Catharine Judson is an Associate Member at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens working on a working on a PhD in Classical Archaeology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She previously received her AB in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from Bryn Mawr College in 2010 and a MA in Classical Archaeology from UNC in 2012.
Q: What is your particular field of interest?
A: I work on settlement development on Crete during the Early Iron Age. I’m interested in figuring out from the archaeological evidence the mechanisms by which communities and settlements developed up to the point when the Greek polis appeared.
There are a couple of ways to do this, one of which is looking at specific types of buildings where communal social interactions took place— like dining buildings and public spaces where different families and groups would have eaten together and negotiated their relationships either cooperatively or competitively. I also look at local shrines and large regional cult sites. So by looking at the scale and type of these communal dining and cult spaces--can we talk about the introduction of new cult practices or dining practices? Are there new building types that might indicate a change in the way people are interacting within settlements and creating social identities? The questions I want to get at the most are how and when and why these communal identities are being created.
To complement this I am looking at what else is happening in the settlements of this period: how are these buildings connected physically and socially with the rest of the settlement (domestic spaces, cemeteries, etc.)? And then beyond that I look at the size of settlements and how settlements are moving around during this period—whether they are expanding or contracting—because this can tell you a lot about what the people are doing. During this period, when a population moves it usually moves to another nearby settlement—you have a new group entering an existing community, and new social identities have to be formed even when these populations are probably closely related already.
Q: Have you done excavation work on these sites you’re writing about?
A: Yes, I have done a lot of excavation work on Crete. I work on two different projects— Azoria, which is primarily an Archaic site, and an Early Iron Age site called Anavlochos, which is being excavated by the French School at Athens. Azoria represents the end of the time period I’m looking at and can help illustrate how a lot of the social interactions that I’m interested in coalesced in an early city on Crete. Anavlochos is a very large site, and it will let us talk about out how settlements of the Early Iron Age were structured physically and socially as we continue to excavate.
Q: You’re using entirely archaeological evidence for your research, but how does this relate to later epigraphical evidence from Crete?
A: One of the problems that I’m facing is that my project feeds into the larger body of work on the Greek Polis. A lot of the material people draw on to talk about what the Cretan Polis looked like, and how it’s conceptualized, is either literary or epigraphic. There are many questions about how you should match up later inscriptions and texts with the earlier archaeological evidence. So what I and others are doing is looking at how Early Iron Age practices link up with later behaviors that we know about from textual evidence. But we have to be careful not to lean on the texts too much because that can lead to oversimplification and mislead us about how settlements and specific buildings or spaces worked in the Early Iron Age. It’s at the point where we have to consider text sources but not necessarily believe them at face value, which can be difficult sometimes.
Q: And how did you get interested in prehistoric settlements?
A: I went to Crete one summer and ended up working, largely by accident, at Anavlochos (I was originally going to be working at a Bronze Age site). And the next year I started working at Azoria, and it refocused my attention on questions of settlement development in the periods after the Bronze Age. Also, Crete is an amazing place to work, so I wanted to have a reason to do that.
Q: What brought you to the American School?
A: I did the Regular Program last year. I’ve excavated various places in Crete and the Peloponnese, but I wanted to get familiar with the rest of Greece.
One of the main reasons I’m here this year is because of the resources in the Blegen Library. A lot of the sites I am researching are sometimes just published in journals which you can’t find at many American universities. Also, this spring I will be sending a lot of time visiting Crete to take photographs and to look at architectural remains at sites, to look at material in museums, and to study pottery from old excavations.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in Athens?
A: For right now my favorite restaurant is Taqueria Maya near Syntagma. At least it is this week, because I want tacos. Next week it will probably be something different.
Q: Where else in Greece would you like to visit?
A: Delos and Santorini. These are two major sites that everyone should visit, and that I just haven’t yet. Hopefully I will visit them this spring.
Q: If you were a Greek god or goddess which one would you be?
A: My aspirational answer is Athena because she’s super cool. The realistic answer would be that I don’t know because none of the Greek gods are gods of sitting in the library. Maybe Sisyphus, if my dissertation is the rock, though unlike him I have an actual end in sight.
Q: What do you get from your experience at the ASCSA?
A: I get a chance to have spent two years working in an excellent research library, to have spent a lot of time talking to people from a wide range of academic backgrounds, to participate in the great archaeological and scholarly community we have here, and to see first-hand a lot of material I wouldn’t have had a chance to in the U.S.