Field Archaeology I

(July 2021) This course focuses on archaeological field and laboratory methods through readings, lectures, and mainly hands-on experiences (dig simulator) and the data these practices generate. The course will cover the essential field methods employed in archaeological survey (ground, aerial, geophysical), excavation, restoration/conservation. This will include the fundamentals of documentation including note taking, drawing, photography, and map-making. The course will also introduce how archaeologists organize and analyze the large quantities and wide range of data recovered in these processes with particular attention to the use of computer databases, especially Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It will provide a general overview of different types of laboratory analysis including lithics, ceramics, metals, plant and animal remains, and discuss the available dating methods. Students will have the opportunity to practice many of the field and lab methods in the Simulated Excavation Field (SEF), and, when available, archaeological sites. Through these experiences and interactions with a range of archaeological datasets, students will learn how the archaeological record is formed and what its patterns can teach us about ancient human livelihoods. Finally, students will learn to synthesize and present the results of field and laboratory research in reports, a critical genre of writing in the discipline.

The A.TR.E.U.S. field program (Archaeological Training in Excavation and Underground Survey) and the dig simulator at Mycenae of unparalleled complexity and unprecedented size (300 m2 or 3,000 sq. feet, 1-1.5 m deep), facilitate intensive, interdisciplinary ‘hands-on’ education and practical field training for undergraduate and graduate students in real conditions in the controlled environment of a simulated excavation field. The dig simulator features reconstructed architectural ruins and diagnostic archaeological contexts (hearths, kiln, well, houses, shrine, cist and pit graves, a rock-cut chamber tomb, part of a collapsed fortification wall), plotted portable finds and spatial distribution of physical remains, including artifacts (reproduced pieces of pottery, figurines, jewelry, tools and weapons) and ecofacts (casts of human skeletons, animal bones and teeth, carbonized wood, organic remains and other bioarchaeological material), and reproduced stratigraphy filled with different types of sediment (occupation layers, destruction layers, floor levels, burnt deposits). The students are trained in aerial reconnaissance (aerial photography with use of octocopter drone); archaeological survey methods (with use of compass, Total Station, and Differential GPS); geophysical survey techniques (GPR, gradiometer, ERT); excavation methods and techniques (digging, recording, measuring -triangulation/depth - and georeferenced plotting with use of Total Station, labeling, drawing plans/sections, filling out forms and writing field notes, photography, sifting, floatation with use of Flote-tech); synthesis and interpretation of stratigraphic sequence, spatial distribution of finds, spatial function of rooms/areas, identification of archaeological contexts, patterns of uniformity and variation; study of portable finds (construction, typology, function, dating) with brief introduction to the study of ceramics, lithics, metal artifacts, bioarchaeological material, and osteoarchaeology (human/faunal); architectural study and 3-D digital reconstruction of the ruins with use of a site scanner; application of digital technology in archaeology, creating, maintaining, and using a G.I.S. database; restoration of building ruins, conservation of portable finds, analysis of storage procedures; final excavation report; dig simulator activities will be recorded by fixed web-cameras for training purposes, in-depth analysis and evaluation in class.

Christofilis Maggidis, Adrianos Psychas, and other instructors
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