Monthly Archives: August 2008

VIA – Visualisation in Archaeology

During WAC I was lucky enough to meet Sara Perry, a fellow PhD candidate who is also interested in photography and media/self representations of archaeology (among many other things).  She let me know about this conference in Southampton in October, Visualisation in Archaeology:

http://www.viarch.org.uk/

From the webpage:

Images are intimately linked to the theory and practice of archaeology. The epistemological nature of their deployment within the profession has typically revolved around the supportive means of effectively picturing, ordering and understanding the complexity of archaeological data. More recently, researchers have reflected upon the process of image production and the problematic relationship between images and knowledge creation.

Visualisation in Archaeology has been established in order to provide a ‘space’ in which high quality research can be undertaken around interrelated themes centred on visual communication in archaeology. To this end the project team comprises a robust cross-section of specialists drawn from different fields of study to critically explore the production, the form and the organisational power of images in archaeology and to re-think the boundaries of that exploration.

I submitted this abstract, while still at Çatalhöyük over the summer:

Anna’s Shoulders: Visualization and Ekphrasic Narrative at Çatalhöyük, 1961-2008

Visually documented for almost fifty years, Çatalhöyük has become lacquered by multiple layers of archaeological interpretive gaze.  The images taken at Çatalhöyük provide an excellent test case to further a visual methodology for investigating scopic regimes within major theoretical and technological shifts in archaeology.  Using a method of visual content analysis developed by Kress and Van Leeuwen (1996), I hope to illustrate these shifts as well as provide a more rigorous methodology for site photography.  Additionally, I will discuss visual narrative building in the practice of interpretation and a possible way to illustrate this iterative and highly contextual process.

Kress, G. and T. Van Leeuwen
1996    Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. Routledge, London.

The reference to “Anna” above is to Anna Karenina–a character who has been the object of men’s gaze until her shoulders were lacquered with their many layers of desire.  I spoke about performative, extemporaneous, archaeological narrative with a new professor in Performance Studies and New Media last night, and she had some really interesting suggestions for readings but also possible media projects that she would be interested in pursuing with me.  I still need to hammer together a lot of my video from this summer, but we’ll see.

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CHiSL

Last spring I started gathering information on cultural heritage sites in Second Life, in the interest of keeping track of the many projects ongoing in Second Life.  Out of this came CHiSL, or Cultural Heritage in Second Life, a loose group of projects and individuals interested in the topic.  I finally got around to creating (yet another) blog that will be a central place for news on these projects and developments with a class that I am helping out with, a Second Life DeCal (class by undergraduates taught by an undergraduate) that is based around OKAPI island, the Çatalhöyük reconstruction hosted by the University of California, Berkeley.

Here’s the link to the blog:

http://chisl.wordpress.com

Any other contributions (Electric Archaeologist, I’m looking at you) would be welcome.  Of course, I still need to put up the information from the WAC session, so I’m already behind.

Continuous Movement

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I took an overnight train from Konya to Istanbul, and snapped this photo as the sun was going down over the Anatolian plain.  I’ve never ridden a proper train before, or at least one that wasn’t connected to a larger metro.  The trip took sixteen hours and we passed squat minarets and blasted mountains and miles upon miles of orchards with fat apples and peaches that swayed in the train’s breeze.  After the train I took a ferry across the Bosphorus, then a taxi, but I kept having to look down at my feet–I’d lost my land legs–the cool tile floors of Istanbul rolled and trembled on imaginary rails.

Even after my enormously awful plane flight home and a handful of days spent sleeping, I still feel like I’m on that train.  This is probably not helped by watching Brief Encounter and reading Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train:

“In the train, however fast it travelled, the passengers were compulsorily at rest; useless between the walls of glass to feel emotion, useless to try to follow any activity except of the mind; and that activity could be followed without fear of interruption.  (…) But in the rushing reverberating express, noise was so regular that it was the equivalent of silence, movement was so continuous that after a while the mind accepted it as stillness.”

I’m just starting to extract individual strains of noise out of the cacophany, to make sense of the summer, and to shudder-start my research/Berkeley/graduate life again.  In the meantime, I’ll be tracing my intials in my breath on the glass windows of the train while I wait for my stop.

CH Diary 3 – Painted Platforms

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This entry will be primarily concerned with a series of paintings that I have uncovered on the south facing face of platform f. 1651.  As we prepared to excavate the next series of platform surfaces, a thin layer of plaster, 16651, was removed to reveal a black line painting, in a figural, repeating style, stretching from the east to the western extent.  This painting was fully recorded by Jason Quinlan and Katy Killacky, who photographed it and drew it, respectively.  After initially being conserved with consolidant brushed along the black lines, the painting and accompanying plaster layer, 16647, was removed to reveal painting 16657, which was a series of black vertical lines.  This painting was somewhat more ephemeral, and not apparent to the western extent of the platform.  This painting and accompanying plaster was recorded (again, drawn and photographed) and then removed to reveal painting 16666.  Unlike 16647 and 16657, this painting stretched along both the south-facing and east-facing faces of the platform. 

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While the painting was very patchy and hard to trace on the east-facing face, and appeared to be solid red, the south-facing wall was solid red with five hand-prints mid-way up the elevation of the platform.  These hands were all horizontal and oriented with their fingers pointed west.  They did not appear to be modeled with real hands.  Similar hands were found by Mellaart, and appear on plates 43-44 in his CatalHukuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, though the hands in painting 16666 did not have circles inside the palms.

Though it has been interesting excavating these paintings and seeing the reactions to them from site archaeologists and visitors, they have slowed progress in Building 49 considerably, and I hope that 16666 will be the last of the series.

(…)

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After removing the last layer of paintings from the platform, we removed several surfaces from the top, revealing (yet) another burial cut and a line of intricate textile-like paintings along the north and west walls surrounding the top of the platform.  These are thought to correspond with a large painting lifted by conservation in 2006.  It remains to be seen whether these paintings continue beneath the platform surfaces, as there are several left, but excavation of two juvenile and two adult skeletons halted progress and the excavation season has ended for the primary building 49 team.  However, two archaeologists that had been working in the South Shelter will be moving in to finish the building, and the archive report will be completed later this year, with full details of the burial-painting-platform sequence in the northern extent of building 49.

Baby Burials, etc.

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My excavation diary entry #2:

This entry will be primarily concerned with platforms f. 1651 and 1664.  Since burial f. 4000, I brought down the NW platform, 1651, out of phase in order to create a more workable area, as the burials are now over half a meter down from the surface of the platform.  There are some semi-articulated remains at the bottom of the cut that need to be investigated, but have been put on hold until f. 1651 becomes more accessible.  An earlier burial, f. 4009, was cut by the later f. 4000, and was only a pair of juvenile legs, 14438, in the NW extent of the main burial cut f. 4000.  After removal of the skeleton from cut [14481], more skeletal remains were found, but they will not be investigated until platform f. 1651 is further excavated.

Removal of white plaster layer 14463 on northwest platform, f. 1651 freed a lip of plaster overlaying platform f. 1664, effectively connecting the platforms in sequence.  A series of layers, 14487 (make-up), 14488 (plaster), 14490 (plaster and make-up) were removed from f. 1651, revealing burial f. 4011.  This was the skeleton of a juvenile, 16601.  The burial was extremely tightly flexed, inside a remarkably small cut [16602] for the age (10-12) and size of the individual.  After this skeleton was excavated and lifted by Lori Hager, I removed a layer of plaster, 16620, which is contiguous with wall plaster 16622.  This freed 16619, the remains of the plaster lip between the platforms, which may have been contiguous with 16620 and 16622, but it was unclear.  This was followed by a series of layers removed as a single unit, 16621, revealing f. 4012, a neonate burial in the western extent of the platform.  I exposed the skeleton, 16627, and it was lifted by Basak Boz.  The neonate was disturbed, resulting in an odd placement of the lower legs, and the skull was crushed by depositional processes.  Investigation of the cut revealed another unidentified bone, but it was determined to be either in another cut or in an animal burrow and unassociated with the burial.  Further investigation will follow as the platform is removed.  Layers 16630 and 16631 (both series of floors and make-up) were removed from the platform.  A layer of makeup, 16632, will be removed tomorrow, finally freeing the floors of the building, ending a phase, and possibly revealing another burial cut, one that remains unseen in section, but seems inevitable.

Excavating the neonate myself was tedious and a little strange—attitudes around the site regarding the baby burials range from being flip and dismissive, to annoyance at their presence (as they are difficult to excavate), to calling them cute and expressing delight over their little bones.  I have excavated burials before, but nothing so young as this one.  Burials are not what thrills me about archaeology—give me architectural/stratigraphic puzzles and shiny rocks any day—and I am primarily interested in their place in the sequence and interpretation onsite, but it was difficult to be indifferent to such a tiny thing and not wonder at least a little about the circumstances of the baby’s death.  I was also under pressure, as it was locking the entire building to further excavation and I had to use bamboo skewers, tiny teaspoons, and a puffer to move our sequence along.  Regardless, Basak and I stayed up on site late and we were able to finish it in a single day.  I suppose it’s just one more thing to think about as I scratch across the layers of plaster on my platforms.