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Data Scarcity, Disparity, and Difference: Challenges for Regional Survey Archaeology

Date and Time: 
Monday, December 5, 2016. 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Building 110, Room 112
Workshop: 
Approaches to Data Scarcity in Ancient History
Meeting Description: 

This talk will examine some current challenges for regional survey archaeology, especially questions of unequal data representation and its implications for long-term history. Datasets related to regional-scale historical questions vary widely, and comparing various regional studies and regional historical trajectories often poses methodological difficulties. This talk will address two issues relevant to regional archaeology today. The first has do do with the "digital revolution" and its contribution to "big data" analytics and comparisons. Detailed digital data is available more widely and in greater quantities than ever before, but it has been collected and compiled in a variety of ways. This presents challenges for lateral comparisons between projects and regions. The problem of diachronic comparison within projects and regions is equally worthy of attention, especially in relation to the visibility and diagnosticity of material culture from different periods. For example, consider the ubiquity of Late Roman combed wares in survey assemblages in the Mediterranean. Should we read this in terms of changes in ancient production and consumption or in terms of recognizability to modern archaeologists? In this talk, I will draw examples from a variety of projects, and especially from my own work at Petra in southern Jordan and in the Mazi Plain in Attica, Greece. I will focus on abundances and gaps in regional datasets and how we might deal with problems of interpretation in order to create nuanced and robust individual regional histories that can also lend themselves to meaningful comparison.

 

Alex Knodell is an archaeologist specializing in the ancient Mediterranean and Middle East during prehistoric and Classical times.  He is particularly interested in archaeological approaches to landscape, interaction, and long-term social change.  He has recently been involved in leading two archaeological field projects, both multidisciplinary regional surveys: the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project, set in the hinterland immediately north of Petra, Jordan, and the  the Mazi Archaeological Project, focusing on a small mountain plain at a crossroads between central and southern Greece.

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