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Exploring the Harbors of Old Knidos

Artifact photography in the field

(guest post by Itay Avitzur)

Many countries where Classical Archaeology is conducted, including Greece, Turkey, and Italy, have strict laws prohibiting the removal of artifacts overseas. These restrictions present logistical difficulties for foreign archaeologists, who spend only a few months of the year in the field and the rest of their time in their home countries. As a result, documentation of finds is critical to allow analysis and study.

In my job as artifact photographer I have leaned the guidelines for photographing different types of objects: how to set up the images, at what angles the photos ought to be taken, and what exposure is necessary to capture the details. All diagnostic sherds—rims, bases, handles, and any decorated pieces—need to be photographed with profile and section views and the alignment of each object is important.

The back breaking labor of artifact photography.

The back breaking labor of artifact photography.

One of the biggest challenges I have experienced with field photography at Burgaz is the constant struggle to keep lighting sufficient without overexposing the photo or using the flash. Particularly breezy days—a common phenomenon in Datça—present another difficulty: wind scatters dirt and leaves around the mat on which the artifacts lie, and often threatens to blow away scales and labels too. After all pictures are taken and the bleached, blurry, or misaligned ones are deleted, every photo needs to be accurately renamed for archiving. Using Photoshop, we can remove extraneous shadows, fix backgrounds, and correct colors.

The biggest perk of this job is that I get to see the most exciting finds from all parts of the site instead of just the area where I have been working.