Blog

The 2017 season of the Western Argolid Regional Project (WARP) was designated as the first of two planned study seasons in the five-year plan that the CIG submitted on our behalf to the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports. We were a small team of faculty, returning graduate students, and visiting specialists, and our focus was improving our understanding of our survey area’s material culture. This was no mean goal: over the 2014-2016 seasons, we managed to collect nearly 70,000 artifacts.

We worked hard to re-study as much of this huge collection as we could in our storage facility in Argos. Sarah James and Scott Gallimore headed up an apotheke team of Grace Erny, Joseph Frankl, Alyssa Friedman, Melanie Godsey, and Machal Gradoz. This team looked more closely at significant concentrations of material and pulled material for cataloguing. Joining them was Heather Graybehl, an expert on ceramic petrography and the ceramics of the northeast Pelponnese, Daniel Pullen, an expert on the Greek Bronze Age and especially the Early Bronze Age, Guy Sanders, an expert on Medieval and post-Medieval archaeology, and Bill Parkinson, Dani Riebe, and Katerina Psoma, experts on chipped stone. All of this work has allowed us to refine our readings of the material we collected, giving us a much clearer idea of what we found in previous years. We’re hardly done with the study of our material—we have one more study season to go, in 2018—but we made important progress this year towards getting to grips with what we have. Sarah worked hard with Melanie and Machal, for example, on the area around ancient Orneai, to come up with a story for the site from the Final Neolithic to the Early Modern periods.

But our season this year wasn’t only a study season. We also held a survey permit in cooperation (synergasia) with Dr. Alkestis Papadimitriou, the director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Argolid. The survey permit was limited to a handful of sites, chiefly fortifications, that fell outside of our 2014-2016 survey area. These sites were known, but for a variety of reasons, it wasn’t practical to include them in our original permit request. It might seem odd to hold another survey permit while studying material from another survey permit, but as we move towards publication of the survey, we find ourselves thinking more and more about how our survey area fit in with what was already known from the extremely valuable work of topographers like Pritchett and Pikoulas. Without looking more closely at these sites, however, it would be difficult to really integrate them into a robust discussion. Pikoulas, for instance, has less than a page about Sportiza, a fortification with over half a kilometer of clearly-visible fortification walls! A small, targeted survey would, we felt, allow us to integrate these known sites into our discussion, and allow us to produce a thicker description of our little corner of the western Argolid. 

Bill Caraher and I headed up the field team with the help of Rachel Fernandez and the occasional member of the apotheke team. Our main goal in the field was to adequately map and document standing features, and to make limited collections that would allow us to illustrate the range of material culture at each of the sites. In most cases we made use of “grab” samples. Although these grabs were unsystematic, they allowed us to collect quickly and efficiently, especially because our team was composed of experienced archaeologists. Most of our energy was focused on mapping standing architecture, however. The sites that we investigated included three large fortifications, three towers, a mountain pass that connects the Argolid to Arkadia, and the Roman aqueduct that fed Argos, so we were dealing with a good deal of architecture. We used a fancy Leica GPS (GNSS RTK) system that gave us extremely accurate measurements in the field, together with a robust system of photography, to document the sites.

Although we’re still in the process of dealing with all of the data we collected, we think that the work we did this year will really help us to contextualize what’s happening in our survey area. It’s prompted us to think about particular periods (like the 7th century AD), for instance. But it’s also given us a different spatial and geographic perspective on the western Argolid. Climbing up to these hills on the edges of our survey area and looking down on landscapes that we know so very well, walking out the Roman aqueduct that brought water from the mountain slopes of the western Argolid to the Nymphaeum on the slopes of the Larissa: they have helped us to understand how the different parts of the northeastern Peloponnese fit together.

Dimitri Nakassis
Professor, University of Colorado Boulder; co-director, Western Argolid Regional Project