the conference wondering whether the digital turn in Mediterranean archaeology could
continue to exaggerate these problems as improvements in efficiency and accuracy are relatively lowhanging fruit in comparison to difficult task of wresting meaning from the data collected. Our goal
as archaeologists is not to reconstruct the entire ancient world or even the processes that created an
archaeological deposit, but to answer particular and specific questions relevant to our modern
condition. Archaeological excavation is destructive and all recording practices fragment a unified
whole. Archaeologists reconstruct this fragmented whole not as it once was in the ground or in the
past, but as it has meaning to us as an answer to a particular question.


Mobilizing the Past Workshop Review, Part 1

March 2, 2015
This weekends Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology
conference was great in every way. It was well-organized, collegial, and very useful. Videos of the
various papers will be (or maybe are already) available on the web and I hope the organizers
consider some kind of publication of proceedings. Having been to several of these conferences over
the past few years, I feel confident in saying that this event reflected the coming of age of digital
archaeology. While it is probably too soon to call the all archaeology digital, the range of
presentations and tools on display essentially eliminated the possibility of a non-digital practices.

Since my notes and comments on the conference are pretty expansive, I think Ill break it into two
posts. The first group of observations today are the positive things that I learned at the conference.
The observations tomorrow will be a bit more probing and critical, but nevertheless a positive
outcome from the conference:
1. Collegiality. The level of collegiality at this event was remarkable. There was a genuine effort to
make the various projects, programs, and approaches presented talk to one another. Folks even
made a genuine effort to bring my (perhaps overstated) luddite critique into the fold and to engage
seriously the ideas and issues that I was attempting to explore. In fact, outbursts of apologizing
punctuated the event as scholars let their passion for various approaches and platforms slide toward
critique, but these apologies were never really necessary. It is clear that that an overwhelming sense
of respect and academic humility permeates the entire digital archaeology community.
2. Paper is technology. This was a key refrain that echoed through many of the papers. The
technology of paper notebooks and recording forms shaped the social structure of archaeology and
the structure of the information collected at trench side. Digital tools offer new models for both
archaeological organization and new methods of information collection. Our generation of
archaeologists will be the last to remember (or continue to use) paper to collect information in the
field at any significant scale and the kind of information that archaeologists collect, analyze, and
archive will start to diversify digitally mediated 3D models, video, mass photography, and
illustrations become the norm. John Wallrodts key note set the stage for this conversation and
presenters used it as a constant point of reference.
3. Archaeology and Design. Chris Motz presented one of my favorite papers at the conference. One
of the most obvious things that a guy like Motz brought to infield data recording was a sense of
design. His elegant forms on the iPad led the archaeologist through the process of constructing an
comprehensive and consistent infield dataset. For example, filling in the digital recording form


produced an illustration of the physical tag that the archaeologist would copy onto the paper tag
attached to the artifact bag. This simple tag design then continued through the entire digital
workflow integrating the digital and physical records of field work. Likewise, consistent icons,
colors, and other visual cues provide structure for the recording workflow and, presumably,
improved the efficiency by visually demonstrating the relationship between certain data sets.
4. Bringing Data in the Field. A few of the papers discussed the intriguing potential of bringing both
project data as well as secondary publications into the field. I could immediately appreciate the
advantage of having the full data set of a project in the field at our finger tips especially in dynamic
visual forms could provide field teams with valuable information that would lead to better decision
making. More than that, it offers the possibility of overlaying earlier views of the landscape, site, or
trench to complicate (in a productive way) what the archaeologists sees.
5. Publication Options. Presentation by Eric Kansa of Open Context, Michael Ashley of Mukurtu,
and Shawn Ross of FAIMS demonstrated the publication of archaeological data is keeping up with
our ability to generate it. FAIMS and Mukurtu, in particular, demonstrate how publication can exist
as part of the same workflow as data generation in the field. It seems clear to me that a major fork in
digital archaeology involves an integrated workflow from trench side to data publication within a
robust (and dynamic) application.
6. Bespoke. By the end of Saturday, the word bespoke was being used to describe both applications
and particular data structures made within those applications. The era of standardized data models is
well and truly over and digital archaeologists have come to recognize that no matter how similar two
data sets appear, comparing them in the most productive way remains a process best accomplished
within the infinitely flexible context of the human mind. What digital archaeology can do, however,
is to demonstrate relationship between data sets and assist in hypothesis building. The messy act of
comparison as a step toward understanding remains a human endeavor.
7. Data and Efficiency. It was unsurprising that so many projects discussed how digital tools
improved the accuracy and efficiency of data collection in the field. Indeed, some of the papers
presented some outstanding of examples of streamlined recording and John Wallrodts keynote
imagined a new, digitally mediate, structure of field work that would perhaps be more at home in
CRM environment than an academic project. Despite such assertions of efficiency and the commonsense appearance of improved workflow, there were almost no arguments that used evidence from
actual field practice to show how great an improvement digital archaeology actually managed.
Informal conversations at the event made clear that such data likely exists, but none of the
presenters deployed it during their at the conference.
More tomorrow as I need to scurry off and catch up on my day job


Adventures in Podcasting 3
February 26, 2015
Richard and I have released our third podcast this morning. If youve missed the first two go here
and enjoy and check out the show notes here.
This one was edited by Richard and is probably our best so far. We talk about abandonment in the
Bakken, the speed of modern society, and whether academia funding models can keep up with the
rapidly changing modern world.
Caraheard Season 1, Episode 3: Richard and Bill talk about Bakken abandonment and speed in
Richard also prepared extensive show notes:
Season 1, Episode 3 brings you:

A question from a listener! Richard talks more about how to document structures using HD

Man Camps are emptying? Is the boom over? (No). Is the bust here? (No). What do we
learn from the abandonment of some camps.

The Slow Movement

The North Dakota Quarterly! Subscribe!

How to be a capitalist spend all your extra money on chasing earthquakes or audiophilic

Just-in-Time Research and funding in slow-moving Academia.

Why are Universities so slow and risk adverse?

Faculty now have to work for a living this has changed things.

Richard says tenure is crippling, says age-discrimination may be real, and suggest faculty
may be bored (as the listeners may be with this section).

What does moving out mean in a Man Camp what did Richard see in his last visit?

How video can manipulate your opinion of Man Camps.

Interviewing Man Campers, finding the edge, and abusing graduate student Aaron Barth.

Man Camp Talk at Killdeer (not Dunn Center like we said): 8 March 2015, Killdeer, High
Plains Cultural Center

Richard tells an earthquake story.

The History of Presence, why we are welcomed when we pry into Man Campers lives and
how our Man Camp project (and similar projects) help people in unexpected ways.

For your viewing pleasure, here is some of the high definition video from the Fox Run RV
Park, Williston, N.D.: Fox Run High Def Video Transect
One benefit of viewing this in YouTube is you can enjoy the slider effect. Once the video has
loaded, you can drag the video backward-and-forward to find the structure you want to see.
YouTube, understandably gives you a low resolution preview as you slide. So download the actual
video file (compressed, so imagine higher resolution). If you load the file into your favorite media
player, you will notice you dont get a preview (or a good preview) as you slide back and forth. What


you need to use is a video editor to see the slide in all its glory. Windows users, get Window Movie
Maker. Mac users, find the equivalent.
An evocative and manipulative video of an abandoned trailer: ND ManCamp Winter
The Alec Soth video that defines your emotions with music and annoys Richard: Sweet Crude Man
from Little Brown Mushroom
An earthquake photo from Glck, Turkey


Finally, were thinking a bit about branding and now have a snazzy Caraheard website, and are
beginning to think about how best to disseminate these podcasts moving forward. Any opinions or
advice would be great!


More on Slow Archaeology

February 25, 2015
Over the past 12 months, Ive put together three papers on slow archaeology that a more ambitious
and organized scholar could envision on a nice article. Instead (or, more optimistically, in advance of
that work), Ill put them together here in one glorious blog post for your consideration.
The first paper was given around this time last year at the University of Massachusetts. This paper
mainly focused on archaeology as craft and the role that technology has played in deskilling certain
aspects of archaeological practice through the application of Taylorist principles.
Its titled Practice and Method in Creating 3D Models in Archaeology.
View this document on Scribd
The next version of the paper took on a more popular tone and reflected a return to some basic
scholarship in archaeology and developed the slow angle more specifically. This paper was published
in North Dakota Quarterly earlier this year. For an earlier and I think more substantial draft of this
article click here.
View this document on Scribd
Finally, I have finished a draft of my paper that Ill deliver over the weekend in Boston at the
Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future. The final program is available here, and it looks like a
fantastic event. Itll be live streamed starting Friday afternoon here. Its going to be particularly tricky
to both attend a plenary talk and a dinner while watching the Australia v. New Zealand World Cup
Cricket Match. It is possible that Steven Ellis and I will come down with some kind of strange 8hour flu.
If youre more of a reader than a watcher-of-live-streamer (or have other cricket-related issues) then
you can enjoy my paper below. This is the most mature version of my slow archaeology paper, and I
think that the three papers not only demonstrate my effort to wrap my head around the effects of
digital practice on our discipline, but also a kind of critical and productive luddism. Again, in the
hands of a more able scholar, I think these three papers would make a lovely article:
View this document on Scribd


Sabbaticals, Study Guides, and the Man Camp Dialogues

February 24, 2015
Im entering the last leg of my sabbatical and feeling pretty good about wrapping up the projects that
I had set out to accomplish. I will not have a completed manuscript documenting our excavations at
Pyla-Koutsopetria prepared by the end of the spring, but it will be far enough along to guide our
study season. I wont have submitted an article on the site of South Basilica at Polis-Chrysochous,
but that manuscript will be submitted this fall and will serve as a useful guide for this summers
study season on that project. With any luck (and a bit more collaboration from my colleagues) we
will have submitted the first major article from the North Dakota Man Camp Project to a top tier
This winter and spring, however, I have spent a good bit of my time working on my little press, and
a little time working on writing for a wider, public audience with my Tourist Guide to the Bakken
and my essay on Slow Archaeology for North Dakota Quarterly.
So last week, I wrote a humanities study guide for a series of public talks called the Man Camp
Dialogues. These are funded by the North Dakota Humanities Council. The first one is on March
8th in Killdeer, North Dakota at the High Plains Cultural Center. Some time today, our study guide
will be ready to circulate, and Ill put up a link as soon as its live. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, Ill share a little design study that I did for a cover. Another thing that Ive worked
on during my sabbatical is becoming more comfortable with Illustrator and more comfortable with
the mechanics and aestheticsof cover designs.


Heres the guide:

View this document on Scribd


Audiophiles, Sciences, and Democracy

February 23, 2015
Over the last few months, Ive begiun to wonder why audiophiles are so angry with each other and
why journalists, bloggers, and ordinary people seem to take so much pleasure in criticizing carefully
engineered gear, high resolution music formats, and other typical audiophile fare.
Just over the past few weeks, for example, I have read articles claiming that Neil Youngs overhyped
Pono is no better than an iPhone (echoed endlessly). Ive read Fred Kaplans courageous public
claim to being an audiophile on Slate attract some rather nasty comments (but do click through to
the story about the conflict between Michael Fremer and the Amazing Randi!). Ive seen one of my
favorite tech bloggers, a man with no audiophile interests at all, chime in on the longstanding debate
on whether 24 bit audio actually sounds better, and another get into some kind of crazy Twitter
flame war with the Wirecutter about headphone preferences (it all worked out). Ive even seen the
fine folks at Pitchfork chime in on whether high resolution audio is worth it, and witnessed endless
new fronts in the cable wars.
These are my thoughts on the issue:
Much of the recent interest in audiophiles stems from the attention garnered by Neil Youngs highresolution, crowd-funded audio player, the Pono. The anger and bombast leveled in many of these
conversations, however, stems from something deeper in American (and more broadly Western)
society: our ambivalent relationship with science.
Anyone who has watched the news, listened to the oldy timey radiophone, or read the interwebs
lately knows that many Americans look upon science and scientific authority with more than a
jaundiced eye. People have questioned the safety of vaccinations, the existence of man-made climate
change, the basis for evolution, and the universal applicability of the law of gravity.
The reasons are not complicated. Science and democracy have always had a strange relationship. On
the one hand, science has served as a leveling institution in society by demonstrating how all humans
function under the same set of limitations and rules. The universality of science has played no small
part in our view that all people are created equal. In fact, Enlightenment reasoning undermined the
authority of earlier political regimes that depended upon the idea that some folks were superior to
others on the basis of their birth.
At the same time, the role of science in leveling society has come at a cost. Those who understand
science have come to represent a key voice in maintaining equality in our communities. While
scientists and their supporters have stopped short of being philosopher kings, knowledge and
understanding of scientific truth is unevenly distributed, and those of us without the skills to
understand scientific arguments have to trust scientists when they tell us that the earth is getting
warmer, vaccinations are a good idea, and that we should never lick the seats in a New York City
subway. So science gives us a kind equality, to some extent, but the rules within which this functions
are not equally understood. Its a fraught predicament for a society like ours in the US where
everyones vote counts the same and most of us can run for office and participate in decision
making. It is hardly surprising that the tension between our (lets say) equal access to political power
(writ large) and the uneven distribution of scientific knowledge manifests as frustration and anger in

the media especially when were asked to make changes to our lifestyles to accommodate the newest
scientific finding. To put it personally, I want people to be REALLY sure about climate change
before I give up my Ford F-150.
Most of the time, those of us not steeped in the most recent scientific research have to make
decisions based on a certain amount of faith in the scientific processes. In a recent series of blog
posts (part 1, part 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, part 3, part 4) on expertise over at Parttime Audiophile, Scot Hull
ruminated on how difficult it was to understand expertise and to identify experts among audiophiles.
Hull finished his impressive series of essays with the conclusion that most audiophiles rely on
aesthetic judgements to declare a product good or bad. At the same time, he concedes that
there is a science to audio, and good and bad equipment does related to good or bad
engineering practices. And, often times, the good or bad engineering and good or bad scientific
measurements coincide with the aesthetic judgement of reviewers. This is not always the case, of
course. Poorly engineered gear is rather less likely to sound good than good sounding gear is to be a
paradigm of rigorous engineering.
The ambiguous reality at the intersection of measurement, engineering, and aesthetics is hardly
satisfying to those of us whose very concept of society is grounded in the authority of science to
help us make important social, political, and economic judgements. After all, how is it possible for
us to trust science in some vitally important areas of our life and ignore it in others?
The result of this kind of ambiguity is predictable. People get angry, and on the internet this anger
often quickly escalates to irrational fury. This is typically most visible among audiophiles when
debating high resolution audio, the value of cables or various room correcting devices. On the one
side of the conversation are those who often argue using engineering and science that high
resolution audio, $2000 speaker cables, or various acoustic gewgaws do nothing to improve our
sound quality and our listening experiences. On the other side of the debate, are people who insist
on the greatest high resolution standard, wire their systems with cables the size of my wrists, and can
understand (frankly) the latest digital room correction technologies. Both sides claim science
supports their perspectives and the other side is selling unscientific snake oil.
The arguments are generally dull. And, if these arguments remained confined to audiophile forums
and ended with both sides dismissing the other as fools, we might simply overlook them.
Recently, however, these arguments usually escalate to something more when the internal wrangling
of audiophiles becomes public fare. Audiophiles are attacked as arrogant elitists who lord their tastes
over the common man. It is not enough to attack their taste, however. For justice to prevail,
ordinary folks must demolish the foundation of their tastes and disclose that the emperor is, indeed,
naked. The goal of these attacks is to eliminate the basis for a perceived audiophile elitism and
return the listening world to a kind of equality where democratic opinions can thrive. No longer will
some arrogant audiophile lord the supposed superiority of his or her system over iPods, phones, or
other affordable media players. Taking down some audiophile conceit is a win for democracy!
Why are audiophiles, in particular, the object of such scorn? On the one hand, I have detected some
of the same anger directed against athletes who swear by gear, supplements, or training techniques
of dubious scientific value. On the other hand, we dont usually see folks arguing that their 1992
Honda Civic is every bit as good as a 2015 Ferrari FXX-K. I suspect the distain shown audiophiles,
in particular, comes from three things.

First off, audiophiles are a minority and have perpetuated a steep learning curve to participate in
audiophile conversations. As I have argued elsewhere, most of this the language used in the
audiophile media is specialized and as a result, exclusionary. Most people do not have access to
audiophile quality components: there are relatively few high-end audio stores in the U.S. and the
brands associated with the hobby are unfamiliar. Our encounter with the hobby and high-resolution
sound is typically through the media. In other words, for most of us, encountering high-end audio is
not a first hand experience (and this includes many audiophiles!), but encountered through other
folks descriptions of how gear sounds. Some audiophiles can compare these descriptions to their
own authentic experiences, but this requires that one has heard a good bit of gear and understands
the language used to describe various kinds of gear. As I have argued elsewhere, the language of the
audiophile media represents formidable barrier dividing the world into into those who get it an those
who dont.
Second, the defining quality of audiophile equipment is the experience that its provides. Since in
most communities, it remains challenging to find high end audiophile systems much less listen to
it over a sustained period of time people are fundamentally unfamiliar with the experience of high
performance audio. Of course, people are generally unfamiliar with the experience of high
performance cars as well, but cars and other luxury commodities that offer rarified experiences have
more accessible aesthetic qualities. Cars are highly visible design studies and a series of numbers
(quarter-mile times, 0-60 times, skid pad figures, or even lap times) represent more accessible
surrogates for automotive performance. So folks will argue over whether a Porsche or a Ferrari is a
better car, but they rarely argue about the fundamental validity of the criteria used to compare them.
They have different styles that might appeal to different tastes, but their performance figures can be
readily compared.
Finally, audiophile stereo equipment is not only discussed in exclusionary language and difficult to
access and experience (even through available surrogates) but it also tends to be expensive.
Audiophile gear smacks of economic elitism and nothing disrupts the placid life of contemporary
democracy like visible symbols of economic inequality.
This short column argued that some the anger present in audiophile forums derives from the
uneven distribution of scientific knowledge among audiophiles. Like the anger directed at folks who
who do not vaccinate, who deny climate change, who believe in so-called evolution, or who insist
the gravity does not effect them, most people lack the training in science and engineering to
challenge the scientific claims made by audiophiles and their opponents. This is profoundly
undemocratic. Its simply unfair that everyones opinion and methods for understanding the world
are not equally valid.
Anger toward audiophiles often comes from practices used by those in the hobby to distinguish
those inside the hobby from those outside the hobby. Particular language, access to the experience
of high end equipment, and, of course, economic privilege likewise appear to undermine the
universal experience of music.
So next time we read an irate comment on an audiophile blog or read about a scientistic A/B test
that proves your favorite cable, component, or format is really no better than than listening to the
neighbors internet radio through a closed window, take a moment to remember that most people
are not arguing about sound, engineering, or technologies. Theyre arguing for freedom.

What Cold Looks Like

February 22, 2015
This is what cold looks like. It was -25 when I took this photo.


Friday Varia and Quick Hits

February 20, 2015
This has been a complicated week here at Archaeology of the Mediterranean World Headquarters.
Ive been writing frantically, then watching the cricket world cup, and thinking about Sundays
Daytona 500, and keeping an Cyclone Marcia, while tending to a crazy yellow dog with an injured
tail. When you have a 2 year old yellow dog, it is impossible to limit his activity.
That all being said, I can see the faint light at the end of the tunnel and am looking forward to a trip
to Boston next week for the Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future workshop and catching up
with some friends. Now I just need to finish that paper
In the meantime, enjoy some varia and quick hits and hopes for a less eventful (but no less
entertaining weekend):

Anthony Kaldelis on how the Byzantines were Romans.

3D Athena Nike!

Photos from inside Tuts tomb.

The Domus Aurea reopens.

ISIS antiquities smugglers.

A tribute to Tony Wilkinson.

Read this on the situation in Greece.

Where are the women archaeologists?

The future of archaeology in a globalized world from Antiquity.

I am shocked that the Bible Lands Museum could be at the center of controversy.

The plight of Syrian refugees.

Open and Shut Data.

A long article on Apples Jony Ives.

Things like this inspire me to take drastic actions in my life.

On a similar note, Zane Lowe is leaving the BBC for Apple, which will not necessarily help
the situation noted here.

Photos from Restricted Areas.

Finding Vivian Maier.

Downsizing Capital Lodge in Tioga.

What Im reading: Timothy LeCain, Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines that
Wired America and Scarred the Planet. Rutgers University Press 2009.

What Im listening to: Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear; Phosphorescent, Live at
the Music Hall.


Is it playtime, NOW?

Whats up?


Speed and the Academy

February 19, 2015
This weeks Twitter query leading up to the next weeks Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future
conference is: what new technology are you hoping to experiment with in the upcoming field
season? You can reply to their query on Twitter using #mobilearc!
1. Time. Its not new technology, but as Ive thought more and more about my slow project, Ive
become increasingly interested in think about how to document the process of field work. I realize
that there are fine archaeological ethnographies already exist, and I have neither the time, training, or
interest to document every movement a field team makes as they document a survey unit. That
being said, I am curious where efficiencies our field work processes could occur and where it is in
our best interest to create incentives to slow down our field processes in the name of greater nuance
and analytical value. While I recognize that an approach that seeks to quantify the value of time and
efficiency during a field day or a field season evokes dreaded efficiency studies, I do wonder how
carefully we have considered how long it takes for a project or a site to negotiate the complexities of
an archaeological workflow.
Of course, I recognize that not all technological innovation in archaeology promises efficiencies.
Some technologies offer ways to collect data more accurately and consistently, whereas others
facilitate the presentation of data by producing easily interpreted images or tables. These types of
technology do not in themselves improve efficiency in the field or in the interpretation, but they
allow us to recognize archaeological patterns. What I want to understand is how an object, survey
unit, a stratigraphic unit, or a trench, makes its way from field observation to published analysis.
2. Bakken Research and the Speed of Academia. Ive been anxious since the work began to spread
that layoffs were hitting the Bakken. From the start, the North Dakota Man Camp Project has
looked ahead to documenting the abandonment of workforce housing in the Bakken counties. At
present, however, we dont have the funding necessary to complete a full field season. More than
that, its difficult to imagine how we could get the funding together necessary for more than short
term field trips. The funding cycles even at a relatively small university like UND tend to run over
the course of years rather than weeks or months.
More than that, the modern academic research is busy. We fill our schedule with conference, papers,
deadlines, and classes. Our institutions reward work that requires advanced planning and
commitment, so it is difficult to drop everything and race out west. In contrast, as the price of oil
drops, workforce in the Bakken is a liability for large multinational companies that rely on
maintaining profit margins to reward investors and remain competitive. For the workers, there is
little incentive to hang around North Dakota during the winter where life becomes more difficult
and the opportunities outside of extractive industries few and far between. Since many live in RVs
or pay high monthly rents rather than long term leases, staying on in the Bakken as hours and
opportunities decline has no appeal. The Bakken can ramp down in weeks, but its impossible for a
modern research project to ramp up over the same amount of time.
My colleague Richard Rothaus spent a day out west and checked on some of our long-term study
sites. He noted that some of the larger camps have significant vacancies and captured an evocative
video of an abandoned RV. He and I will talk at greater length about what he saw out west when we

record next weeks podcast on Saturday, and Ill finally make my way back to the Bakken the first
week of March with the hope that I can manage a couple of days of field work.
3. Slow. This past week, North Dakota Quarterly volume 80, number 2 came out. I co-edited this
volume with Rebecca Rozelle-Stone and its dedicated to exploring the slow movement. Ive posted
on this rather extensively over the past year or so, so I wont go into great detail, but there are
compelling essays on the slow teaching movement, the slow church, and ways to simplify life to gain
better focus on things that matter.

Id urge anyone who is interested to subscribe to the Quarterly here or drop me a line and Ill send
along my slow archaeology contribution.


Ruins and Memories

February 18, 2015
A few weeks ago I posted a short piece on Bjrnar Olsens and ra Ptursdttirs,Ruin Memories:
Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past. That was a warm up to a long book
review which I have now drafted.
It was a bit tricky to review an almost 500 page book with 25 contributors. And it was relatively
difficult to post this blog while being rammed by the Mighty Milo and his stuffed elephant. Finally,
have I mentioned that its cold here? Today its -17 F and falling (dont worry, its a dry cold and it
only feels like -33).
Somehow I managed, so here it is with complementary typos!
Review of Bjrnar Olsen; ra Ptursdttir, Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the
Archaeology of the Recent Past. Routledge 2014.
The last decade has seen a rise in the use of archaeology to interrogate the contemporary world. The
publication of Harrison and Schofields After Modernity in 2010 and the the awkwardly-titled
Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World in 2013 will likely mark
watersheds in applying archaeological methods to contemporary situations. The volume edited by
Olsen and Ptursdttir continues along these lines and offers much to consider even for
archaeologists focusing on eras more distant from our own.
Olsens and Ptursdttirs volume represents the outcome of a four-year Norwegian Research
Council grant titled Ruin Memories and focused on cultivating a cross-disciplinary dialogue on
modern ruins in heritage practices and scholarly discourse. The 25 papers divide into an introduction
and five sections: Things, Ethics, and Heritage; Material Memory; Ruins, Art, Attraction;
Abandonment; and Archaeologies of the Recent Past. As such, there is a slight bias toward recent
work in northern European countries, but none of the contributions to this volume are location
specific. The papers address issues of memory, material agency, modernity and ruins through
approaches ranging from the theoretically and conceptually challenging to the poetic and descriptive.
Much of theoretical work in this book continues recent work focused on a critical examination of
things and agency. Heideggers various considerations of things, particularly his well-known tool
analysis from Being and Time, informs the introduction as well as a Anderssons two contributions
and Ptursdttir reflections on abandonment. Intronas valuable essay, Ethics and Flesh does the
most to leverage the duality between tools present-at-hand and those ready-to-hand to provide
a way of understanding the absent presence of ruins, the agency of things, and the philosophical
foundations for a ethical and symmetrical archaeology. Heideggers recognition that things exist
outside of the human world is foundational to understanding agency in Bruno Latours actornetwork-theory. The myriad recent archaeological publications that have adopted versions of
Latours ideas to argue for the material agency of archaeological objects, and many of the
contributions to this book continue to expand and develop these ideas. The complex processes
involved in the decay of abandoned and ruined buildings offers a vivid way to consider the agency
of objects. Moreover, the discussions of agency and ethics in these conceptually demanding


contributions offer suitably complicated frameworks for understanding issues of preservation,

conservation, and heritage surrounding ruined monuments of the modern era.
More striking, if somehow less substantial contributions to this volume are those that approach
modern ruins through less conventional modes of archaeological description. A. Gonzalez-Ruibals
poetic engagement with archaeological and human remains from the Spanish Civil War was both
haunting and thought-provoking commemoration of events and individuals for whom politics has
overwritten their heroism. H.B. Bjercks archaeological investigation of his recently deceased fathers
things connected memory to objects in a viscerally engaging way. A. . Sigursson poems and N.
Elasson photographs offer a penetrating perspectives on abandoned farms on Iceland. E.
Andreassen and D. Bailey approach the activities of a modern Norwegian port and historical
memory in the Balkans respectively through visual media with almost no text. Bailey offers a series
of chapter headings (Chapter 1: Art, Chapter 2: Built Environment, Chapter 3: Mortuary
Records, et c.) with mixed media images that juxtapose archaeological tools particularly a Munsell
soil color chart with photos of modern and ancient artifacts, sites, and situations. Andreassens
work is less literal; it shows the closing of some kind of machine at the port of Trondheim in 8
photographs. While the goal of Andreassens work remains obscure, the efforts to approach the
archaeological discourse through poetry, reflection, and visual media even when less than successful
complements the probing tone of the book and the contemporary archaeology project. Applying
archaeological approaches to the contemporary world both demonstrates the limits of our
archaeological methods and conventions and presents new opportunities.
The remaining contributions to the book present more conventional approaches to the archaeology
of our recent past. Several papers treated the archaeology of the World War II: J. F. Jensen and T.
Krause documented the remains of German weather camps in Greenland; M. Persson presented the
work of her excavations at refugee camps in Sweden; G. Moshenska reflected on children and play
among boom site in World War II Britain; and B. Olsen and C. Wittmore detailed their excavations
at a POW camp in far north Norway. These contributions revealed that archaeological investigation
of sites and events can reveal omitted or occlude details even when documentary and ethnographic
evidence exists. The archaeology of modern urban spaces, Cold War installations, industrial ruins,
and contemporary conflict zones forges clear links between things, places, and memories. These
papers, however, neither appeal to a uniform social memory nor do they dictate a clear course of
action for a critical care of contemporary archaeological heritage.
For scholars more familiar with publications of old world sites and studies, the relative scarcity of
formal description, catalogues, and architectural and archaeological illustration common to
publications involving the archaeological of the contemporary world might appear surprising. Some
of this can be explained by the nature of the book which was intended to interrogate the confluence
of ruins and memories in the modern era rather than provide formal documentation for particular
modern sites. Nevertheless, only a few papers foregrounded the results of excavation with even
trench designations or photographs. Discussions of methodology, so common in archaeological
publications over the last four decades, were largely absent with the exception of T. Webmoors
discussion of the use of video to document an abandoned building on Stanfords campus. No
papers built interpretations upon quantitative or other data driven approaches or detailed the use of
scientific techniques in either the conservation or discovery of modern sites.
While it is always inadvisable to review a book based on what it lacks, this critique is perhaps
justified for a book that focuses so significantly on absences. The abandonment of techniques

associated with longstanding disciplinary practices as well as the New Archaeology in the 1970s
represents an effort to distinguish the tool used to document modernity from our deep disciplinary
commitments to archaeology as a modern discours