Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Archaeologists Love Amphoras

Yesterday evening, I emailed a final draft of the beads paper to my adviser. I'm sure she'll have some comments and suggestions, but I'm not anticipating any major revisions. I put a lot of time into that project, and am really satisfied with the result. It was a perfect project, in many ways: it was fairly small and narrowly defined in scope but completely challenging (since I'd never done anything of the sort before), it opened avenues of further research and papers, and it fulfilled two important goals (a thesis and a publication). I can pretty honestly say that it was the most enjoyable paper I've ever written. While I'm almost sad to see it completed, it's very rewarding to know what I was able to do with the material at hand. This is a bit of a weird analogy, but in Season 2 of Project Runway, the eventual winner talks about how happy she is with her final runway collection and says something to the effect of "this is my dream...I'm so happy with what came out of me." I feel like that about the beads paper.

I also noticed as I was consolidating all the little bits and pieces that in word length, this project is almost identical to my senior honors project. Those of you who were my faithful Livejournal readers back then will recall what a disaster that was from top to bottom. I hated that paper when I had finished it; it took months before I could even look at it. It still makes me cringe a bit. But had I not been through that experience, I know that my research, organization, and writing abilities would be much less developed, and this project would have been less successful and more challenging (in the not-good way).

So, I launched this blog a few weeks ago and promised you all deep and brilliant insights into archaeological news, law, and ethics but have not produced such a post in at least two weeks. Nor have I been nearly as diligent at generating daily posts as my friend Claire on her new blog. Sorry. I'll do much better in two weeks, when break is over and I have more time. (And although that sounds counter-intuitive, trust me, it's not.)

My roommate got her copy of the American Philological Association newsletter today, and I was mildly annoyed to see that it's named Amphora. Now, for those of you who don't know, an amphora is a type of large storage vessel, generally for things like grain, olive oil, and wine. Stamped amphora handles, if you're fortunate enough to find one, are one of the best tools for dating strata at sites since they often have identifiable names or dates and circulated for shorter periods of time than coins. Long story short, an amphora is material culture and related to archaeology. What it has to do with the American Philological Association, I have no idea. I could accept if they had selected a material culture item at least tangentially related to the study of language and ancient literature, like Scroll or Inscription. But no. It just goes to show that everyone secretly wishes they were in archaeology instead. You would never see an archaeology newsletter called The Aeneid or Plato.


  1. Way to stick it to the Philologists, Kate. We've let them get away with this sort of nonsense for too long.

  2. No apologies please, even the mighty Claire skipped yesterday. And did she apologize? What do YOU think?

  3. Just happened to catch an episode of Ultimate Explorer today that featured Lisa Ling in Baghdad trying to ascertain that the treasure of Nimrod was still in the vault where it had been stored, it was as you undoubtedly already know. The narrator also addressed the looting of antiquities and the subsequent message circulated warning dealers against trafficking in them. At one point a person who was being interviewed said he thought that about 20% of the stolen items had been recovered. You would probably have a more realistic idea of that recovery. Anyhow, very interesting, and I wouldn't have picked up on it if it weren't for your Donald Rumsfeld quote. Thanks.