A couple of weeks ago I participated for the very first time in the SOTM conference, which this year was held in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima, Japan. Since I joined OSM in 2011 I have been an extremely quiet and private user. Therefore, I was surprised to find out that I was selected for the SOTM2017 scholarship! I was even more surprised when I met the other scholars, the work of whom has had a real impact on their communities. Their projects ranged from mapping informal settlements and improving their accessibility to services, organising intensive and extensive workshops, creating new communities, exploring gender biases in geography. To be honest, I was a bit perplexed as to why my project New Opportunities for Understanding the Ancient Coastline was selected.
My presentation was an extension of previous projects I directed and co-directed, such as the Cyprus Ancient Shoreline Project and the Coastal Erosion Management in Archaeology Project. In this case, however, I incorporated the knowledge of local communities with the use of fieldpapers. In short, I provided local fishermen with fieldpapers and asked them to draw the locations they have seen pottery and/or anchors either on the coastline or underwater. I also asked them to map areas where the water was murky, which is an indication of recent erosion. The idea was that local knowledge can replace the time-consuming and expensive reconnaissance survey, by pinpointing more precise areas for future archaeological investigation.
I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to attend and present at SOTM2017. The scholarship gave me the chance not only to raise awareness on the impact of natural processes on cultural heritage, but also to understand through an array of examples the truly empowering capacity of mapping. As such, I left the conference with a long list of ideas for future mapping. I will only share a few:
- I want to map Nicosia's (and beyond) bus system
- I want to map a network for delivering local agricultural products. This is something I have been considering for years, as the archaeologiccal excavations I am co-directing in the south-central coast of Cyprus are located in an agricultural zone. Every so often one of the farmers would visit the site and offer melons and watermelons. This generous gesture was often followed by a sad comment "Eat them, otherwise I will throw them away". Why all this waste? Because the supermarkets would not buy delicious, deformed fruits and vegetables! Many people (including my self) would, especially if a delivery system with pick up locations existed.
- I want to use OSM to map non-western geographical features - features that represent the landscape of communities that have a different interaction with their environment. This type of data will inform Landscape Archaeology by enriching an existing substantial corpus of ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological paradigms.
I want to thank OSMF for giving me the opportunity to attend SOTM2017 as well as the conference organising committee for their hospitality. I want to thank my fellow scholars for sharing their work and experience with me. Finally I want to thank all the people I had the chance to interact with. Your projects have inspired me to be a more active member in the OSM community and have truly expanded my horizons.
I hope to see you all in Milan!