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Concept of future development of the Institute of Classical Archaeology, Charles University, Prague
doc. PhDr. Peter Pavúk, PhD.
Classical Archaeology, as a research discipline, together with Classical Studies in general, has a long history AND prominent place in the field of humanities. Shaping its methodology over several centuries, and being originally linked to Classical Art-History and History of Architecture (Bauforschung), the discipline has moved forward, in part inspired also by parallel developments in prehistoric and medieval archaeology. Thus, by the 21st Century, Classical Archaeology can fully justify the second part of its name, namely archaeology. The finds studied now, even coarse-wares and cooking pots, involve a whole range of nature-scientific analyses, as well geospatial approaches. The future of the discipline lies therefore in the following direction: valuing Classical Art and architectural history, while continuing to complement them with new approaches.
The future body of the teaching staff must reflect the need to ensure the standard teaching coverage, ranging from the Aegean prehistory to Roman period in Greece, and from the Iron Age down to late Antiquity in the Roman world, taking in not only Italy, but also the Roman provinces. Four full-time employees and one Emeritus are currently teaching at the Institute. Two of them areover the age of 65, which means that the Institute will have to start thinking about future candidates in line with these staffing goals. The Institute is also known for its collections that require a curator. The latter is related also with the collection ofcasts of classical sculptures and reliefs, many of which are unique. There will certainly be a need for an Institute secretary/librarian in the future as well.
The current external pedagogical staff experts will remain vital to our mission of broadening the Institute's approach to Classical Archaeology. Especially because we inadvertently run the risk of conveying to the students that there is only one way of doing archaeology, namely the way we do it ourselves. External experts teaching complete courses are not only important for their erudition but also for their independence. From my own experience as a student, I have immensely profited fromcourses taught by external teachers, such as Zdeněk Vašíček, Ivan Pavlů and Slavomír Vencl, all of whom had their own personal way of doing archaeology.
In terms of effectiveness, it will be necessary to evaluate the teaching loads and student/hours in order to balance the scientific output. This balance is usually an area of some controversy, often marked by distrust and suspicion on the part of those being evaluated. What is more important? Number of conferences attended or number of students enrolled? For further comments see the section on Research.
Being a Head of Department nowadays means not only being a good scientist, teacher, project coordinator, manager, and fundraiser, but also a good mediator. In case of the present position, I am both an outsider and, at the same time, a former insider, having studied under and/or with all of the current staff. The combination serves as a good starting point providing me with the necessary distance for a balanced judgment, together with the personal insight into both the expert and student experience within the Institute.
As for other aspects, I hope to be able to offer my experience from building up a new subdepartment of Classical Archaeology at the Comenius University in Bratislava, successfully managing extensive institutional library-grants and donations (not listed in my CV), being departmental LLP/Erasmus coordinator, advising a whole range of BA and MA theses, but also co-ordinating several projects financed by both Slovak and Austrian grant agencies. Editorial work on three substantial international volumes and organisation of four international conferences/colloquia has also been a good lesson.
Teaching and Study
Since the Institute is primarily a teaching institution, I will concentrate in my concept mainly on the following aspect: Currently offered are B.A. and M.A. programs, as well as one unified 5-year M.A. program. These are offered as a single specialisation, but also in combination with other specialisations. This overt variability is potentially dangerous and certainly creates problems putting together the time-schedule, not only for students but also for teachers, I imagine. Depending on the overall concept of the Faculty, one should eventually consider narrowing down the diversity, as it might be contra productive.
The Bologna process led in some other countries to the introduction of more broadly defined degrees on the B.A. level, such as “Ancient Studies”. This is not something I would explicitly welcome, but if the need for such an integrated B.A. program arose, it should be possible to come up with a suitable concept. Using the experiences of my German colleagues could save us many of the teething problems. In this case, it is easier to learn from other peoples´ mistakes then to learn the lesson the hard way, by making them ourselves anew.
Let me, however, take the single specialisation B.A. and single specialisation M.A. programs as a starting point in this discussion. The basic idea of the B.A. stage of the education currently is (and it should remain so) to give the prospective B.A. graduates a general overview of the many facets of Classical Archaeology. Traditionally, one deals with matters by period, rather than by subject, and then diachronically. The courses will likely need some face-lifting, but that can be implemented on the level of the single syllabi, and would not require restructuring of the whole program.
Structural changes would be, on the contrary, necessary in the M.A. program. Several options are possible: The courses should be more specific, and more problem oriented, such as Archaeology of Settlements or Archaeology of Cult and similar. The other option would be to go for specialisation in a more traditional sense, such as Greek Archaeology, Roman Archaeology etc. and enable groups of M.A. graduates concentrate on a given territory/period more in depth (likely by way of semi-elective courses). This is something, I would not dare to proclaim ex officio, but would need to see an intensive intradepartmental discussion on the topic first. In short: the M.A. program needs not only face-lifting, but a proper surgery.
Some of the courses could be offered with a two or three year rotation. This would be a good possibility of how to get the already mentioned external experts involved. One could eventually offer such courses to the whole department: third-year B.A. students could for example easily participate in the semi-elective courses for the M.A. students.
Another aspect, that I would like to address, is the cooperation with other faculty institutesand departments. I would consider it to be a good idea to offer elective courses tailored either directly to a specific department, such as the Department of History, or generally, to anyone from the fakulty who would be interested. I might not be fully informed, so if such a course already exists (I only know of a course for the Art-History department), I would certainly encourage it, and would even suggest expanding it. Relatively small disciplines, such as Classical Archaeology, cannot afford to remain restricted to their own students, especially since we have potentially something important to offer to a broader audience, namely part of what has been traditionally named as general education. The lack of the latter becomes almost acutely clear with the gradually decreasing standard of the Secondary School graduates entering universities.
Under the heading cooperation falls also active participation in the LLP/Erasmus program. The year 2013 is the final year for most of the existing bilateral agreements, but the new EU programming period 2014-2020 will certainly either continue or come up with a similar Exchange program for both students and teaching staff. It is of highest importance for the students to participate in these programs. Ideally, each student could spend a semester abroad or at least at a different university within the Czech Republic. This might eventually mean a slight postponing of the final thesis but the experience gained would more than sufficiently overweight any eventual delay.
And here I speak on purpose of experience and not knowledge, since experience and overal adaptability to a new study/work environment is becoming increasingly important, often more so than the pure knowledge per se. We have to also encourage our colleagues from the respektive partner universities to apply for teaching mobility and come and teach in Prague, which again would be a big benefit for the students.
Continued cooperation should involve also the National Museum in Prague, with its rich collection of classical material, which is indispensable for study purposes of the students. Involvement of the Museum employees in the educational process at the Institute will also be welcomed.
The Institute has traditionally paid attention to areas outside of the classical world, which were either in direct contact with, or influenced by the Greek and Roman art, sometimes even influencing it in return. This includes Celts, Thracians, Skythians, but also the Persian, Parthian and Achaimenid art. Such a broad grasp is a valuable one, typical of Prof. Jan Bouzek, and I think this is something we should carry forward. With my expertise in Anatolia, I would like to expand it with the Frygian and Lydian Art and Archaeology, which would geographically close the circle.
The Institute has already now a strong interest in what is nowadays Bulgaria, which is reflected also in the range of topics for the M.A. and PhD. theses. Again, I would like to continue and expand this to include also Anatolia, in its many facets, from the Bronze Age to Roman Period. Important is also to study phenomena crossing the modern borders, such as of Greece, Former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey, countries which do not always communicate well and where it is necessary to bring in third parties to view the relevant archaeological aspects from a broader perspective.
Finally, I would like to encourage making Classical Archaeology more archaeological. Not only because I am a Bronze Age expert, but because my experience with the long-term excavations at Troy, encompassing also the Greek and Roman periods, taught me, how important it is not to be guided just by literary testimonies, ancient sources and stylistic analyses, but also how important the understanding of stratigraphy in combination with a solid comprehension of taphonomic processes, both on the level of single deposits, but also for the site formation as such is. It is important not only to deal with the highlights, but to start dealing with issues of everyday life, with simple graves, with villages in hinterland of the main sites and similar. Even dealing with the “traditional” sanctuaries one can profit a great deal from “new” developments, such as the rigid use of dry sieving, sampling, archaeobotany, palynology, anthracology, archeozoology, dendrochronology, inclusion of various scientific methods for provenancing the imports and/or identifying various local workshops, be it for pottery or production of small finds.
This does not mean that we should aspire to teaching our students how to recognize animal bones or be able to measure dendrochronological samples, but it is important, that we teach them about the immense range of “neighbouring” disciplines and about the ever increasing range of analytic methods, which give us answers to questions we didn’t even hear about a few years ago. In the long-term perspective, I consider a good grasp of sampling strategiesto be a crucial element of future archaeological education, since the range of possible analyses has in the mean time become very wide, and because many of the decisions must be done on spot - during excavations, often without being able to be reduplicated, once a given deposit is excavated. This of course is of concern to any kind of archaeology, so it would be meaningful to coordinate effective introduction of such courses with other faculty departments, such as the Departments of Prehistory, Egyptology and the Near East, in order to join the forces, because then again there are not that many experts at hand who can teach this. It might be good to have one course on the B.A. level and a more specific one (possibly rotating) on the M.A. level.
A separate but related issue is the teaching of the Geographic Information Systems (G.I.S.) and the use of other computer applications in archaeology, some of which is already incorporated in the departmental teaching curriculum, but would nevertheless need further enhancement. This again would be meaningful if carried out in coordination with the other archaeology departments.
A good Institute lives through its projects. That applies not only to the actual employees but also to students, who can be either directly involved, or could at least profit from stimulating new topics for their final theses, stemming from such projects.
The existing projects comprise excavations in Bulgaria, Egypt and Uzbekistan. It would certainly be good to maintain the presence in Bulgaria, which is becoming a new emerging area of foreign interest, with the U.S. creating currently a Research Institute in Sofia, and with Great Britain including Bulgaria as a new field of its interest for the British Institute at Ankara. Before proceeding, it is necessary to complete the publications of the field seasons conducted so far, ideally constructing a well-organized database. Getting a new licence in Bulgaria might not be easy, and I would suggest sticking to the already allotted Pistiros and its vicinity. I am sure there is a potential for further excavations or surveys, prehistory included. My own existing contacts with Bulgarian colleagues could possibly be of some help too.
I would likewise welcome further strengthening of cooperation with the Egyptological Institute of the University, not only for the Greek and Roman Periods. This cooperation can be, under current circumstances, considered as a classic win-win situation, where both parties profit and the joined forces lead to a higher productivity and higher scientific standards. Other Egyptology Institute’s scientific activities, namely those in Syropalestine, could also lead to joint projects. It would be good to keep the excavation or any related research project in Uzbekistan as well, but it will be necessary to narrow down the period of interest to such, which indeed shows a connection with the “classical world” - that is Hellenistic and Roman Periods. Early Medieval Excavations in Central Asia, as interesting in themselves as they might be, cannot create a backbone of an institutional project carried out by the Institute of Classical Archaeology.
Lastly, the Institute should continue its involvement in the Roman provincial research in southern Moravia and continue its interest in tracing classical traditions in modern periods, as well dealing with the history and meaning of the various collections of the Classical finds in Czech Republic. Continued collaboration with the National Museum is likewise an obvious goal.
One can wonder: why are there no Czech excavations in Greece, Italy or Turkey? Such endeavours are almost impossible without the existence of a Foreign Research Institute in Rome, Athens or Istanbul, that all the other major players in the field of Classics have. It is usually such Foreign Institutes, which apply for permissions and which are the official partner to the respective governments. The establishment of at least one such Institute would be a major long-term goal, involving also the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the relevant Embassies. Possibly a more realistic (and short-term) goal is the personal involvement of the single Institute members in other already existing foreign large projects, which could eventually lead to the establishment of smaller sub-projects, involving students too.
My own eventual contribution to the Institute’s profile would certainly be the field of Aegean and West-Anatolian Bronze Age archaeology. The relevant projects cover the final publication of the 2nd Millennium pottery from the Homeric Troy, publication of LBA finds from Bademgedığı Tepe south of Izmir, survey in the Kaikos valley (Pergamon), publication of MBA finds from Mikro Vouni on Samothrace as well as publication of older finds fromLesbos and Chios, which both led to my current involvement with the post-colonial theory and material culture studies.
Potentially more important, especially in the long-term perspective, would be my involvement in a new 10 year project by the Boston University for the study of the hinterland of the Lydian capital Sardis, and more specifically, the excavation of newly discovered fortified site of Kaymakci in central Western Anatolia. This is the biggest site so far known in Western Anatolia, bigger than Troy, and very likely the capital of the so-called Šeha River Land known from the Hittite documents. This will sooner or later lead also to the involvement of students from Prague and might present an attractive topic for granting agencies.
Coming to the issue of Grants, obvious sources such as the Czech Grant Agency (GAČR) or the University itself come to mind. Desirable, however, would be a major, so-called institutional grant from the EU or a similar institution. Here again, one has to be realistic about how much research time we can invest, since we have to teach as well. ERC grants might therefore be too timeconsuming, but a Marie Curie Scheme should be within our abilities and this is where my attention will be directed in the next years.
The evaluation of any institute these days is based not only on the number of student/hours, but also on the amount and quality of the scientific output. Here we encounter a bit of a contradiction: on one hand, conference papers do not count, but on the other, going to conferences abroad is often quite crucial for presenting your work and attracting attention, especially for the younger generation. However, given the rules, we will have to learn to play the game by them.
Getting an article published in high-profile foreign journals (such as those listed in Current Contents) is not an easy task. Not so much because of the lack of high standard on our side but mainly because there are not that many in our field, and those existing, are aimed at a more anthropologically oriented kind of archaeology, or welcome results of collaboration with natural sciences. Given these restrains, it will be necessary to refocus our research, at least partly, so as to yield articles suitable for the mentioned journals. As much as I do not like the idea, this seems to be the only way out. One has to keep it balanced and taking up new challenges is certainly stimulating. Closely related is also production of the house journalStudia Hercynia, which is published annually. It is important to keep the journal, since it is the major venue for presenting work of the Institute. Given its foreign language character, the peer-reviewing process might be strengthened to further increase the quality of the journal. Equally important is the continued publication of monographs, both of which are crucial for keeping up exchange programs with other libraries.
Finally, after evaluating possible topics, a major international conference should be launched within the next three years. In order to assure a high standard, this could eventually happen again in coordination with the Institute of Egyptology, but not necessarily. Suitable topics could for example cover the already mentioned computer applications, use of natural sciences and other innovative strategies, all applied specifically to the field of Classical Archaeology.
Further venues of future development
Crucial is the need for additional space at the Institute. The current three rooms fulfilling the combined role of office space for 6 to 8 people at times, library, and a room for lectures are absolutely insufficient. I am again fully aware that solving this problem is part of more complex processes at the level of faculty administrative, but should I name one single aspect, other than those already outlined above, the issue of space would be the most prominent one, possibly even the most urgent one at all.
The other major theme, not discussed so far in this concept, is the condition of the library. The library has been built up over a longer period of time, and the space problem becomes palpable also with regards to books. It is important to maintain a steady influx of new journals, but many monographs can only be obtained by direct purchase. I would like to initiate thus some grant program, in order to buy specific books to complement the existing stock, but also to facilitate the suggested enhancing of the scientific and teaching profile of the Institute.
An eventual move to a different building would possibly be accompanied with the need for the library´s reorganisation. That is always a gargantuan task, and needs to be properly prepared ahead. Another important aspect is the digitalisation of the library catalogue. Much has already been done, but if it is not finished yet, I would see it as another main goal. Speaking of digitalisation, it would possibly be a good idea to make the relatively large study collection of shreds and other small finds curated by the Institute available online.
A good presentation of the Institute abroad requires a fully functional English version of the Institutes´ home-page, which is currently only partly the case. The structure and contents of the existing Czech version is principally sufficient, but would urgently need a new design. Additional features could for example cover internal teaching materials for the students, secured by means of a password, or other digital materials but especially a more detailed and representative presentation of the projects run by the Institute. Developing a modern web-page is a task either for a skilled student, or we will have to contract some expert. This kind of investment is absolutely necessary.
Time plan for selected goals
While changes at the B.A. level can be implemented step by step within the first year, or can at least be systematically initiated, changes on the M.A. level will require more time, but should be accomplishable within the first three years as presented in this concept. Introduction of specialised courses on “neighbouring” sciences should also be manageable within 2-3 years. However, I would like to stress that while the face-lifting of the B.A. courses is mandatory, the degree of changes on the M.A. level is still negotiable, even if necessary.
Scientific and research plans for the department, as sketched above, are meant mostly for the next few years, with the potential of future development. The establishment of a foreign institute is a matter of a longer period. I would not be the first one to attempt such goal...
As for the library, the first changes should be visible soon. Creation of the English version of the Institute´s home-page, as well as its re-modelling would be a priority of the first year. Preparation and successful carrying out of a major international conference, including securing sufficient funding, will require up to two years.