ASOR 2016, and our *online community* is up and running!

We had a great “Archaeology of the Black Sea and Caucasus” session this year at ASOR, with excellent talks from Tiffany Earley-Spadoni, Nat Erb-Satullo, Walter Crist, and Hannah Chazin. We also announced the opening of our online forum, generously supported by the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus.

To join the conversation, please follow the instructions here: South Caucasus Forum Registration.

The syllabus: window into the professor’s psyche, contract, or vision for the future?

The NYTimes published an interesting opinion piece today called “My Syllabus, My Self.” In it, the author appears to be inspired by debates on trigger warnings, safe spaces, etc., enough so that she muses upon the nature of the syllabus as an historical document, as a physical object, as a contract, and as a window onto the professor’s expectations and even personality.

Like the author, I too have long thought of syllabuses as a lens through which to glimpse both the explicit and the implicit expectations of the professor. However, I would add to the author’s list of facets the fact that a carefully-crafted syllabus is also a vision of the students’ future and the professor’s plan of action to achieve it.

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Coming down the mountain (everybody has their own opinion)

Groundtruthing, or checking out on the ground anomalies and architecture seen in the satellite imagery, is a necessary step in identifying cultural remains. We went high on the slopes of Mt. Aragats yesterday, to take a look at a site that looked like a settlement with some recent activity. Amongst the architecture, we found a fascinating series of stacked and standing stones picking out a roughly north-south line across the summits of multiple slopes.

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However, we were already high up on the flank of the mountain, high enough that the “scree” drainages in this photo are actually made of boulders — and high enough that the cloud obscuring the summit was worrisome.

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Survey says…

One way to conduct an archaeological survey is to examine satellite imagery as a way to focus attention on particular areas. This summer, the Kasakh Valley Archaeological Survey looked at high resolution satellite images of the area east of Mt. Aragats and identified a number of intriguing sites.

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In this case, I found a series of rooms that seem to be enclosed by a wall, to the south of the shallow gorge in the upper third of this image. We established that it was within our survey area and the next morning, off we went to take a look. After a first attempt to drive there in our UAZ, we circled around from the north and hiked in across the gorge.

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This is looking northwest from the settlement, across the gorge–which was not very deep, and the rivulet at the bottom, like many water courses in Armenia, had many conveniently-placed stones useful for crossing. Continue reading

Survey in the upper Kasakh River valley

Project ArAGATS, the joint Armenian-American project on the Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, has begun surveying the Kasakh River valley in central Armenia over the past couple of years. We’re recording burials, burial clusters, settlements, fortresses, stelae, evidence of Soviet-era land amelioration practices, and more. This year, we’re working around the northeastern foothills of Mt. Aragats, to continue the project of understanding the relationship of ancient architecture and material culture to ancient life.

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Ian Lindsay and Alan Greene are co-directing the survey this year, with multiple team members from Project ArAGATS, including Salpi Bocchieriyan, and Karen Azatyan, pictured here with Ian and Alan on a well-deserved coffee break after a morning of tromping around the mountains.

 

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To keep up with the excitement of counting sherds and obsidian flakes, or other aspects of Project ArAGATS’ multiple projects, follow @egafagan and @aragatsfound on Twitter.

Building a community of scholarship

One of the best things about the twenty-first century has to be how our ability to research and keep in touch with colleagues has changed dramatically. I’ve been trying to do my part to help build community amongst scholars who study the South Caucasus. As one project meant to work on this goal, I co-chair an annual session on the archaeology of the Black Sea and Caucasus regions, at the ASOR annual meeting. At the 2015 meeting, we crowdsourced ideas for an online community, and so I’ve built a forum on this website as a beta test, before going live on the American Research Institutes of the South Caucasus site, where the forum will eventually be housed.

We’re all cyborgs when we learn.

It’s been a long time since the last blog entry, because I finished and defended my dissertation on June 15. Despite the time commitment involved in finishing the dissertation, I’ve still been active in the Chicago Center for Teaching, helping to train new teaching consultations, helping to develop the details of our new Teaching Fellows program, assisting with a workshop, etc. But one of the most interesting pedagogical projects that I’ve been exposed to in the last year or so is the online journal, Hybrid Pedagogy. I met Chris Friend, managing editor, at a networking event for new Ph.Ds, and besides the fact that it’s just plain fun to geek out about pedagogy with an expert in the field, it was a great learning experience for me.

As the website points out, “all learning is necessarily hybrid” – whether we’re talking wax tablets, rote memorization, or the newest technology, learning has always involved something outside the learner. I have sympathy for instructors who prohibit laptops and tech, but I also think that to do so is not only untenable in the long-term, but also potentially neglecting a valuable learning tool. Technology is here to stay, so why not make it into something useful? Hybrid Pedagogy wants to help with that project. So this is just a brief note between edits to plug a project that strikes me as very important for the future.

More on crowdfunding science from Science Friday

I had the most useful laundry day ever. Spacing out, folding t-shirts, and suddenly Science Friday’s discussion reaches my active brain through the laundry daze – they’re talking about crowdfunding science projects! The interviewee started a website, experiment.com, where scientists can appeal to funders for their projects. Some of the projects are ridiculous (“does potato salad taste good” earned its PI $104!), but the choices also include many interesting-looking social science projects. While I wonder about a crowdfunding bubble, the possibilities seem boundless right now, and especially important when governmental funding is in danger.

AJA cover – again!

The Project ArAGATS crew must have very photogenic trenches – we are on the cover of the American Journal of Archaeology for the second time in 2014. Last time, it was for a trench I excavated in 2011 at Tsaghkahovit, in the Iron Age complex. This time, it is a photo of a shrine area, one of many excavated at Gegharot, an Early and Late Bronze Age fortress on the flanks of the Pambak Mountains bounding the Tsaghkahovit Plain. Project ArAGATS has been working in Armenia since 1998, making it one of the longest-running collaborative projects still working in Armenia.

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 4 (October 2014)