Monday, October 29, 2007

Lightweight IDs on the Internet

My colleague Neel Smith and I are working on a system of lightweight identification for digital objects on the internet. This post is a test of the system. Here is a link to a coin in the collection of the American Numismatic Society: There is an image of an amphora on its obverse so it's relevant to ceramics. The string "" is analogous to an abbreviation such as "ANS" that one might find in a traditional print publication. "1949.100.10" is the accession number. Together they form a unique id. To read more about Domain Name Identifiers (DNIDs), go to

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Good and Bad on the Internet

The internet is here to stay. That's not news and neither is the observation that an increasing amount of information about Mediterranean ceramics is coming online. So it's not just the fact that people are using the web that needs to be addressed, but also how they're using it.

Some current uses of the internet are to the clear detriment of the ongoing study of ceramics. As Nathan Elkins has been pointing out, the trade in undocumented antiquities is moving online and small sherds of ancient pottery and undecorated vessels are a regular part of this destructive commerce. Some examples:

Perhaps some will think that I shouldn't link to commercial sites. I do it to set up a further point. A Google query for '"Sarmatian Jar"' brings up only two links, the first to the Ancient Touch page, the second to another dealer.

While "Samartian Jar" is not a very likely search term, 'roman amphora ribbing' is slightly more plausible. Clicking on that link shows the Ancient Touch page in the number 4 slot - or at least it did when I tried, your results may vary. Fortunately, the two top slots are taken by Paul Tyers' excellent resources on Roman amphoras. My point, however, is that the internet is one place where the competition for the "hearts and minds" of the public is taking place. In this instance, professional archaeologists working to provide high-quality information on-line make out pretty well.

But things could be better. Note that it is the Ancient Touch page that offers the richest set of color images. Click through on the Pontic Amphoras at the top of the page and you'll see some of the best images of that ceramic type available anywhere, either on-line or in print. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that this page lists prices for these artifacts, it would stand out as a terrific resource. I take from this the point that ceramicists need to do a better job of providing high quality information on the web so that commercial sites move even further down Google's rankings.

And there is another issue to consider. When I clicked, just below the Ancient Touch link was another to a 1996 Britannia article on amphora inscriptions and legionary supply. Unfortunately, this article costs $12.00 to read. Sure, I have access to JSTOR through my academic affiliations, but most internet-users do not. This further suggests that the online commercialization of academic research puts archaeologists at a disadvantage when trying to make our case to the concerned public.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ceramics at the 2008 AIA/APA Meetings in Chicago

A preliminary program for the Archaeological Institute of America's Annual Meeting in Chicago this coming January is available at Judging from the titles and/or personal knowledge, the following papers and workshops look to have a substantial ceramics component:

Session: 2B: Greek Vase Painting
Timeslot: Friday, January 4, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

  • A Corinthian Connection for Lakonian Porthole Compositions.
    Justin St. P. Walsh, Louisiana State University

  • Ceramic Workshops, Agoranomoi, and Pottery Trade in Olbia Pontica. Søren Handberg, University of Aarhus

  • The Looting, Excavation, and Findspot of the Penteskouphia Plaques. James Herbst, and Ioulia Tzonou-Herbst, ASCSA Corinth Excavation

  • The Dokimasia Painter at Morgantina, Sicily. Jenifer Neils, Case Western Reserve University

Session: 2E: Etruria and Samnium
Timeslot: Thursday, January 4, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

  • Imported Bucchero from Poggio Civitate: Socio-Political Exchange. Jason P. Bauer, Archaeological Excavations at Poggio Civitate

Session: 2H: 100 Years at Mochlos, Gateway to Crete
Timeslot: Friday, January 4, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

  • Imported Pottery in Neopalatial Mochlos on the Basis of Fabric Analysis
    Eleni Nodarou, Institute for Aegean Prehistory and Jerolyn Morrison, Leicester University

Session: 2I: Materials and Production in the Roman World
Timeslot: Friday, January 4, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

  • Fineware from the Palatine Hill: New Evidence for Ceramic Production at Rome. Adam Hyatt, University at Buffalo, SUNY

  • New Evidence for Roman Coroplasts in Athens. Marcie D. Handler, University of Cincinnati

Session: 3A: Minoan Crete
Timeslot: Saturday, January 5, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Reconstituting the Palace Well: ceramic variability and craft practice in EM I North Central Crete. Peter M. Day, University of Sheffield

  • The Ceramic Assemblage from Vrysinas: Views from a Peak Sanctuary. Elissa Z. Faro, University of Michigan

Session: 3D: The Objects of Greek and Latin Epigraphy
Timeslot: Saturday, January 5, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Graffiti Inscriptions on Pottery from Azoria, Crete: Mixed Ethnicities?
    William C. West, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Session: 4D: Magna Graecia
Timeslot: Saturday, January 5, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

  • Apulian Vase-painting in Context: A Reconsideration of Dramatic Scenes. Johanna Hobratschk, Washington University

Session: 4I: The Chronology of the Royal Macedonian Tombs at Vergina
Timeslot: Saturday, January 5, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

  • Whose Pottery? The Ceramics from the Vergina Tombs. Susan I. Rotroff, Washington University at St. Louis

Session: 5C: Corinthian Horizons: Space, Society and the Sacred in Ancient Corinth
Timeslot: Sunday, January 6, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Dancing Outside the City: The Kokkinovrysi Figurine Deposit. Theodora Kopestonsky, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

Session: 5F: Food Fantasies, Fallacies, and Facts: Multidisciplinary Methods on Mediterranean Meals
Timeslot: Sunday, January 6, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Severed Heads and Broken Pots: Consuming the Body in Iron Age Europe
    Sarah Ralph, Cambridge University

Session: 5G: Bronze Age Cyclades
Timeslot: Sunday, January 6, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

  • Communities of Practice within the Cyclades: Considering Scale from a Ceramic Perspective in the Middle Bronze Age. Jillian Hilditch, University of Exeter and Irene Nikolakopoulou, Greek Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Institute of Aegean Studies

  • Too Many Cooks? Ceramic recipes and culinary vessels at Bronze Age Akrotiri, Thera. Noémi Müller and Peter M. Day, University of Sheffield, Vasilis Kilikoglou, Institute of Materials Science, and Irene Nikolakopoulou, Greek Ministry of Culture

Session: 5I: Web-Based Research Tools for Mediterranean Archaeology
Timeslot: Sunday, January 6, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Note: this is where the personal knowledge comes in. I'm talking about my work with Billur Tekkök to publish pottery from Troy on-line.
  • Organizer(s): Rebecca K. Schindler and Pedar Foss, DePauw University

  • Panelists: Pedar Foss, DePauw University, Elizabeth Fentress, International Association for Classical Archaeology, Stephen Savage, Arizona State University, Bruce Hartzlerand Charles Watkinson, ASCSA, Sebastian Heath, American Numismatic Society, Tom Elliott, Ancient World Mapping Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Debi Harlan, Oxford University, Toby Wilkinson, British Institute at Ankara, Robert Chavez, Tufts University

Session: 6B: Villas and Villa Life
Timeslot: Sunday, January 6, 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM

  • Dining in Late Antiquity: An Analysis of Roman Dining Assemblages. Nicholas Hudson, University of Minnesota

If I missed anything, let me know.

Friday, October 12, 2007

High Quality Information at No Cost

It seems that most books on ceramics that I want to order now cost over $100. This is disappointing as it locks out many potential users. It's therefore gratifying to see the online and free availability of "Chronologies of the Black Sea Area in the Period c. 400-100 BC" from Aarhus University Press. There are some superb ceramics articles in this volume.

One complaint: it's annoying and pointless to have set up the PDFs so you can't copy-and-paste or print. If I ever need to, I can get around this restriction with not too much effort. More generally, what scenario is being avoided here by this step? Again, PDF is not stopping "the bad guys" and anyway, I can't think of who "the bad guys" are. If somebody really does intend to produce a hard copy for illegal resale, it's recourse to the courts that will stop them, not any minor technological impediment.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Facebook Group

I started a Facebook group at This is certainly experimental and it may amount to nothing. For now I'm using the "Posted Items" feature to add links to relevant images on Flickr, including the wicked cool Wessex Archaeology pottery photo set.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mediterranean Ceramics Reference Stability Report

Archaeologists working with Mediterranean ceramics require access both to information about objects and to secondary literature. This post initiates a project to track the ability of scholars using digital resources to cite stable references to digital versions of books and journals as well as to online catalogs of object images and descriptions. The list of 10 digital resources will be repeated early each month with a report on any changes to the URLs used to access them.

1. Walters' Catalogue of the Roman Pottery in the Departments of Antiquities, British Museum from Google Books:

2. Robinson's Agora V from JSTOR:

3. Lattara 6:

4. K. Greene's AJA article on Early Roman lead glazed pottery:

5. Heath and Tekkok, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Pottery at Ilion (Troia):

6. Vessel from Çatalhoyuk (via Flickr):

7. A Late Minoan III Pyxis from the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

8. An undocumented ARS Hayes 70 bowl from the dealer Classical Numismatics Group:

9. Fifteenth Century Mosque Lamp from Jerusalem now in the British Museum:

10. The Perseus Project Vase Catalog:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

(Creative) Commoners at Çatalhöyük

This post is in praise of the Çatalhöyük Excavations website. It's the following text, at the lower right of the front page, that should catch one's eye:
All content on this website (including text, photographs, video files, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

For those unfamiliar with the Creative Commons (CC), here's an excerpt from the FAQ (the "you" in this instance is a potential author):
Creative Commons licenses give you the ability to dictate how others may exercise your copyright rights—such as the right of others to copy your work, make derivative works or adaptations of your work, to distribute your work and/or make money from your work. They do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright—including, importantly, fair use or fair dealing—nor do they give you the ability to control anything that is not protected by copyright law, such as facts and ideas.

To be more precise, Ian Hodder, and whoever else decided to use a CC license for these materials, chose an "Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0" license. This states that you (this time, a user) are free to:

  • to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work

  • to Remix — to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

  • Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

Those are pretty broad freedoms and fair conditions so that the "Creative Commoners" at Çatalhöyük are setting an excellent example by releasing their data under these terms. But what does this have to with pottery? Well, it means that you can use this image in accordance with the freedoms granted and conditions described above. Pretty cool. And it helps that you can pursue searches in the database to ascertain that this piece is associated with layers VI/V (c. 5900 BCE).

To further solidify their forward-thinking cred, the project is now using Flickr to handle image delivery. A nice feature of Flickr is that you can easily choose a CC license for your photos and the site makes this choice very clear. I'll blog more about this later.

For now... all praise to everyone who made the decision to use a CC license.

Corinth Excavations: Archaeological Site Manual

There are many terrific internet resources for the study of Mediterranean ceramics, and over time I will mention more and more of these. To start with, here's a little known gem: the pdf file Corinth Excavations: Archaeological Site Manual. In it you'll find a chart of generic forms and a terminology for vessel parts, as well as standardized charts for describing fabric. See page 31 and following for all this and more. It's not all directly relevant to ceramics but it's all interesting. And if anybody from the excavations sees this... how about updating the rest of the site?