Archaeological futures, part II

At the end of my last blog post, I worried that my take had been too pessimistic and negative. The point of the symposium I’m speaking at isn’t only, I hope, to spread gloom and doom but to talk about the future of our discipline(s). To do that, I think some historical context is necessary. (I should note that I’ve been helped in my thinking by many friends on Facebook especially, including two friends who blogged about this: Bill Caraher and Jim Newhard. You should read their posts).

I don’t think that anyone can deny that the sophistication of archaeological methods has exploded in the past generation. As Adam Rabinowitz writes:

Two hundred and fifty years have passed since the excavations of the Quadriporticus at Pompeii (Poehler, Ch. 1.7). For 230 of those years, field documentation practices remained largely unchanged: archaeologists took notes using pen or pencil and paper, measured features with tapes and plumb-bobs, surveyed with transits and optical theodolites, and drew plans and sections by hand. Only one major technological advance took place during that time: the introduction of photography 60 years after the Quadriporticus excavations began, 190 years before the present. The dumpy level described in John Droop’s 1915 excavation manual (Droop 1915, 11–12) was still in use when I dug at Cosa in 1995, 80 years later.

That tallies with my experience. To run an excavation in the Mediterranean when I began, you basically just needed excavation tools, a total station, paper, screens, and a (film) camera. That’s oversimplifying somewhat, but none of the excavation projects that I was initially trained on in the mid-1990s had (if I remember correctly) a systematic program for water sieving or scientific methods like radiocarbon dating. In my area of Greek prehistory, at least, a whole set of methods have been introduced that have radically transformed the data that are collected as part of systematic excavation. Here are some of the ones that come immediately to mind, in no particular order: ceramic petrography/petrology, archaeobotany (via water sieving and phytoliths), various scientific dating methods (from dendrochronology to OSL), pollen coring, soil micromorphology, bioarchaeology, DNA studies, isotopic analysis of tooth enamel and bones, analysis of bone collagen, zooarchaeology, organic residue analysis, microwear analysis, trace element analyses (ICPS, ICP-MS, MC-ICP-MS, XRF, etc.) and isotopic analyses. (I’m sure that I’m missing a bunch, don’t yell at me). Of course, regional approaches to the archaeological record have also been radically affected by the developments in geophysics, geology, geomorphology, and soil science, remote sensing using aerial photography and satellite imagery, etc.

Some might object at this point that many of these techniques are more relevant to prehistory than to other kinds of archaeology, especially the archaeology of historical periods, but in fact many of them are being used by the Roman Peasant Project, which makes use of a variety of methods to get at the archaeology of Roman non-elites living in the countryside. This is really wonderful.

All these data are great, and they’re indispensable. Without them, I couldn’t teach the prehistory of the Aegean. This is a class that I taught just last year to a mix of undergraduates and graduates, and while all of the above didn’t make it into the lectures, readings, and class discussions, scientific and methodological advances take center stage at a number of the most important debates going on right now in Aegean prehistory. Archaeological science is not something “extra” to throw into the mix to make your project seem cutting edge; it’s absolutely central to modern archaeological practice.

There are a couple of important developments from this explosion in new methodologies, however.

First, it takes a village. Collaboration is more important than ever, because nobody has all the skills or knowledge to deal with all this material. This is great: it democratizes, one hopes, archaeological fieldwork, as the structural model of the archaeological project transitions away from a top-down “heroic” model in which the archaeological director closely controls the material and its interpretation to something akin to a seminar, populated not just with skeptical graduate students and real Mediterranean archaeologists but also a series of specialists. Old projects had architects, ceramicists, and maybe a numismatist; new projects have many more specialists than this. Because these specialists have rare skills and knowledge, they often are needed by the projects more than they need the projects: they are in constant demand.

Second, this stuff ain’t cheap. As Bill Caraher pointed out, there is a real danger that elite universities will be the only ones that can point their cash cannon at these projects, especially as public funding sources like the NSF are being eroded. Archaeological labs with high-tech equipment aren’t really a thing in Classics departments, in large part because Mediterranean nations don’t generally allow for the legal export of most archaeological materials (and for good reason!). But without them, training is made difficult. Again, the elite universities are well-placed to purchase the expensive equipment needed and often have historical collections of materials from the Mediterranean when export was allowed.

Third, this growth in increasingly indispensable technical and laboratory-based studies creates, as I wrote in my last blog post, “a growing chasm…between what makes good archaeology in the Mediterranean and how one gets a job in a Classics department.” New data, and new kinds of data, help us to answer research questions, old and new. But this interpretive firepower comes at a cost: training in the canonical skills of the discipline (i.e., philology, ancient history, art-historical analysis of material culture). If these specialists cannot get jobs in the academy, then Mediterranean archaeology risks falling further behind other archaeologies in its methodological, technical, and thereby interpretive, sophistication. As I mentioned last time, archaeologists need time to make their materials sing, so if Mediterranean projects just bring in specialists whose real interests lie elsewhere to do scientific analyses, interpretive sophistication will most certainly suffer.

I think that we can say that archaeology in the Mediterranean has come an awfully long way since the 1950s, from dumpy levels to phytoliths. Archaeology done now is vastly superior to what we were doing before, as a friend of mine always points out. That’s wonderful. But there is a real danger that we won’t follow up on these advances with changes to the structures of our disciplines, that folks with the languages peddling synthetic accounts that are more easily digestible to ancient historians and literary folks (that’s me I’m describing) will get jobs while the folks doing cutting-edge work will struggle, especially in a job market that’s been battered by the financial crisis and a shift away from humanistic disciplines. That’s not so wonderful.



Thinking archaeological futures

In just over three weeks, I’m giving a paper at a one-day symposium at Smith College entitled “The Futures of Classical Antiquity” (link). I’m the lone archaeologist: the other speakers are dealing with digital approaches to texts, public humanities, reception studies, and race & ethnicity. I’ve thought very informally about the kinds of things that I want to say but I need to start disciplining my unconnected thoughts into something more coherent, especially since I only have 40 minutes. This is all still very rough indeed, and more of a rant than a talk, but here are some things that I’ve been worried about:

(1) In some ways, archaeology and classics are closer now than they have been in recent years. When Classics focused on the individual genius of individuals like Euripides and Horace, then the contribution of archaeology was pretty marginal. Archaeologists and art historians could, of course, come up with their own geniuses like the Berlin Painter, but whether or not there was a Berlin Painter had very little bearing on the study of Euripides. The other move was to use archaeology to illustrate the world of the texts. But now most literary scholars would be much happier to understand the texts that we have as the complex products of various socioeconomic forces. The example I often use is Homer and hero cult. It was natural for Coldstream in 1976 (link) to understand tomb cult as the product of Homeric epic. As he put it (1976, 14), for 8th century Greeks “the great size of a Mycenaean tomb, and the richness of the offerings, would fill him with superstitious awe; so he would leave some offerings as a mark of respect, after his imagination had been stirred by the first Panhellenic circulation of Homeric epic.” Now virtually nobody would make such a claim, that Homeric epic engendered hero cult, but rather the opposite: that hero cult engendered Homeric epic, or rather that both are reflexes of deep currents running through Archaic Greece. This means that in one way archaeology is more relevant to literary and historical research than ever.

(2) In other ways, archaeology and classics are miles apart, for a variety of reasons, but chiefly, it seems to me, the very rapid proliferation of evidence, scholarship, and methods. This avalanche gives archaeology extraordinary power – it means, among other things, that archaeological research is rapidly expanding our understanding of the ancient world on an incredible number of fronts – but it also presents a series of challenges to the 21st century archaeologist. It is simply no longer possible, if it ever was, for archaeologists now to control the vast quantities of materials being published every year. Even an Aegean prehistorian can’t keep up with the incredible quantities being produced in her sub-subfield. And, although the scholarship is naturally of variable quality, it can’t be said that diminishing results are reached very quickly. In ancient history, as Robin Osborne has put it (link):

“X” years ago, the bibliography on any sort of ancient historical subject was perfectly cope-able with, and although the law of declining returns set in, it set in quite far down the (as it were) percentage of literature on the subject, so you read 50% of the literature on the subject and after that you discovered that… there was very little in the rest. Now, on most mainstream subjects the literature on the subject published last year is hard enough to get through, let alone the total body of literature, and the law of declining returns sets in after about, you know, 3% of the items… [laughter in the audience]

In archaeology, on the other hand, most publications aren’t dealing with the same evidence, but rather with new evidence applied to new problems. Archaeological projects now produce an enormous quantity of data, and they produce data of widely varying kinds. One of the great changes in archaeological practice in the past 50 years is the emergence of specialist and scientific analyses of material. If radiocarbon engendered a revolution (link), that was only the first of many that swept through archaeological practice. Most recently, what we might call “digital methods” have become increasingly important, from photogrammetry and remote sensing to things like GIS and databases. I’ve been critical of what seems to me to be a kind of naive faith among some archaeologists in how these technologies operate and help us, but there is absolutely no doubt that virtually all of us are now “digital archaeologists.” These are not skills that are marginal to archaeological practice: they are absolutely central to them. The data avalanche is not cope-able with without digital technologies.

(3) Like all scholars, however, archaeologists need time to learn their materials in such a way that they can work creatively with them to solve problems. My spouse looked 4.5 metric tons of Hellenistic pottery for her dissertation, for example. I spent an awful lot of time puzzling over each and every single personal name from the Linear B tablets from Pylos and all of the texts that the names appeared on (which is pretty much all of them). That work takes time; all of the databases and statistical packages and data visualization programs in the world, assuming that we’ve sufficiently mastered them (in all our free time?!?), they don’t give us any real shortcuts when it comes to interpretation. The proliferation of evidence coupled with this need to master it to achieve real interpretive results means that archaeological interpretation has become increasingly independent from “the Classics” as traditionally understood.

(4) Our graduate programs, undergraduate programs, and hiring practices largely do not acknowledge this reality. What counts most in Classics is knowing ancient Greek and Latin. What this means, in practice, and what I have told students, is: you need to be as good as the rest in the languages, and do whatever else you need on top of that, in the summer and in your spare time. I “learned” GIS not in any classroom – I’ve never taken a single class in GIS, although I’ve taught them – but in the field, on EKAS (the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey [link]). I read a lot of archaeological theory on weekends in graduate school, in anthropology courses that I audited, and in the field; for example, I read Ed Soja’s Postmodern geographies (link) on EKAS in the summer of 2001 (don’t ask me how). There is thus a growing chasm, it seems to me, between what makes good archaeology in the Mediterranean and how one gets a job in a Classics department. A good friend of mine even admitted that they included a chapter in their dissertation about a literary text not because it was intellectually necessary but so that they could get a job. They did. (Yes, I used singular they: deal with it). This is clearly unsatisfactory, since it means that there is a mismatch between how archaeology moves forward and professional incentives.

This has been a pessimistic take on archaeological futures, and that’s not the message I want to take to this symposium, so I’ll have to think of ways to incorporate this material into a more optimistic message about where archaeology in the Mediterranean is headed.

“Data” and interpretation in the humanities

Last night Miriam Posner gave an interesting talk in the “Exploring Digital Humanities” series at the University of Colorado Boulder that explored the unease that humanists often feel when their materials are described and treated as “data.” The creation of data requires careful categorization so that the materials in question can be counted and queried, but really good scholarship in the humanities, she pointed out, seeks to break received categories. Certainly this has been how I’ve understood my own work – as a sustained attack on the binaries that structure the study of the Bronze Age – but I nevertheless found that I didn’t have as much of a problem with understanding my materials as “data” than many in the audience seemed to.

Maybe this is because I’m not much of a humanist – my theoretical inclinations have always tilted towards the social sciences -, maybe it’s because I’m an archaeologist and archaeologists seem to be more comfortable with the notion of “data,” especially as field teams have grown in size and the number of specialists required to run an archaeological project has increased. These specialists and team members produce interpretations and materials that need to speak to one another, and here digital tools are invaluable (as many of the contributions to the excellent Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future emphasize).

Prof. Posner’s talk began (sort of, I was late since I came straight from class) with the Culturomics paper in Science, published in 2011 (which, I am embarrassed to admit, I had never heard of), and she focused on what I might call the “front end” of a digital humanities project: taking the mass of cultural materials and making them amenable to the structure of a database. What I found more objectionable about Culturomics, on the other hand, was the “back end”: the interpretations produced by Culturomics’ quantitative analysis. That is to say, once the data have been carefully cooked (since we all know that raw data do not exist) and analyzed, there is a tendency for the interpretation to follow simply and directly from whatever numbers are spit out. For instance, the conclusion drawn from these data


is that “in the battle of the sexes, the ‘women’ are gaining ground on the ‘men’.” Is this meant to be serious? It’s certainly presented as such but it’s hard to believe that anyone would say this with a straight face about “a new type of evidence in the humanities.”

For me, this is a good illustration of the worst kind of research (in the humanities or not). Good research requires time, careful thought, and most of all, a real and sustained passion for materials (or data, or evidence, or whatever you want to call them). We need to spend thousands of hours with our materials before we can make them sing, just like a musician or an athlete needs to practice and practice and practice. In that way academic work is like a craft: ideas are well and good, but we need to work with materials and follow many dead ends before we can make our ideas do work. Any research that involves taking 5 to 50 seconds to come up with an interpretation is (usually? always?) bad research. (Also, where’s the fun in coming up with a dumb interpretation that didn’t take you any hard work?)

For reasons that I don’t really understand, it seems to me that there is a market for this kind of work (regardless of whether it’s digital or analog). In Greek archaeology, my field, the equivalent seems to be something like, “Look, I excavated this temple, and I think it’s this temple mentioned in this Classical text. The end.” That’s fine as far as it goes – it’s not the worst thing to try to connect material culture to texts – but it’s not really a conclusion as much as it is a banal observation. And it seems odd to me that so many people seem to want to take shortcuts, to make interpretation easier, when in fact it should be hard. Digital tools give us the opportunity to make sense of more and diverse materials, to integrate them and to let them communicate – but none of that makes interpretation any easier. In fact, it can make it harder: harder, for example, to ignore evidence that doesn’t agree with our interpretation. And that’s good. It’s supposed to be hard.



“They walk”

In my last blog post, I argued that our faith in technology in archaeology was – or could be – a problem, since there was no magical technological bullet that could solve our interpretive dilemmas. That was a reaction to the excessive (to my mind) criticism of GIS that I’ve seen in archaeological literature.

The flip side to this problem would be the overstating of the value of new technologies. Here too, I think that the same article by Elaine Sullivan provides an example of what I’m talking about. In what is a balanced and nuanced discussion, Sullivan claims that

by utilizing a 4D model of a site incorporating architecture and environmental factors not present todaya new form of phenomenological study can be attempted. The 3D Saqqara model allows the researcher to simulate human viewpoints within the cemetery, examining how specific visual and spatial relationships between people and monuments impacted the meaning of that place.
That seemed to me like quite a strong claim. What Sullivan actually concludes from her use of the 4D model is the following:
It is only with the advent of Dynasty 3 and the construction of the step pyramid at
Saqqara that there is a clear shift in conceptualization of the landscape. Netjerykhet (Djoser) and his successors conceived of a new form of primeval mound, the pyramid, intended to be witnessed from the floodplain. This is a stark break with tradition and leads directly to a new type of royal engagement with the Memphite landscape; one where the burial mound of the king now permanently dominates. It is at this point that the kings of the unified Egyptian state begin to monopolize visible space as a means to materially express their growing individual power and authority.
This is a useful conclusion, no doubt, and one aided by the use of this new technology, but it’s not what I think of as a phenomenological study of the meaning of place. What I had expected was something like the kind of contrast drawn by Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life in the chapter “Walking in the City,” where he contrasts the panoptic view of New York City from the World Trade Center to the experience of walking the city’s streets:
The ordinary practitions of the city live “down below,” below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk–an elementary form this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmänner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban “text” they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other’s arms. The paths that correspond in this intertwining, unrecognized poems in which each body is an element signed by many others, elude legibility.

And so on. That is to say, the experience of place and of moving through a landscape, urban or not, is profoundly physical.

I started thinking about this issue some more after reading over the break a wonderful book by Shannon Lee Dawdy, Patina: A Profane Archaeology (University of Chicago Press, 2016). Among other things, Patina made me want to get to know New Orleans better. It evokes New Orleans not so much through visual descriptions and representations of buildings, but through a thick description of the feel of the city and its many parts, the patinated aesthetic that suffuses the city.

But what about non-urban landscapes? Certainly three years of fieldwork in the Western Argolid have encouraged me to understand that particular landscape from the perspective of a walker. I’m constantly noting what can and can’t be seen from different places, especially famous and conspicuous sites like the castle of the Larissa that hangs above Argos or the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae. But I wouldn’t say that my experience of place in the Western Argolid is primarily a function of vision. On our project’s blog, we talk about what we can see, but also about bodily and haptic experiences: the feel of the wetness on (and in) our boots from an overnight rain that’s still adhering to grass in agricultural fields that haven’t been recently plowed, the difficulty of walking through prickly oak and dried-out wild sage and thistles, the ache of knees and ankles and feet at the top of a slope covered with cobbles, the heat of the Greek summer, the impossible-to-photograph glow of olive trees in the afternoon light, the trauma of cutting up your leg badly and getting fleas in a single field day, the sounds of the landscape (church bells and tractors and human voices), our allergies, spiders (of course), and the feel of different types of fields under your boots. And that’s just the beginning: there’s the wonderful pleasure of a breeze kicking up on a hot afternoon, the sound of the tall trees rustling just before the wind hits your skin, and the way the leaves of the olives trees glint and change their color as they turn from side to side in the air. And there are all of the other things that give us a sense of place, too: the field where a kind farmer made us cold(-ish) instant coffees, the dirt road where you got laughed at (with literally knee-slapping) by an old shepherd when you told him how you got fleas, the bit of shade where you once had a great rest and ate sweet Oreos and salty potato chips (as the archaeology gods intended).

That is to say, there is no sense of space or place without movement, without experience, and without interaction. Certainly tools like 4D GIS can force us to reorient ourselves to that scale and perspective of that experience and they can act as a kind of substitute for it. They can, as Sullivan’s article makes clear, provoke new perspectives. As she puts it:
these 3D environments allow modern viewers to experience elements of each lost landscape, seeing what an ancient person potentially saw, virtually moving at human eye level through and around a place, providing a perspective unattainable through 2D media. Again, this can never be a full recovery project, only a partial remediation of disappeared spaces. But it is through this more human-centred representation that we can find fresh perspectives, ‘the point of view that allows us to discern patterns among the events that have occurred.’
While 4D GIS is undoubtedly useful, then, it is still a very, very poor substitute for experience. In fact, I would hesitate to use the word “experience” at all. What kind of experience is it, really? Not one that fully engages any of the senses other than perhaps sight, not one with risk or feeling or emotion, or one that will make memories. I wonder if these attempts to simulate experience can actually make things more difficult for us, by allowing us to pretend that we are getting closer to something human while in fact we are inching away from it, by confusing technical sophistication with embodied experience.

There is no magic bullet

The most recent issue of the Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies has a great little cluster of three articles about digital approaches to the Mediterranean world that I read over the last couple of days with great interest. I was particularly interested in Elaine Sullivan’s advocacy for 4D GIS visualizations, which, she argues, “afford new potential for the examination of now-altered ancient landscapes from a human viewpoint, specifically for exploring aspects of experience that changed through time and space” (71).

I don’t know nearly enough about Egyptian archaeology to evaluate Sullivan’s paper as a contribution to that field; I’m more interested in her contention that certain technologies (specifically 4D GIS) are better positioned to contribute to (in her terms) humanistic and qualitative analyses of the ancient world than others (specifically traditional 2D GIS). Sullivan’s rhetoric is measured and her discussion is thoughtful. I do worry a little bit about the idea that certain technologies in and of themselves are good for one thing and not for another, at least as it is usually expressed, since it seems to me overly simplistic.

Let me explain. Sullivan begins her discussion with an exposition of the limitations of traditional, two-dimensional GIS. It’s a criticism that all archaeologists (I presume) know well, since it’s been out there since the late 1990s. As Sullivan explains,

With its powerful aggregation and layering tools, GIS offers numerous avenues to approach ancient landscapes quantitatively. However, the limitations of GIS systems have led to serious critiques that question its larger potential for archaeology. In the 1980s and 1990s, post-processual archaeologists rejected GIS as reductionist, positivistic, and lacking engagement with cultural and social factors. Landscape was theorized as more complex than an environmental stage onto which human actors were dropped – and the human-environmental relationship was redefined as dialectic. Archaeologists investigating how embodied humans would have experienced and interpreted specific cultural places still in many cases see GIS as antithetical to exploring this relationship, creating false objectivity in what were subjective spaces. Current theorists emphasize that landscape studies must include the ‘material, cognitive and symbolic’ aspects of this dialectic.

Indeed, traditional GIS lacks many features providing the type of contextual information vital to approaching humanistic research questions. The platform works primarily in a two-dimensional coordinate system, which lacks the qualitative aspects that reflect the inhabited human world. People do not engage with the world from an overhead, omniscient viewpoint, but from the perspective of a single viewer. Cartesian space does not replicate human sense of scale, physical relationships between people and things, or aspects of ‘local distinctiveness’ that create cultural meaning in specific places. Also, human movement through space and the changing perception of spaces through time cannot be duplicated in traditional GIS. As one leading scholar in the field succinctly stated: ‘GIS are currently ill-equipped to deal with space as it surrounds an individual.’

I’ve always found this criticism of GIS a little bit – okay, a lot – misplaced. Sure, GIS represents the world in particular ways that do not correspond to the ways that humans experience the world, but that’s hardly surprising. GIS doesn’t even represent the surface of the earth accurately, after all, since it’s constrained by the limitations of cartography. It’s essentially a mapping program (at least as it’s used by archaeologists), and I don’t think that anyone worries that maps are too positivistic; they’re ways of displaying simply a complex reality. Certainly there is a problem if one thinks that GIS represents reality unproblematically, but does any normal person actually think this? If we get a sense of false objectivity from GIS, it is because we are not doing enough thinking.

Moreover, if we’re going to wring our hands about GIS, then it seems to me that we need to wring our hands about everything else. We have to worry about maps of all kinds, representations of all kinds, rulers and compasses, survey tapes and GPS units. This criticism of GIS feels a little bit to me like the lack of recognition that there is a difference between a model of reality and reality.


Or, put more famously, “all models are wrong, but some are useful.”

So sure, it’s true that human beings do not live in a digital panopticon, but none of the tools at our disposal for the study of the ancient world really capture the lived lives of ancient people. Maybe 1% of all ancients could read and write but we don’t seem to be too concerned that our primary mode of communicating is the academic text.

I never really understood why GIS was the target of this post-processual assault (I say this as someone who uses GIS quite a bit and whose theoretical framework is essentially post-processual). The only thing that I can think of is that the problem is the faith that many practitioners have in their tools. If you think that there is a technological magic bullet, then any technology that falls short is a false idol that must be denounced.

That seems like exactly the wrong approach to me. This isn’t me picking on Sullivan; she’s really using this pre-existing critical discourse about traditional GIS to pivot towards her discussion of 4D GIS. But her treatment of 4D GIS is balanced; she doesn’t claim that it will solve all of our problems, merely that it is a useful tool. (I have more to say about that, but I think in another blog post).

Ultimately it’s our faith in various technologies that is at fault here more than anything else. We need to remember that no technology will (on its own) allow us to really understand the lived experiences of anyone. If we aren’t mindful of this fact, we’ll just end up jumping from bandwagon technology to bandwagon technology.


Kriging the artifact densities from the Western Argolid Regional Project.


New Year’s resolutions

This past semester has been a transition. I started a new job at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Classics department. I acted (and am acting until the end of the academic year) as director of graduate studies, I taught a new and challenging class (even if it involved very familiar material), and got used to operating in a new administrative and educational environment. My family also had health problems that made it hard to think about much besides keeping ourselves alive and our heads above water.

My New Year’s resolution, then, is get back to basics: to read more and to write more. Research involves writing, and I need to practice my craft in different forms: short and long, formal and informal, online and offline. I also need to get to reading. Despite coming off of a sabbatical, I feel impossibly behind in all of my reading. Here’s what’s on my reading list, in no particular order:

  1. Shannon Lee Dawdy, Patina: A Profane Archaeology (Chicago 2016)
  2. Daniel Jew, Robin Osborne and Michael Scott (eds.), M.I. Finley: An Ancient Historian and his Impact (Cambridge 2016)
  3. Brian Epstein, The Ant Trap: Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences (Oxford 2015)
  4. Erin Walcek Averett, Jody Michael Gordon, and Derek B. Counts (eds.), Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archaeology (Grand Forks 2016)
  5. Maurizio del Freo and Massimo Perna (eds.), Manuale di epigrafia micenea: Introduzione allo studio dei testi in lineare B, 2 vols. (Padova 2016)
  6. Mario Liverani, Imagining Babylon: The Modern Story of an Ancient City (Berlin 2016) 
  7. Eva Von Dassow, State and Society in the Late Bronze Age: Alalah Under the Mitanni Empire (Bethesda 2008)
  8. Bruce Routledge, Archaeology and State Theory: Subjects and Objects of Power (London 2014)
  9. Margaretha Kramer-Hajos, Mycenaean Greece and the Aegean World: Palace and Province in the Late Bronze Age (Cambridge 2016)
  10. Justin Jennings, Killing Civilization: A Reassessment of Early Urbanism and Its Consequences (Albuquerque 2016)
  11. Nicholas Postgate, Bronze Age Bureaucracy: Writing and the Practice of Government in Assyria (Cambridge 2014)
  12. Evi Gorogianni, Peter Pavuk, and Luca Girella (eds.)., Beyond Thalassocracies: Understanding Processes of Minoanisation and Mycenaeanisation in the Aegean (Oxford 2016)
  13. David Pettegrew, The Isthmus of Corinth: Crossroads of the Mediterranean World (Ann Arbor 2016)

Plus all the ones I’m forgetting about because they’re sitting in my office on campus…

A network analysis of the AIA’s 2017 meeting

As a follow up on my last post, in which I made a word cloud from the paper and poster titles of the 2017 annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, I thought it would be neat to run a (simple, because I have no idea what I’m doing) network analysis on the same data set. Well, almost the same data set: I removed all the articles and prepositions, punctuation, numbers and things like the “IA” of “LM IA.” Some of the titles look really fun without any of the connecting words, actually. I inputted this cleaned-up text file into and here is the result (link to a dynamic page):



This should work as an embedded dynamic image:

I guess the AIA this year is full of Romanists who are really empirical. That’s not too surprising, I suppose.

Additionally the textexture algorithm determined that the following are the most influential keywords in this text: roman    evidence    analysis    case  

And the most influential contexts in this text were
#0:   roman    imperial    temple    graffito
#1:   evidence    analysis    bronze    italy
#2:   case    study    identity    modern
#3:   excavation    project    etruscan    site