Voices from the Field (2017-07-20)

Eat, (sleep), work, repeat! Daily activities in Area 109.523.

Dalila Alberghina

Liters of soil removed, numerous crates filled, and shades of tan. The criteria to measure the progress of our excavation team can be many, but among all we prefer the following: a better understanding of how the space we are working in framed and influenced daily life in the past. After seven weeks of fieldwork in excavation area 109.523, we can say that we have made some progress in this direction!

This season, in fact, our team has been focusing in particular on the exploration of one domestic unit located in the SE section of trench 109, and the investigation of the largest room has recently suggested some answers to our questions about the nature of this space.

The NE section of the main unit in building 227 with two different firing installations in the background (left).

The types of small finds we were recovering seemed to suggest food-related activities, but the presence of in situ vessels and firing installations now adds more certainty to our hypothesis that this large room was devoted mainly, if not only, to food processing, from the grinding of grains to roasting and cooking.

Examples of in situ finds from building 227

Additionally, we have also been exploring the adjacent space, a long and narrow corridor that separates this building from another, larger domestic unit. Here the absence of architectural features and regular paving and the relatively clean nature of the deposit helped us rule out an earlier hypothesis that this space was a narrow alley. Concentrations of  raw and finished stone flakes and cores among other small finds suggests an alternative view.

The narrow outdoor unit 236

Our current idea is that this narrow outdoor space was devoted in part to the production of stone tools and perhaps other small objects.

Some of the lithics found in corridor 236.

By combining these different lines of evidence resulting from our daily routines on site, the possible rhythms of ancient daily life in this part of our area begin to emerge.

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-07-14)

Archaeologists cannot stay away from archaeology

Nami Shin

Here at Kaymakçı, we work hard everyday to learn more about the ancient people who once inhabited the citadel. Our team includes many different specialists: excavators, zooarchaeologists, archaeobotanists, ceramicists, conservators, sediment chemists, and 3D spatial analysts. We happily work to identify the different plants, animals, ceramics, etc. used or kept on site in antiquity despite the sometimes intense daily heat and routine early morning starts.

Our team is hard-working and focused on research, but we still know how to have fun! On days off many team members like to venture to other places in the area. Some team members, like our archaeobotanist, like to spend their days off at the beach.

Our archaeobotanist standing at a pier in Ayvalık

In chatting with other team members, it seems most of our archaeological team simply cannot stay away from archaeology, even on their days off!

 A few team members exploring Assos.

The team enjoys their days off, but as you can tell we enjoy archaeology even more. Washing bones, floating sediment samples, digging in the dirt, and more are where our biggest smiles are found!

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-07-10)

A diamond in the rough: raw materials in 97.541

Catherine Scott

As much as archaeologists enjoy finding the kinds of beautiful things you might see in a museum—jewelry, glass jars, wall paintings, mosaics, etc.—we also get excited when we find the raw materials used to produce these fine objects. Raw materials and their contexts can tell us a lot about how people in the past lived and worked, as well as how they related to other people and groups nearby and far away.

This year in excavation area 97.541, we have been lucky to find a number of objects that might be raw materials for craft production. Most of these raw materials have been stone, as stone is difficult to reuse and preserves well. These include soft, colored stones that might have been used in pigment production, as well as translucent stones that could have been used to make jewelry or other decorative objects. These materials are also found alongside tools used in other kinds of production, such as needles and spindle whorls for making textiles, and stones used for polishing.

The location of these raw materials relative to architecture can tell us a lot about how space was used, and how production was organized. Are they found inside buildings, or outside in open courtyards? Are they associated with houses or with workshops? If certain materials are found only in some parts of the site, access to those materials may have been restricted based on social status or the specialized function of parts of the site.

The southern part of area 97.541. The location of raw materials can help us learn what these buildings and open spaces were used for.

A variety of scientific analyses can be used to find the origin of these raw materials, which can tell us if they were gathered locally or imported from far away. By looking at the distribution of raw materials and finished objects across a landscape or a region, we can learn how trade routes developed and changed over time. A good example of this is the famous Uluburun shipwreck found off the southwestern coast of Turkey and dating to the Late Bronze Age; this ship contained both raw materials from around the Mediterranean (such as glass ingots) and finished products (such as gold jewelry).

We are a long way from being able to make these sorts of interpretations about the objects that have been recently found in area 97.541. However, we will continue to study them and look forward to learning more about this aspect of  ancient Kaymakçı.

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-07-01)


Elena Mars & Leah Balagopal

The conservation lab treats a variety of objects, but this week our focus is metal! Because Kaymakçı is a Bronze Age site, the metals we see are usually either copper alloys or lead. Archaeological metals can be found in varying states of deterioration due to past use, burial, environment, and the excavation process. Luckily most recovered metals are in good condition with no active corrosion.

Metal objects are typically covered with a layer of burial accretions (calcium carbonate rich material that is naturally deposited) and soil that obscure the form and surface of the object.

Accretions or calcium carbonate coatings that develop during burial


Accretion removal is a delicate process which entails first removing any loose soil with a stiff brush. To tackle the accretions, we turn to the scalpel. Slow mechanical cleaning with a thin blade coupled with a few drops of ethanol can free soil trapped within layers of accretions, thus removing them both. We also use unorthodox materials to safely remove surface layers including porcupine quills.

Our tool kit! Including porcupine quills found on site at Kaymakçı. The quills are used to mechanically remove unwanted surface deposits.
On this copper alloy a glass bristled brush was used to aid accretion removal while preserving the protective and stable malachite oxide layer.
Once the obscuring accretions have been removed the form of the needle is revealed.
On the left: before treatment; On the right; after treatment.
Elena treating a copper needle under the microscope.
Leah treating a copper awl –a puncturing tool.

Our conservation team is working hard to conserve the artifacts from the site and hope to “Cu” Later!

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-06-27)

Rolling Stones: Excavating on a slope in 95.555

Ebru Kaner

Welcome to area 95.555! This area was opened in 2015, and this year I am continuing to excavate it; my Ph.D. dissertation explores LBA fortifications in western Anatolia, with a focus on Kaymakçı, and I am excited to learn more about the fortification system in this area!

95.555 is challenging to excavate because it is on a steep slope; there is a drop in elevation of around 5.5 meters from the southern edge to the northern edge! Ancient people preferred to construct their fortifications on such slopes because they wanted to build their defense system on terrain that was difficult to attack. So, they managed to build a strong defensive system that was not easily reachable by enemies without extra effort, thanks to the topography of the area. Overcoming the challenges of this fortification system is as hard for me as it would have been for ancient enemies since it is the first time I am excavating on a slope.

Taking a GPS point while enjoying the view.

The hardest part of excavating in this trench is to understand the stratigraphy, which is complicated by the history of building in the area as well as by the slope. For this reason, we are extremely careful and meticulous while digging. All of us in 975.555 work together to help in this hard task. Nonetheless, excavating on the slope is not that bad; our view is extremely pleasing and breathtaking!

Sunrise at 95.555.

We look forward to continuing our vigil on the northern wall to protect Kaymakçı from the White Walkers!

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-06-21)

Exploring Daily Life at Kaymakçı: Work in Area 109.523

Dalila Alberghina

When you spend every morning in a trench for two months, somehow that trench becomes your home, as much as your team becomes your family. The 2019 field season is my second year in a row as the area supervisor in area 109.523, and it’s the second and third season for other people on our team as well! This not only creates a better atmosphere among team members, it also greatly enhances the outcome of our daily work in the field because each one of us is already familiar with the area and the materials that had been and are being excavated.

Looking for artifacts in the sieve. We sieve all the soil we excavate to find small ceramics and pieces of bone.

The area we are currently working in is located in the so-called Southern Terrace, located outside the Inner Citadel but within the larger outer line of fortification walls that encircled the entire settlement during the Late Bronze Age.

The “Southern Terrace.” The current road roughly follows the route of the ancient road through the site, past area 109.523 (in the foreground), up to the Inner Citadel.

While the general layout of this part of the settlement was already known thanks to geophysical  survey conducted between 2012 and 2016, the excavations (beginning in 2014) provided a great opportunity to understand and reconstruct the nature of domestic occupation and to grasp the essence of daily life of people living at the site during the 15th, 14th, and 13th centuries BCE.

Results of geophysical survey in the Southern Terrace. The large buildings being excavated in area 109.523 are found throughout this part of the site. (From Roosevelt et al. 2018)
Area 109.523 from the air, looking east. The stepped sondage in the southwestern corner (at bottom right) has recently encountered sterile deposits and bedrock, well beneath the architectural level(s).

In a nutshell, we are literally sticking our nose inside other people’s houses! The work in area 109.523, in fact, focuses on the investigation of long rectilinear buildings separated by alleys or corridors and aligned perpendicular to a street that connected this part of the settlement to the Inner Citadel. The main contexts we have been exploring in these first two weeks are two of these domestic units, internally divided into different rooms by small walls. How were people using these spaces in their daily lives? This is what small but crucial details try to tell us, from the differences in the texture and color of the soil to the distribution of ceramic sherds, bones, and other artifacts.

Objects for textile production from 109.523 and other areas, including spindle whorls, loom weights, and needles. (From Roosevelt et al. 2018)

And so day by day, paying attention to details, we get a perhaps more complex but better picture of daily life at Kaymakçı, from the way people prepared and stored their food to other daily activities conducted within the domestic units and in abutting corridors and alleys. In the next weeks we will continue our exploration of other parts of area 109 to add more pieces to the puzzle! In the meantime, you can learn more about this area, as well as other parts of the site, by reading a recent article published by our team.

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-06-19)

A New Path to the Site

Hakan Orel

At the beginning of the 2019 season and with several friends from nearby Hacıveliler and Büyükbelen, I committed to clearing and marking the trekking route between the research center and excavation area at Kaymakçı. Rather than chopping extensively, we shared a common perspective and respect for the forest, working together like gardeners rather than foresters.

Team members clearing the way.

We spent the day together sawing and trimming different kinds of Meşe (pırnal meşesi = holly oak), Ahlat (wild pear), and Payam (Almond), removing dead and entangled branches. This will increase their health and growth in the near future. We also removed unnecessary branches blocking the trekker’s path as well as loose stones and the many thorny plants that we all know and love.

We might have disturbed some pathways/refuges of wild animals, but it was necessary to draw boundaries that separate our paths, minimizing the chances of encounters.

Those who now walk the path will see cairns (stone stacks) along the way that mark the route. If you see one that has been toppled, please repair it, or—if you like—make a new one marking the location between two others: put at least 3 stones on top of each other and be sure that the new cairn is seen from both ways, hiking up and down.

A stone cairn to mark the path.

There are also a few spots for shade if you would like to rest a little: one around the halfway point, and one just below where the path meets the ridge that connects the excavation area to the research center.

A shady spot if you need a break!

If you are hiking in the early evening, mind your step for snakes: they come out of their homes during the cooler hours to take in the weather. To minimize the chances of encounters and to avoid surprising animals, distance yourself from shady under-tree spots along the path, where they live.

While cleaning the path, I had an informative day, learning different tree and animal species local to the region. It’s always good to share and gather new experiences and knowledge!

Enjoy the views and cherish the cardio workout along the newly cleared path!

Team members heading to site for trench tours!

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-06-16)

Storm Gods at Kaymakçı!!

Over the last few days, the Storm Gods have been visiting Kaymakçı and making their presence known!

Strong winds, high grumbling thunder, alternating sharp spikes and dulled clouds of lighting, and torrential fits of rain!

Poor weather for excavation, but convincing reminders of possible perspectives on the power of nature in pre-industrial and pre-monotheistic cultures!

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-06-13)

Understanding mudbrick and earthen features at Kaymakçı

Jana Mokrisova

The great cities of Babylon and Mohenjodaro were built not of stone, but of mudbrick. The same was true for the first towns and cities of Anatolia. It is among the world’s most important materials—excellent for moderating temperatures in winter and summer. During the Late Bronze Age in Anatolia, and notably at places such as Hattuşa and Kaymakçı, people built big cities with this fantastic material, including streets, houses, and walls that towered many meters. This required massive labor, time, and resources. Over time, the elements literally blew away this impressive city. Today, we have fragments that give us clues.

A common state of mudbrick preservation at the site, including fragmentary and heavily weathered mudbricks.

As mudbrick and earthen materials are often sun-dried, they are very fragile and require a lot of time to maintain. Once people left Kaymakçı, the mudbrick infrastructure succumbed to the elements such as rain and wind. Thus, our research questions include a focus on the 3,500 year old fragments of this once impressive place, as highlighted in a recent article.

This particular fragment was preserved because it hardened as a result of contact with elevated temperatures.

We are investigating not only individual bricks but also complete earthen features, from platforms to hearths and ovens, considering the full magnitude of the mubrick architecture that would have defined private and public spaces at Kaymakçı, as well as the superstructure of the fortification system. Understanding the chaîne opératoire—the production sequence—is a critical part of this work.

Mudbrick and earthen materials are made from a mixture of sand, silt, and clay; they also contain “temper,” such as straw, chaff, and mica schist. Variation in the composition of mudbrick at sites like Kaymakcı is influenced both by local resources and the choices made by those who produced the material. We’ve been working on understanding the fine details so that we can investigate choices made in the past.

In order to understand variations in both material sources and mudbrick production methods, we conduct particle-size analysis (or granulometric analysis) to measure grain-size proportions, from coarse, to medium, to sandy or silty/clayey.

Oven 99.526.79.

Applying this analysis to an oven excavated in area 99.526 in 2016, we can show that the oven was made using bricks of different “recipes,” most of which do not adhere to an idealized ratio of 25–45% clay and less than 50% sand.

A table showing percentage representation of sand, silt, and clay for features distinguished within oven 99.526.79.

Perhaps the bricks came from different mudbrick makers using different recipes and resources, or perhaps they were produced at different times, only used together in the oven. We probably won’t be able to answer such questions definitively, but without this type of analysis, we wouldn’t have known to ask them in the first place! Stay tuned for future posts and the publication of the in-process article for more hypotheses about how the people of Kaymakçı used earthen materials to shape their architecture and daily lives!

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!

Voices from the Field (2019-06-10)

Our future is bright, our future is in three-dimensions! 

Gary Nobles, Aleyna Çalışkan, Orkun Şimşek, and Volkan Artan

The team processing the data fresh from the excavation.

The Kaymakçı 3D spatial team are always hard at work processing the photographs from the excavation team to create truly three-dimensional volumes of each excavated archaeological context. This process starts after we have generated the 3D models for each context’s upper and lower surfaces; along with other files like an orthophoto and a DEM (digital elevation model), we create a file containing data for the (potentially millions) of points in each model. We then use a mix of established software as well as our own bespoke solutions specifically designed for cleaning the 3D outputs.

Visual results from our filtering algorithm. This one needs cropping!

Using software still in development (being developed by Gary), we isolate the 3D points of any particular object or soil volume we have recorded. Since we know their exact position in each excavation area, we can accurately reconstruct the digital picture of the space.

Our first results are emerging from the mass of information we have collected over the past years as we incorporate the new data from this year’s excavation.

Contexts 515 and 499 from trench 99.526 showing the complexities we face.

We are excited to see how the excavated soils will take on a second life in digital form as the season continues.

Look forward to more posts from Gygaia Projects over the course of the year!