Today is my last full day on Zakynthos, a medium-sized island in Greece.  I’ve been staying in a small town called Kerri, at a house up on the hillside, overlooking the small bay below.  Ancient olive trees cover all available space; there is one growing in the middle of the courtyard where we sit in the mornings and bask in the sun–my friend’s parents could afford the land but not the tree, so someone else comes to cultivate it each year.  I suppose I didn’t realize that the trees were so methodically shaped and grown, or that they were such a precious commodity, especially when they approach a thousand years old, such as the tree down in the village.  The trees here grow smaller olives with bigger pips which make them hard to eat but they are fantastic for making olive oil.

It’s been a fairly slow few days, as a holiday should be–mostly eating, drinking, and swimming.  The beaches are mostly white pebbles and are a bit rough on the feet, but I managed to find some nice, small round ones for a backgammon set yesterday.  The water is still fairly cold, but clear and blue and we took a boat out yesterday to cruise around the coast.  Zakynthos, like most Greek islands, is a karst landscape, made out of limestone.  One sheer cliff had thousands of layers in it, millions of years of geological time.

The house I’m staying out doesn’t have power, much less internet, and it’s been relaxing to get away from the hundreds of departmental emails and the constant noise of social networks.  The candle-lit dinners and improvisational cooking have been nice features–buying fresh ingredients every day instead of relying on a refrigerator.  Warm showers would be nice though.

Tomorrow I’ll be off to Athens for a short day in the city, then to Amman to start work once again.  It’s going to be hard to leave!

Questions Answered

I’m love Anthropology/Archaeology and have been considering starting my own blog. The only thing is that my background (B.A.) is in Sociology. What do you think of non-experts blogging about the subject? (Eventually I want to do graduate work in Anthro)

I think that blogging is a great way to organize your thoughts and research around archaeological topics. I particularly like blogs that incorporate your own research rather than another archaeology news blog though. That said, I’ve only been actively offended by an archaeological blog once and that’s because she was using it to beg for money!

Anyway be sure to give a me a link when you start it up!

So, what is the payoff on gadgets like this? What do you get out of it? Is this something experimental, trying out new media? Is this part of serious research you are doing? Or is this just fun stuff, what the hell?

The payoff? I like trying things out, as should be obvious from my blog. There are plenty of people who do “serious research” on social media and while I do not consider myself one of them, I like to broaden the archaeological conversation.

Did any of the Indiana Jones movies play a role in motivating you to become an archaeologist?

Nope, not at all. I wanted to be a park ranger when I was growing up so that I could be outside all of the time. It was only when I took a required field school from the University of Texas as part of my anthropology degree that the notion even occurred to me.

Where was the photo of tiles at the top of your blog taken?

It was taken at the Albany Bulb, a trash dump that has been taken over by artists and squatters. It’s one of my favorite places to go for a walk on a nice day. I posted about it for the UC Berkeley Graduate Division blog, here:

Thanks for asking!

What’s the most delicious meal you’ve ever had?

During excavations in other countries we usually fantasize about different kinds of foods that aren’t available. In Jordan I had a pretty steady diet of hummus, khubz, and falafel, which was delicious, but I missed tacos and thai food. When I got back this last year, I had some amazing takeout from a place near where I used to live and it was incredible.

Ask me anything.

The Field – 2010


A lot of the romance of archaeology is tied up in notions of going to “the field.” The field is where archaeologists are the most visible, slinging pickaxes and sieving dirt in our shabby army pants and t-shirts.  Some archaeologists resist this image, telling people that there is a lot of lab work and writing and library time involved and this is certainly true.  But I deeply relish going to the field and feel most myself when I have my hands in the dirt.  Well, and while I’m slinging back Lonestars with my friends at punk rock shows in Austin, but that’s another point entirely.

This year I’ll be headed to two projects, back to Dhiban in Jordan with the Dhiban Excavation and Development Project where I’ll be digging and putting on a photo show.  We’ll be blogging from the site, and I’ll probably update both this blog and the official blog.

I’ll also be heading to the Priniatikos Pyrgos Excavation Project in Crete with Barry Molloy’s team, but that is later on in the summer.

In the interim I’ll be in Syria and Jordan, doing an informal “survey” of sites for potential postdoc work and future projects.  Internet will certainly be limited at times, but I’ll try to do a better job keeping this blog updated than I have in previous years.  Regardless, I generally update my Flickr account when I can.

Until then, I’m horribly busy with people coming into town, preparations for going out of town, and trying to get other projects in shape before I head out.

To the field!

Blogging Archaeology – SAA 2011 Draft

So here is a draft for a proposed session for the meeting of the Society for American Archaeology 2011 on blogging archaeology.  Please let me know what you think and if you’d like to participate!

Blogging Archaeology

A vital, diverse community of archaeologists are experimenting with online weblogs or “blogs” for publishing research data, reaching out to their colleagues and the public, and as a venue for personal expression.  Once considered a relatively rare and nonstandard practice, blogging is becoming a part of archaeological practice during excavations, in classroom settings, and by professional organizations as a venue for outreach.  Even as the number of personal and professional archaeology blogs increases, their use has remained largely unscrutinized and unrewarded within the profession.  Even so, blogging has become an incredible source of archaeological news and data that bypasses traditional media sources, giving unprecedented public access to working archaeologists.  However, this access is not without repercussions as issues of anonymity, personal expression and privacy become increasingly relevant.  Another issue is the publication of information that may adversely affect the archaeological record through the identification of sensitive and potentially sacred sites.  In this session we will explore these questions and the complexities of archaeological blogging with perspectives from students, professors, professional archaeologists and full-time archaeology bloggers.

Building With Intent to Destroy

Wurster Hall, the architecture building on campus, is a giant concrete edifice that is featured in Stewart Brand’s brilliant How Buildings Learn as an example of an “unworkable” building, a building that cannot grow and adapt to the needs of its residents.  It has strange nooks and crannies, horrible lab space, and very dark “suicide” stairwells.  Still, I walk through the courtyard almost every day on my way to the library or to get a cup of coffee.  I like seeing the architecture students at work– the other day they were building small balsa wood structures, arguing with each other with sticky-tape on the ends of their fingers.  I also love the way the building looks on the outside, stark white rectangles jutting into the deep blue sky on sunny days.

Stewart Brand gives architects a pretty rough time of it in How Buildings Learn, and I’m inclined to agree with his view that buildings should be malleable, organic, and accommodating to its inhabitants, traits so common in vernacular buildings but seemingly lost in most modern construction. The students were building mini-marvels, their shapes inspired by nature or by art or music.

I then wondered if any architecture has been inspired by archaeology–not by Greek or Roman columns or Egyptian obelisks, but instead actively tries to capture, represent, and preserve the lifeways of the people that it houses.  Most architecture does this by fiat, but how would you construct a building explicitly to excavate it?

This thought experiment had some nice resonance with a news story that came out a couple of weeks ago about an “Ikea-like” temple found in Italy with detailed assembly instructions inscribed on the various pieces. I posed the question over beers to some of my fellow grad students, with mostly blank looks in response.  It’s truly a very individualistic question, as some archaeologists prefer to dig post holes while others don’t bother with anything less than a temple complex.  How much mystery do you want with your archaeology? Are interpretive challenges part of the thrill of the excavation, or would you prefer to have your building pieces inscribed with instructions so that you can concentrate on more heady research questions?  Recursive, but it gave me a fun few minutes in the sunshine, watching students and their balsa wood frames.

Yeah, yeah–I should be working on my dissertation.

Kroeber Anthropological Society – The University in Crisis

The UC Berkeley anthropology grad student journal put out a new issue and one of my photos is on the cover! I gave them four photos and they picked the photo above. The quality seems a bit low and it’s pretty dark–I wonder if I accidentally gave them a lower rez version.  Anyway, there it is!  It’s a very solid issue as well:

The KAS Journal is the oldest graduate student-run anthropology journal
in the country. Since 1950, it has published scholarly articles in all
anthropology subdisciplines and in related fields that are of theoretical
and practical interest. Internationally renowned and peer-reviewed, the
journal is published twice a year.

Issue 98:  “The University in Crisis”
Revolution at Berkeley: September 1964 – December 1964: An Excerpt from “We Still Have a Dream”
Bethany Slentz

Understanding the True Realities and Politics of Higher Education Funding in California
Stanton  A. Glantz

The University in Crisis: Public Good or Private Good?
Laura Nader

Centralized Power in the UC Board of Regents
Katherine Jamison-Alward

Cuts to the UC and the Unraveling of the American Dream
Alan H. Schoenfeld

A Better Plan for the University of California’s Future
Charles Schwartz

The Habit of Courage
Nancy Scheper-Hughes

When Batons Beat Books: A Study of the UCPD as an Arm of the Administration
Waseem Salahi

SOLIDARITY: Not in My Name
Ananya Roy

Curiosity under Attack: The Anatomy of an Anti-Critical University
Gregg Sparkman

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