“Every archaeologist leaves a project unpublished” is a part of the lore of archaeology. Among this unpublished fieldwork was the Helmand Sistan Project, which was the largest systematic survey and excavation of southwest Afghanistan conducted jointly by American and Afghan archaeologists in the 1970s, an area unavailable for further archaeology in the subsequent 4 decades of warfare. Three years ago, Mitchell Allen returned to help complete publication of this important work. But how do you to resuscitate a long forgotten project, find the materials, notes, and people involved in order to complete it? The archival “excavation” led in many unexpected directions and produced unusual finds of its own. The story of this detective work will be the subject of this presentation.
Mitchell Allen is a Research Associate at the Archaeological Research Facility at UC Berkeley and at the Smithsonian Institution. He was a field archaeologist on the Helmand Sistan Project then left for a 40 year career in scholarly publishing. He is author of one book and numerous papers and presentations on archaeology and on scholarly publishing.