Monday, May 26, 2014

Mapping Greek Villages: Neda

I am returning to the villages of Greece, continuing with fieldwork on vernacular architecture. Earlier plans of reviving the Morea Project had been thwarted by the sad death of project director Fred Cooper. In 2010, I visited David Romano's Mount Lykaion Project to brainstorm ways of integrate our old data from the Morea Project with the new data from Parrhasian Heritage Park. The two projects geographically overlap. We prospected the village Neda as one of the villages to be connected with the new path system. Unfortunately, it was not one of the villages that the Morea Project mapped, so we don't have the benefit of archival data from the 1990s. On the Parrhasian Park, see here.

The broader agenda for the summer is to explore the Greek house through multiple case studies. We will reconstruct 19th-century houses torn down in Athens in the 1930s (but well recorded by the Agora excavations), we will survey the town of Lidoriki in Central Greece (part of the ongoing FandM Lidoriki), we will visit the first season of the Western Argolid Survey, and we will explore the digital archives of Ancient Corinth. I will be accompanied by my student Joel Naiman, who will be working on this material all summer as part of a Hackman Scholarship at F&M. 

Lots have changed since I last surveyed Greek villages. Maps are not secretly guarded by the Greek state as treasures of military security. The proliferation of satellite mapping by Bing or Google have made any attempt by nation-states to control information obsolete. But the availability of free and ample data can be misleading. One has the feeling that all is actually available, since village plans are discernible in those satellite images and the human cartographer is obsolete. Google and Bing maps create a challenge in our field methods. I have thought about how to incorporate them in the survey this summer. It seems to me that a blend of high and low tech skills is necessary. Bringing a satellite image into the field does not actually assist the brain in making decisions about urban or architectural value about what is important and what is not.

This summer, I will test the following method. Although we'll be bringing drones, kites, and high-tech visual instruments, I will be maintaining quality control through hand drawings. Before leaving for Greece, I have created simply hand-drawn maps based on what is visible on Google Earth. The process is time-consuming because it requires careful looking and keeping of measurements without any tool other than the eye. So, I've taken my iPad to my favorite cafe with an internet connection; I've signed onto Google Earth; and with an 11 x 24 in drawing pad, I have tried to produce a set of simple black-and-white plan showing visible structures. The process follows producing three different site-plans. 


The first drawing takes the outer-most zoom of the settlement and moving back-and-forth between "map" and "satellite" determines what Google considers to be the major streets and boundaries of the settlement. The limits of the settlement Google denotes in gray, and here I have translated them into steeples. This proves useful in dealing with large settlements (which Neda is not) in subdividing the total area in smaller units that can receive a numerical system. In Neda, for example, you can see a dozen zones. In larger villages (like Lidoriki) we have 50.


Google and Bing images have enough resolution that one can discern roofs and building shadows, enough so that one can discern structures. Sliding through and zooming in-and-out of the Google satellite image, one can start placing buildings on the map. I do this first with a pencil, so that I an erase mistakes. Once I am sure I have all the structures accounted for, I just darken them is. So, these will become the objects of study. With this drawing in hand, we will visit each building and collect specific information.


The final pass involves zooming further into Google and extracting finer information about the buildings, including how they relate to one another, roof types, etc.

So this is what I have prepared before the field. In a couple of weeks, I will join the Parrhasian Heritage Part team and see if this system works. There I will reunite with Mark Davison (Park Services) and David Romano (now at Arizona), who were my hosts two years ago. Wish us luck. I look forward to revisiting the house shown above that is one of the black fields in my drawings. The limited information from Google makes believe, however, that the house has greatly collapsed since 2010. 

1 comment:

Tyko said...

Dear Kostis: Drink a glass of Retsina for me! Enjoy your summer.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States