Progetto S’Urachi

An update from Anna Soifer, PhD Student, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World

Since we couldn’t be in the field this summer, members of the Progetto S’Urachi, myself included, turned to Zoom and Google Docs to hold a virtual writing campaign. We were lucky – last summer we completed a study season for the project’s Area E, which put us in a good position to start working on a manuscript for the publication of the area this summer. My role in the 2019 study season had been as part of the ceramic analysis team, specifically looking at fabrics (the actual ceramic material) with the goal of defining the development of ceramic traditions at S’Urachi through time.

Left: Sherds awaiting analysis. Right: Magnified photos taken of fabric samples using an electronic microscope (DinoLite), fabrics 1B, 1C, and 4 from top to bottom.

For the 2020 writing campaign, my job was to co-write the fabrics section of the Area E publication with Peter van Dommelen, using data collected last summer. This first meant cleaning the data: making sure all our counts had been copied into Excel correctly, calculating the percentage of the assemblage represented by each fabric in each context, and correlating those to the chronological ‘Events’ defined by other team members studying stratigraphy and diagnostic ceramics.

Wrangling the data.

Then analysis and interpretation – identifying trends, discussing what they meant, and deciding how to represent them (sherd counts or weight? bar graph or scatter plot?) – became the subject of multiple Zoom calls and long email threads. I even got a crash course in graphing with R!

First attempt at graphing the fabric trends – way too busy!
Fabric 1 trends.

We did the actual writing collaboratively on a Google Doc, each drafting a few sections and then going through multiple rounds of commenting and editing. Our section – text and figures – is now complete and waiting for translation into Italian in the next phase of the campaign. It will be exciting to watch the progress of the volume and see our study incorporated into a larger story of connectivity and colonial contacts at S’Urachi during the 1st millennium BCE.