Category Archives: Landscapes and Places


Walls just won’t go away. Here is a link to an interview I did with the America’s Democrats podcast on walls… then, and (mostly) now.

The Fate of Walls

From a recent op-ed: For five millennia, politicians have proposed walls like Trump’s. They don’t work.  From The Washington Post, Sunday July 29, 2016. The opening: Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico to … Read more »

Indo-European Origins, Recomputed

A NYTimes article on Friday considers a recent computer model of language divergence that places proto-Indo-European (PIE) speakers in Anatolia 8,000-9,500 years ago in small agricultural villages.  The model thus stands in opposition to the argument for PIE arising on the Pontic Steppe sometime after 3500 BC advanced most systematically by David Anthony.

Indo-European Languages Originated in Anatolia, Biologists Say –

I leave the linguistic assumptions built into the model for others to critique.  But there is an archaeological question which the model will find hard to address: what social dynamic does the early Anatolian model provide for the expansion of Indo-European?  Small agricultural villages do not have built into their social dynamics an obvious mechanism for wide-scale expansion.  One clear advantage of the steppe origins model is the clear socio-technical apparatus for rapid expansion provided by horse riding and chariots/wagons.  The Neolithic Anatolian village provides no such mechanism.

This is not to argue that extension would be impossible–obviously farming and its technologies diffused widely.  But the hoe and the horse are not equivalent technologies of dissemination.  The hoe is a scale-narrowing object–one that yokes the land to human production by tying farmers to very local places (as opposed, for example, to the wider ranges of foragers).  The horse, in contrast, is a scale expanding technology, one that encourages a wide-ranging sense of place.  Missing from the Neolithic Anatolian model then is a sense of how language dispersal could have been so dramatically scaled up even as the lives of its putative speakers was scaling down.

New Maya Temple of the Sun God

A fascinating discovery of a temple of the sun god at El Zotz in Guatemala dramatizes the articulation of rulership with the cosmos.  Two things of particular interest strike me most immediately.  The first is the dynamic nature of the … Read more »

LOL Publicity

The summer edition of Ezra Magazine (Cornell’s quarterly publication) has a great profile of L. Khatchadourian and the new Landscapes and Objects Laboratory. Check out the full article here.

Heritage, Irredentism, Materiality

As described in a recent column in The Atlantic Armenia is opening a fascinating new front in the battle over heritage and repatriation: To the British Museum, she is “probably Aphrodite,” the Greek goddess of love and beauty. To most Armenians, she … Read more »

A Life in Maps

Here is an evocative piece from the Chronicle Review on the imaginative potency of maps.

My Life in Maps – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I particularly liked the paragraph on the edges of maps–the places where it used to be written “Here be dragons” to denote spaces of fear and reticence.  As the author notes, today the standard map sheet directs us to a cascading series of other sheets and files.  But edges can still be found in the world.  In a series of aerial photos that we work with in Armenia, the edge is a hard one roughly 10km from the border with Turkey.  This edge is stamped “classified” today, or in Medieval cartographic parlance: “here be dragons”.

CORONA Satellite Imagery-based Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Near East | Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies

An update on the CORONA Atlas of the Near East initiative.

January 2011 Project Update – Approximately 1200 images have had the necessary ground control information collected and readied for final processing. Of these over 200 are ready for publication – as orthorectified images – through an ArcGIS Imager Server service.  This service will enable a variety of access methods including a WMS, KML files for viewing Google Earth, and a dedicated mapping website. Each image will be available in the National Imagery Transformation Format (NITF) with embedded RPC information enabling a full range of photogrammetric processing including DEM generation from overlapping images, 3D feature mensuration and orthorectification against any available DEM. The RPC coefficients can also be adjusted against user-supplied ground control to the position and orientation properties of the image before orthorectification.

via CORONA Satellite Imagery-based Digital Archaeological Atlas of the Near East | Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies.

Archaeologies of Sovereignty

The new issue of Annual Review of Anthropology contains an article of mine examining the emerging archaeological investigations of sovereignty.  From the abstract: Archaeology has long sublimated an account of the political into a series of proxy concepts such as … Read more »

Elizabeth Warren on Debt and Taxation

A brilliant simple explanation of basic liberal political theory complete with an account of how things and places cement the social contract. via Elizabeth Warren on Debt Crisis, Fair Taxation – YouTube.