From the Brown Daily Herald:

When most people think of archaeology, they may picture Indiana Jones exploring exotic sites and excavating lost cities. But rather than digging on her hands and knees or crawling through craggy cliffs, Susan Alcock, professor of classics and director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, uses advanced technology to study the geography of ancient landscapes for clues into the behavior and movements of ancient peoples.

People's lives, Alcock said, are imprinted in the landscape. To understand the lives of ancient people, it is necessary to look at all the places they touched, she said, and landscape archaeology offers a much broader picture of ancient life than excavation of a single area, such as a temple or a burial ground.

That's where technology comes in - Alcock said she uses satellite imaging, aerial photography and geographic information system technology to study landscapes. Alcock's work focuses on the Greek and Roman rural countryside, which she said had been largely ignored in favor of urban areas when she began her work. She said she employs the relatively new methodology of systematic pedestrian survey, or regional survey, which involves walking an area of land and examining the surface for agricultural features, remains of settlements and pottery.

Alcock said she is particularly interested in the collective memory of ancient peoples. Often, she explained, texts from the period aren't representative of the greater part of society - the poor, commoners and farmers - but of an elite fragment.

"Archaeology reveals alternative memories," Alcock said. The lesson: "Don't believe everything you read."

Alcock is currently one of four co-directors of an archaeological project in southern Armenia called the Vorotan Project. A diachronic study, it focuses on all periods from the Stone Age to the Soviet era and attempts to build an understanding of how and why the landscape has evolved through time, Alcock said.

For Alcock, the site is of particular interest because of its location between the ancient Roman and Parthian empires - the inhabitants of the region would have been caught between two formidable empires, she said.

But Alcock said she isn't expecting to find anything specific there. She said archaeologists learn not to hold too many hopes going into a dig.

There is so much "serendipity in archaeology" that you have "no idea what you're going to find," she said, and so little is known about the region that "everything changes the picture."