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)

Later

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 (2015-07-25)

Animals and Archaeology – Faunal Analysis at Kaymakçı

Adam DiBattista, Francesca Slim, Christine Mikeska

Just one season of excavation results in thousands of pieces of bone, antler, shell, and other animal remains, which are referred to collectively as faunal material. This rich body of material allows us to understand the variety of ways animals were used in the past, evaluate potential contamination levels, and examine past environmental conditions.

Adam examines a piece of antler

Adam examines a piece of antler

 

Francesca measures a humerus

Francesca measures a humerus

 

As a team, we sort bones by their type (e.g., humerus, femur, tibia) and then record information about each individual bone. Using a variety of illustrated manuals and a collection of modern bones provided by our supervisor, Dr. Canan Çakırlar, we attempt to determine species. We frequently find domestic animals like sheep and cow, but also wild animals like deer and fish.

Photography and measurement are two ways we document faunal remains

Photography and measurement are two ways we document faunal remains

 

 

By carefully observing, measuring, and recording the excavated faunal material, we can begin to understand the age and health of animals at Kaymakçı in the past. These traits help us understand the habits of the people who used these animals for meat, wool, and a variety of other products and activities. For example, bones from older sheep may indicate that they were being used for “secondary products” like wool and milk, while bones from younger sheep may indicate they were being used for meat. Additionally, pathologies in cow feet can indicate they were being used for activities such as plowing rather than consumption.

Adam, Christine, and Francesca look at the structure of the teeth from a cattle mandible

Adam, Christine, and Francesca look at the structure of the teeth from a cattle mandible

Voices from the Field (2015-07-13)

Imag(e)ining and recording at Kaymakçı

Emily Wilson

Photography at Kaymakçı is a mix of traditional elements and technological innovations.

Photography is a vital part of the recording process in archaeology. Photographs produce an accurate record of deposits, features, and the relationships between contexts. There are several types of photography that are utilized on site.

 

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On the every-day level, the use of tablets – as opposed to the traditional pencil and paper - allow us to take real-time photographs and annotate them in the field to illustrate our daily notes and create an accurate record of our excavation techniques and thoughts. These images and notes help us to interpret the archaeological record both at the moment of excavation, and later in the lab.

 

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The meter stick and the north arrow are an archaeologist’s best friend! Including these two items is essential in photographs to ensure that an accurate sense of scale and direction are preserved for both formal photos for publication and progress photographs. Without these vital pieces of information, the photograph is almost worthless.

 

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The use of the drone in the field has led to a revolution in photography. The drone is used to take aerials that allow for accurate and detailed day plans (a daily map that includes excavated areas, elevations, and important finds), as well as for “photobatching” large contexts (to create three dimensional models that portray accurate volumes, sizes, and shapes of excavated contexts).

 

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The importance of capturing all of the boundaries of a particular feature or context, as well as its relationships with contiguous contexts, can sometimes require courage and a steady hand at high elevations!

Voices from the Field (2015-05-08)

Gygaia Projects Presentations at the SAA meetings in San Francisco

I recently traveled to San Francisco to represent Gygaia Projects at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. This year’s meeting attracted more than 5,000 archaeologists – the largest turnout in the Society’s history. The lobby of the conference hotel was a sight to behold; I’ve never before seen so many people in one room wearing hiking boots with suits.

On the second day of the conference, I presented a poster on behalf of myself and coauthors Christina Luke and Christopher Roosevelt at the symposium “The Robustness and Vulnerability of Food Production and Social Change: An evaluation of interdisciplinary concepts using archaeological data, models and ethnographic observations”. This session brought together researchers from several methodological backgrounds, each of whom used food production as a framework for thinking about how past societies interacted with their environments.

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Our poster – “Extreme weather events and 10,000 years of land-use change in the Gediz River valley” – arose from recent efforts to understand how the ancient inhabitants of the Gediz River valley adapted to the risks of extreme weather. We used data from a state-of-the-art paleoclimate simulation to estimate how frequently droughts and floods would have hit the valley over the past 10,000 years. Drawing on concepts from game theory, we then explored how the risks of extreme weather might have influenced an ancient farmer’s choice of which crops to plant from one year to the next. We compared our models to data from the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey and related Gygaia Projects initiatives. We found that the impacts of extreme weather are contingent on the vulnerabilities of each particular society, and that very often what farmers might think to be the best option for minimizing risks in the short term makes them more vulnerable in the long term. Discussing these findings with our colleagues in San Francisco led to several new hypotheses that we look forward to begin testing upon our return to Kaymakçı in the weeks to come.

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