“All good things must come to an end”…
… at least temporarily. The excavation areas are now closed, and – in partnership with the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Manisa Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, and Yaşar University – the Boston University Kaymakçı Archaeological Project has now rounded out its inaugural season! These new excavations supplement ten seasons of survey in the region, reinforcing the importance of Kaymakçı in our understanding of Bronze Age communities in the Marmara Lake basin and western Anatolia and the nature of their connections to central Anatolian and Aegean communities.
We are grateful to everyone who participated: 60+ crew members from communities in the region as well as those affiliated with various universities in the US (Boston, Cincinnati, Delaware, Michigan, Mississippi State, Penn, Virgina Tech, UC Davis), Europe (Charles (Prague), Freiburg, Gröningen, UCL), and Turkey (Ege, Koç, Nevşehir, Yaşar, Yeditepe).
We look forward to next year when the excavation areas and laboratories will reopen for what we hope to be another fruitful season. In the meantime, our work will focus on the many new opportunities brought forth by this season’s results, always making the most of collaborations with faculty and students throughout the academic year:
- 3D illustrations of objects, architecture, and landscapes
- lab analyses focusing on human-environmental interactions and subsistence economies
- ongoing documentation of oral histories
- collaborative development of a regional management plan
- interpretation of new results and publication of previous work
- continued design of the Gygaia Projects research and educational center, and
- grant writing and fundraising to support all these activities.
Our partners still in Tekelioğlu and at Kaymakçı will continue to assist in many aspects of the project, too, from planning gardens, to preparing for the construction of the research and educational center, to remaining vigilant in the long-term protection and preservation of the site.
Also ongoing will be the weather station’s recorder – what better way to understand the impact of annual cycles of environmental conditions? Accompanying our WeatherBug and assisting our site guard, Ferit, will be an “eye in the sky,” a new night-vision enabled security system to help monitor the site while we are away.
Thanks to all for following our “Voices” from the eight weeks of this season – we’ll look forward to keeping you as up to date as possible over the coming months.
Until then, a traditional watery goodbye!
One of the benefits of living in an agriculture-based village is being able to follow shifts in diet as the field season and cultural calendars progress. Such shifts remind us to think about how seasonal and cultural factors must always have played roles in ancient cuisines of this region, too.
A recent example comes from our daily dessert of fresh fruit. Although we have been eating karpuz (watermelon) and kavun (honeydew) all season long, the colors and flavors have intensified – much to everyone’s delight – as the growing season peaks. Patlıcan (eggplant), which also grows during the summer, appears in many of our main dishes. Its favorite version so far made an appearance at a recent mangal (bbq) held by the lake. It involved 12 eggplants roasted directly on hot coals until steaming and tender. They were then thrown into plastic bags where their skins were removed before the insides were mashed together with garlic in a bowl. Simple yet delicious, this patlıcan közlemesi (grilled eggplant mash) was the highlight of the meal.
The past few weeks have also introduced first-timers in Turkey to some of the foods related to Ramadan (usually called Ramazan in Turkey), the Islamic holy month that involves fasting during daylight hours. A special product of this month is a traditional flatbread called ramazan pidesi: a disc-shaped loaf with a broad crosshatch pattern on the top, sprinkled with sesame seeds. The dense texture and saltier-than-usual flavor adds to its appeal.
The evening iftar (breaking of the fast after sundown) has taken a different form now that we are in the final week of Ramazan. The last two nights saw families in the village host public meals. Last night our team’s hosts sponsored the event in the school courtyard, serving çorba (soup), güveç (stew), cacık (a cold cucumber and yogurt soup), pilav (rice), and halva (a semolina-based dessert) to the entire village and their network of family and friends.
In archaeological lingo, “small finds” are objects like spindle whorls, loom weights, weapons, jewelry, or various kinds of metal tools (and they need not be small!). They can be very important indicators of the intensity and direction of foreign contacts, of social relationships, and of local production both on the household level and in specialized workshops controlled by the elite.
Objects found so far at Kaymakçı reflect the residential and industrial character of the area: small metal tools confirm the production of fine objects, while decorated items of bone and bronze reflect elite consumption at the site. Numerous spindle whorls speak to intensive textile production, and their decoration reflects the creativity of the site’s inhabitants. Every day brings surprises and makes the work very exciting. Working with the “small finds” from Kaymakçı is like participating in the making of central western Anatolian culture of the second millennium BCE.
Oral Histories (and some lithics)
As the field season nears its end, our work both in the field and in the lab has begun to pick up speed. Alongside the large amounts of pottery unearthed at Kaymakçı, here in the lab we are also receiving and processing a significant amount of stone tools, referred to as lithics, that date primarily to the Bronze Age and later. After we photograph and catalogue each piece, we analyze their particular features to understand the type of tool and the use to which they were put.
In addition to the lithics, a substantial part of my time has been dedicated to the study of the more recent cultural and economic landscapes of the Marmara Lake basin. By way of oral histories and visual records collected through long discussions with local elders in Tekelioğlu and surrounding villages, we are tracing the sociocultural impact of economic and technological developments in the Gediz Valley over the last 150 years. Using Omeka Neatline software, we are creating an interactive, diachronic map of the Gediz River valley, allowing viewers to wade through the region’s recent past. These discussions allow us to understand the local effect of the region’s integration into the global scene and provide endless opportunities to drink excessive amounts of çay (tea)!
Toward the end of the 2014 season, the conservation staff is busy planning and executing work that will help prevent excavation areas from deteriorating over the next year. This week, conservators placed mortar caps and troughs on certain vulnerable locations along excavated masonry walls. We used a mortar consisting of lime, sand, and small amounts of local soil and cement, which performed well in previous off-site testing. By placing this mortar where we anticipate rain to run down slopes or pool in depressions, we hope to protect recently excavated architectural features from the erosion.
In addition to selective mortar capping, conservators are planning the end-of-season excavation area preservation plan, which involves sandbag berms around excavation areas, sandbag buttresses along architectural features, and an overall covering of geotextile. Geotextile is a synthetic, permeable fabric that allows moisture and air to circulate, while reducing potential disturbance and erosion to underlying features.
We periodically take advantage of our proximity to Lake Marmara by holding a scenic mangal (bbq) on the platform where fisherman sell their haul. Makes for a great team photo spot, as well!
The summer heat has finally set in at Kaymakçı. Thanks to the weather station on site, we always know exactly how hot it is in the field and, for those brave enough to check, how hot it will get before the day ends. Team members gladly exchange tips for tying headscarves and keeping water bottles cold.
Words for essentials like su (water), gölge (shade), and ruzgar (wind) have become part of everyone’s vocabulary. The winds help with the heat, but the 45 mph gusts present their own problems.
As archaeologists, it is tempting to focus on exotic finds and burned layers that hint at interactions with other sites in the region and highlight the importance of Kaymakçı in the ancient Mediterranean world. But our understanding of the site depends equally on uncovering the daily rhythms of its ancient inhabitants, and our daily battles with the wind and sun encourage us always to think on this smaller scale of individuals.
Since our last paleoethnobotany update, flotation has continued in full force. As the days grow hotter, the flotation tank is the coolest place to be.
In addition to floating the samples, we spend much of our time processing materials that come out of the soil samples. This involves sorting out the pottery, bone, and other things that don’t float in water.
This week the design team has been working on schematic plans for a new research and educational center to house future team members during excavation seasons. Tim Frank and Manny Moss are also looking at this season’s excavation areas and creating 3D models of what’s been found so far. In both projects Tim is studying wind flow patterns and how buildings influence airflow for natural cooling.
We could have used some cooling breezes this week when the temperature reached 104 degrees!! While we are sitting in the old village schoolhouse, the representation team’s office space, it is hard to imagine that local children got much studying done in the still-hot room.
I have been working on refining the conceptual site design for the new research and educational center as the architecture team is refining the building designs. We’ve incorporated team meeting areas and some garden spaces into the plan. Once the soil floatation studies are analyzed and ancient plant species identified, we hope to build a Bronze Age demonstration garden. It will be a nice visual complement to the vegetable garden intended to help feed the team in future years. In the meantime, I’m using more analog means to study the local landscape.
Pottery, or rather fragments of it, are without any exaggeration the most common and numerous find-category on any excavation. And its value is just as manifold. In the first place, it helps us to date the excavated contexts, since fashion was constantly changing even in the Bronze Age, so too did the typology of ceramic vessel shapes. Paying closer attention to the production technology teaches us about a wider-reaching network of contacts and exchange of knowledge. The know-how was just as important (and often treasured) as it is today. Finally, search for imports or new decorative techniques, can reveal potentially far-reaching trade routes.
Going through the freshly excavated lots of pottery, often still wet in the drying sieves, made me soon aware that there seems to be a clear pattern of difference between the various excavation areas. A more thorough look at selected contexts revealed that at least two distinctive ceramic phases can be identified. Their date can be further pin-pointed by drawing parallels from other sites, but since most of them are hundreds of kilometers away, Kaymakçı will certainly become THE yardstick for the definition of ceramic development in Central Western Anatolia.
Tea – Çay
At 10 am each day (on site and in the laboratories), we have a morning tea or “çay” break. Müslüme and Ayşe prepare wonderful breads (sweet cakes, often with a touch of lemon or cinnamon) or savory treats. Today we had a light pastry (börek) filled with a crumble of cheese, parsley, red and green peppers, and a touch of olive oil.
Each season the team takes a well-deserved 3-day break – a chance to get away, relax, and rejuvenate before the second half of the season. The break this year was at the beginning of last week. Destinations included Çandarlı and Bodrum (and their nearby beaches and fabulous calamari), and visits to Priene, Didyma, Miletus, and İstanbul (a short flight from İzmir). Here Tim Frank shares some of his sketches from nearby locations.
Sketches of the Terrace Houses and the Bouleuterion at Ephesos
4th of July in a Temple of Artemis
One of the closest tourist locations to us is the ancient site of Sardis. It has become a tradition to celebrate the 4th of July with our old friends and colleagues there. Nick Cahill, director of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, gave our crew a terrific tour of the excavation areas, followed by a cocktail party, dinner, and a moonlight night in the Temple of Artemis.
The Ceramics Lab
Tunç Kaner and Mert Külekçioğlu
This week we worked with excavated and washed ceramics, organizing them by form, color, material, and size, tagging and photographing them. We then made 3D models of ceramics displaying diagnostic features by scanning them with a NextEngine laser scanner. We then trimmed and organized the 3D models. Furthermore, we entered into the database the counts, color, and weights of the other ceramics we photographed. This is what we generally do in the ceramics lab. Both of us think that working here has been a very educational experience and also a lot of fun!
Now well into our fifth week, the excavation areas are getting deeper, the workload ever increasing, and the Turkish-English barriers slowly melting. As an excavation area supervisor, I have been busy in the field and the lab processing finds, recording and directing the excavation of my area, attempting to interpret the uncovered material, and sometimes even picking up a trowel myself (!). To help with all of this, members of the project who work primarily on pottery, bones, and botanical remains rotate through the field twice a week to bring fresh perspectives to the excavated material. While I get help from these members on a rotating basis, I share the workload with members of local communities every day, who kindly put up with my çok kötü (very bad) Turkish and bring me delicious homegrown fruit!
The use of photos in archaeology is more than 100 years old. Most archaeologists combine photography and traditional drafting methods to record and interpret architecture, artifacts, and soil deposits uncovered while excavating. This includes both formal (publication quality photography) and less formal photography. The latter, less formal or candid photographs have been used to record the excavation process, creating a visual record of that which is destroyed in the process of extraction (while many archaeologists quip that “excavation is destruction”, our project director likes to say that “excavation is digitization”). Both kinds of photography continue to be used at Kaymakçı.
From the first day, however, excavations at Kaymakçı have also extended the use of photography to include the production of 3D models. These are made from composites or mosaics of photos rendered in 3 dimensions and oriented to a GPS-surveyed grid. These computer models display soil layers, artifacts and architectural features with a high degree of precision. The models record the processes and decision making of excavation accurately and allow the viewer to move back and forth in virtual excavation time and space in order to better understand the relationship between soil layers, walls, floors, etc.
Has all of this use of new technology and the use of new programs gone smoothly over the last few weeks, without a hitch? Absolutely not. There have been hitches! Have workflow and results gotten better with each day? Of course! The procedures are becoming commonplace and the glitches ironed out as they spring up.
As we have learned in the last few weeks, there is an art to doing science. As seen in the photos below, there is definitely a choreography to the photography. With luck, photography as science and the art it produces will enhance our presentation of archaeology to an increasingly visually oriented public.
Activities continued apace this week with the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project. We continue to be paperless thanks to the technological expertise of many team members and the patience of many more! The 3D recording of trenches, samples (especially ceramics), and landscapes provides not only visualizations of ancient entities as well as our own workflows and knowledge bases, but also new opportunities for conceptualizing and understanding the holistic endeavor of the human experience over time.
Young Society Leaders – YSL
Elected as Young Society Leaders to the American Turkish Society (ATS) in Fall 2013, Christina and Chris have had opportunities to expand their networks in Turkey and to understand where and how politics, design and development, field work, and education fit best within the arc of policies and U.S. – Turkish relations. A recent summit in İstanbul – a first for the YSL group – was a great success. Christina presented on fieldwork, cultural diplomacy, and policy (“Cultural Relations in the Gediz Valley: US – Turkish – EU Initiatives”) and Chris focused on the many impacts of technology on field research (“Research + Technology: A 21st Century Approach to the Past in the Gediz Valley”).
Link to YSLs 2013:
Our diet has shifted as the hotter and drier summer season begins. The crisp lettuce is now gone; the tomato plants are almost fully ripe; the peppers are not far behind; and patches of mint and oregano grace the fields around us. Among the staples of our diet is now purslane (semiz otu). It grows in abundance as an undergrowth crop in olive groves and even fallow fields. Our cooks have mastered the use of this specific ‘weed’ in many ways, but our favorites are to have it sautéed with garlic and covered with a savory yogurt sauce, mixed with rice or bulgur, or served fresh in cucumber and tomato salads with a hint of mint. Another perennial favorite is stuffed grape leaves rolled long and tight here in the village and stuffed with a rice and bulgur mix and flavored with mint and olive oil (here called sarma, elsewhere dolma). In addition to the fresh breads, we’ve also been treated to fresh gözleme and pişi (complete with cheese made by our hosts as well as pekmez, a grape molasses). The majority of the ingredients for these dishes – grapes, grape leaves, parsley, purslane, onions, and mint – come from the local farm.
As our paleoethnobotany work begins in earnest (with the floatation tank now complete thanks to the expertise of John (Mac) Marston and the welders in the Salihli sanayi), we hope to learn much more about ancient diets.
In addition to enjoying the food, we are continuing to enjoy long days of hard work. The excavation team is seated around the breakfast table at 5:15 am, the conservation and lab crews at 6:15am. Below are the highlights from some of the project’s work over the past week. Look for more to come next week!
Oral Histories and Communities
A long-term component of our work here is to understand landscape changes over time. While we’ve got a firm understanding of the past from 10 years of survey, as well as an understanding of recent policy and landscape changes in the Gediz Valley itself, we hadn’t had the opportunity to work on deep histories within specific communities. We’re in the process of doing so now in academic contexts (via publication) and hope to unveil a community-based website initiative by late Fall. Ongoing conversations with community members include walking tours, object biographies, and place-based experiences. Here cyber-space becomes increasingly meaningful in the context of people-to-people relationships and life-long learning.
This week at Kaymakçı we started uncovering selected parts of the citadel. In my excavation area, we first excavated the topsoil, which was regularly plowed in the past and as such contained modern and ancient artifacts. After having removed it, we began to explore the Bronze Age occupation at the site. In conjunction with architectural features including walls, we have found pottery for storage, eating, and cooking purposes, bone, stone tools such as grinders, and some small finds. All these different classes of artifacts together give us clues about how people lived here and how they engaged with the environment around them.
Sunrise over Kaymakçı. The excavation team begins work at 6am.
Our team is currently focused on the schematic design of our planned research and educational center, a mixed-use facility that will support all Gygaia Projects activities for years to come! Our initial attention has been focused on the development of highly permeable building types, which establish gradual transitions between enclosed interior spaces and exposed outdoor spaces that orient towards the strong characteristics of the immediate context. This approach also allows the region’s abundant natural daylight and cooling prevailing breezes to permeate deep into building interiors. Hand sketching, physical modeling, and digital rendering are used to measure this relationship between interior and exterior space.
Brian Katen and Chris Calorusso
The landscape architects worked this week on design and development at the site of the research and educational center in coordination with the architects. Work included generating design studies and design alternatives based on the spatial and functional relationships of the site, views, ecology, pedestrian and vehicular access and circulation, visitor experience, and site security.
Tim Frank and Chris Roosevelt
We installed a weather station this week at Kaymakçı! Weather data from the excavation site will be transmitted real-time to devices around the world via the WeatherBug network. This data will also be logged long-term to understand better the environmental conditions affecting our conservation and restoration of archaeological remains as well as Bronze Age approaches to spatial organization and design with respect to natural elements.
This week in conservation we tested three mortar mixes that included different ratios of cement, sand, lime, and soil to see the different characteristics of each. We also analyzed the stickiness of four soil samples that came from excavation areas and locations on the living landscape. Finally, we have been cleaning artifacts that have been coming into the conservation lab from the field.
This week we’ve begun to build the beginnings of a comparative collection. Before cooking local sheep and fish used for our meals, the faunal team worked to preserve and clean the bones for future study. The modern bones provide an invaluable means of studying archaeological bones. In addition to preparing specimens for later comparative collections, we have begun to analyze bones recovered from the excavation.