July 23, 2009

Colleen Morgan :: Middle Savagery

I have been following Colleen Morgan's blog Middle Savagery for a little over a year now. Her site is a broad mix of archaeology, academic adventures, conferences, photography, fieldwork stories, and discussions of how different forms of media can be harnessed for anthropological/archaeological purposes.

Currently, Colleen is working on an archaeological site at Tell Dhiban, in Jordan. In her own words:

As previously mentioned, I have been spending these last few weeks excavating a Mamluk-era barrel vault here at Tell Dhiban. This has meant several weeks of lifting guffaws full of dirt and rocks up out of the building to remove the collapse while documenting brief re-occupations of the building. Finally, on Wednesday, I came down to a nice dirt layer that the collapse respected, meaning that it fell mostly on top of the floor, with a few heavier ashlars more embedded in the softer ground. At first I was afraid that I might have missed the floor—we were expecting flagstones—and had moved on an earlier construction phase by accident. But as we were coming down to the surface we had fewer finds, and the dirt was pretty “clean.” For a tell just lousy with occupation it would have been difficult to get a construction fill that didn’t have loads of artifacts embedded in the matrix. I also didn’t see much of what could have been flagstones—it was all rubble from the collapsed ceiling and floors. We’ll see how accurate my interpretation is when we get more of the building cleared out!

Not only is Colleen's site full of descriptive details of her fieldwork experiences, it also includes tons of examples of her photography, which complements the entire site. She is not only exploring different ways that photography can be used in archaeology, she is also an excellent photographer, as the following images attest:

Jordan 2009 field photo, photo by Colleen Morgan.

"Russell, surveying in the very early morning," photo by Colleen Morgan.

"My shoes, my multi-phase opening plan, and the artifacts that came out with the backfill," photo by Colleen Morgan.

"Harra--gravel plains," photo by Colleen Morgan.

"Qusayr Amra, the best little bathhouse in the Black Desert, complete with risque murals!" Photo by Colleen Morgan.

One new project that she is working on is about pushing the boundaries and possibilities of archaeological photography. This project is endlessly interesting, especially considering some of the forms that archaeological photography can take. Read on:

We aim to collect and document the work of archaeologists, photographers and critics directly involved in this field into a published volume. In this collection we hope to capture and express the tremendous creativity and energy displayed by archaeological photographers. We are looking for quality submissions from archaeologist photographers who are pushing the limits with standard and digital photography.

Middle Savagery is undoubtedly a diverse site, as posts like this, this, and this (and even this) illustrate. Sites like Colleen's give me ideas about how I can write about my own work, and also provide insight into the experiences of others in the field, which I think attests to the potential that this kind of online communication has. It's all very synergistic, and it's a pretty excited shift from the anthropology that is limited to the bound pages of books and journal articles.

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