Site in Transition: John L. Caskey, Ayia Irini and Archaeological Practice in Greek Archaeology
Evi Gorogianni Aegean Archaeology 10 (2009-2010) : 105-120.
The present article is a study of archaeological practice in Greek archaeology, assessed through the methods used by John L. Caskey in excavation and post-excavation procedures, as well as in publication. Archaeological practice is an interpretive exercise rather than mere recovery of artifacts and data. It is influenced by a range of factors including the questions that motivate the primary investigator in their research, the nature of the site, and the general zeitgeist (not to mention unforeseen circumstances). Since archaeological practice influences and conditions archaeological data by favoring certain questions, sites, or datasets more than others, it also conditions the trajectory of archaeological knowledge. Reference to fieldwork techniques and methodologies that Caskey employed mainly during the Ayia Irini excavations on the island of Kea, the last excavation project of his illustrious career, are used to delineate the theoretical underpinnings of his research agenda (and by extension also his generation of Greek archaeologists). It also highlights his dialectical relationship with the intellectual and collegial environment in Greek archaeology, which not only influenced him in designing his research strategy, but also effected changes over time in its implementation and the resulting publication program. The contribution of such a study, especially of a prominent figure in Greek archaeology, constitutes a foray into the history of archaeological thought and knowledge in Classical archaeology, a history so poorly discussed (especially after the 1930s onwards) in otherwise excellent treatises on Anglo-American traditions in the discipline, often positing as histories of world-wide archaeological thought.