Monday, September 03, 2007

Italy and after

Oy vey! It's been a long time. I know I should have posted sooner. A number of things have prevented me from doing that. I apologize for the long delay. So I'll try to give an overview of my last few months.

I went to the European Association of South Asian Archaeologists conference in Ravenna, Italy at the beginning of July. The conference was great, and I presented my paper "Social Difference and Craft Production in Iron Age Tamil Nadu: Preliminary Results from Kodumanal" on the second day with a full room in attendance. My fellow grad students from Madison also presented, and everyone did a great job. I also met a lot of other great researchers, faculty, and grad students in other institutions. Though the cost of the trip was pretty high, the return on the investment was very high.

After the end of the conference, my friend and fellow grad student, Katie and I had made plans to travel for just over a week along with Katie's friend Sangeeta. So we started from Ravenna and took the train to Venice, where we stayed on a smaller island nearby called The Lido. The Lido was once a beach resort for the rich and famous. Now it's a somewhat less glorious place but with a lovely beach, and the cost of hotel rooms was much cheaper than in Venice proper. We each purchased the three-day boat pass for $50, which was ridiculous, but less ridiculous than paying for each individual boat ride. The boats are like the bus system in Manhattan, and there really is no other way to get around. We explored Venice, though we didn't see every single sight to be seen. I got some nice pictures in Venice. I'll put a few here, but the full set can be seen at Flickr.

After Venice, we took the train to Florence (Firenze), and from Firenze to Siena for a day. From Firenze we returned to Bologna where we first arrived, and flew home. The best parts of the trip involved a lot of wine and/or sangria, and are thus a bit fuzzy in my memory. The little local bar on the corner by the Hostel outside Bologna was fantastic. They were truly the local flavor. The glasses of wine also only cost 1 euro, and were filled to the brim.

The Duomo Cathedral in Firenze

The sights of Italy were just spectacular, and so was the food. For the most part anyway. There were a few disappointments on the food front. But the last meal, a "Ravioli alla fantasie della chef" was superb. It was a creamy sun dried tomato sauce with walnuts and pancetta and lots of parmesan, and probably some other ingredients I couldn't identify. I knew I was taking a risk, letting the chef's fantasy take my dinner, but it was spectacular.

Everything about Italy was so great, and the trip so short, that all I can really conclude is that I need to go back. We didn't go to Rome, (too far, too much to pack in to a short trip), nor did we see any of the other spectacular archaeological sites or monuments that dot the country. Someday I'll have to plan for myself an archaeological tour of Italy.

However, I did see a really interesting exhibit on the Etruscan period, though all the signs were in Italian, and I couldn't get much about who really the Etruscans were, or what was going on in terms of politics or society at that time. They made some really cool artifacts though:

After returning from Italy I got back to the business of research. This was interrupted by the death of my hard drive, though getting it replaced under the AppleCare protection plan was amazingly easy, considering it's India. I mean I had to go to Chennai on the overnight train, and contact an Apple authorized repair place, but they were fast, efficient and nice. All my research was backed up... so a hassle, but not a disaster.

I also conducted some experimental work with a local Potter near by to Thanjavur, in which we attempted a couple of different methods for producing the so called "classic Black and Red Ware", that is the most common type of pottery found in the Iron Age. Except for some cracking it came out pretty well:

After that I went to Pondicherry to meet with professors Rajan and Subbarayalu, and proceeded to Coimbatore District to visit other archaeological sites of the Iron Age, in the region around Kodumanal where my research is currently based. I found several interesting sites I hope to return to, and saw some lovely country-side. Here's a couple of examples:

I'll be going out soon to visit more sites, and I'll do my best to post again soon.