Global Research Bytes Episode 3: Innovative Methods in Archaeology with Anastasia Dakouri-Hild


Global Research Bytes Episode 3: Innovative Methods in Archaeology with Anastasia Dakouri-Hild

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild Headshot
Transcript of Interview with Professor Anastasia Dakouri-Hild

Emily Mellen 0:07

Welcome to Global Research Bytes. I'm Emily Mellen, and I'm here with Anastasia Dakouri-Hild from the Art Department and the Interdisciplinary Program in Archaeology. Thank you for being here.

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 0:17

Hi, Emily. Thanks for having me.

Emily Mellen 0:19

Can you tell us a little bit about your current project "Small Worlds, Large Worlds: Constructing Place in a Rural Frontier of Ancient Athens, [The Kotroni Archaeological Survey Project (KASP)]?

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 0:30

Certainly. So, KASP is a survey project and archaeological reconnaissance project, which means that we're actually roaming the fields and we're collecting artifacts from the surface without breaking ground with the ultimate purpose of evaluating this landscape and understanding what kinds of habitations, what kind of identities were actually encoded in this landscape. And we do this by studying the artifacts and understanding their distribution in space. In order to do this we employ walking, and the pickup of artifacts from the surface, as well as a variety of innovative techniques.

Emily Mellen 1:10

Previously, you had published extensively on funerary traditions in Thebes. Am I pronouncing that right?

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 1:15


Emily Mellen 1:16

Thebes and Boeotia?

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 1:18


Emily Mellen 1:19

Boeotia. Clearly not an expert archaeologist (laughs). How did you become interested in the geographical area of Afidnes and in this project?

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 1:27

Yeah. So, long story short is that in Thebes, I had spent a good 20 years looking at what we call legacy data, which is basically things and information that was provided by other people in the past under, not so ideal circumstances, let's say, which caused me a lot of methodological difficulties and a lot of fixing after the fact. So, I had resolved to find a new project that would allow me to implement methodologies and approaches exactly as I wanted, and essentially build this project from scratch without having to rely on previous data collection. So, I came up with this project, in part because of this. And in part, because it was a very promising area that seemed to curiously have been under-explored, especially given the fact that it was so close to Athens, only about 30 kilometers north of Athens. So it is a very important site, it just potentially was very interesting, because of the fact that it was likely a prehistoric site as well. And it also allowed me to explore some of these innovative techniques and methods that I use on the site.

Emily Mellen 2:43

That is exactly what I wanted to ask you about next. So, one of the things that struck me about this project is the scope of the methods that you were able to bring into the research. Could you talk about a couple of those?

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 2:53

Of course, yes. So in addition to pedestrian survey, which is actually pretty traditional, we ended up using a variety of innovative techniques that were determined largely by the problems that we had at hand, which could not be solved by means of traditional methods. One of these was the fact that the site was incredibly lush in vegetation. And so we could not actually walk some of these areas because of the very dense maquis that was covering the surface. And so we ended up finding an operator of LiDAR, which is essentially a method that laser scans an entire landscape from an airplane, thereby producing this incredibly high resolution, very fine 3d model of the entire landscape. And that allowed us to later go on site understanding how it looked like without really ever setting foot there. Another technique that we use, which was quite innovative was, in terms of the geological investigation of this landscape, we decided that it was necessary to date some of the agricultural terraces around the Citadel on the site. And again, we're guided by LiDAR elevation data, you know, to define these particular features that we wanted to sample. And so we ended up dating them using a brand new and fairly, I would say, at this point in time, experimental technique pioneered by Tim Kinnaird in St. Andrews University in Scotland. So, what he ended up doing is basically taking samples of the earth fill of each and every one of these earthworks and then dating the soil based on the amount of luminescence that the soils had absorbed over the course of time, which effectively allowed us to date them. And we did find that some of these earthworks are in fact prehistoric, which was a great surprise to us. So the third technique that we used in parallel to these others was geophysical analysis and what this does is it allows us to look into the ground, again without ever breaking ground, which is really extremely efficient and saves a lot of time and energy. As you can imagine, typically, geophysical investigation happens after we investigate the surface. And we have a sense of where the important things are. And so that's exactly what we did in the fall of 2021. After completing the survey, and all these other techniques, we went back and specifically examined select targets that we had in mind based on the previous work. So, it's not just about the individual techniques, it's also about the overlap and the way all of these talk to each other. To give us a more cohesive sense of what this landscape was.

Emily Mellen 5:44

I can see that they really work together to create a comprehensive picture. And I'm wondering, how has the CGII funding changed the future of your project or the present of your project?

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 5:54

Yeah, actually, CGII was absolutely instrumental in getting this project off the ground in two ways. One, it allowed us to basically compile all the information together and create a digital record of all the materials we had, which then allowed me to fundraise additional, using additional grants from other sources. In other words, it gave us something to show to entities in terms of promising results to pursue further funding. The other and most important way in which CGII helped us was that for two years it allowed us to bring students in the field. And this was an absolute invaluable experience for them, as you can imagine. Some of them it was the first time that they had ever traveled outside of the United States, let alone being part of a multidisciplinary intensive work environment like fieldwork. And so they learned a lot and without the CGII grants, first, we will not have been able to actually bring that many students in the field, up to 12 students in one season. So we're very, very grateful for that.

Emily Mellen 7:03

That's what we love to hear and it sounds like a fascinating project. Thank you so much for coming to talk with me today.

Anastasia Dakouri-Hild 7:08

Thank you! Always a pleasure

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