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 (2019-07-10)

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 (2019-06-27)

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 (2019-06-13)

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 (2019-06-04)

Using Digital Tools to Understand New Excavation Areas

Catherine Scott

Excavation area 97.541 is a good example of the potential history of an excavation area at Kaymakçı. It was first excavated in 2015 by Emily Wilson, then continued in 2016 by Haley Chasteene. Emily returned for the study season in 2017 to reassess the area in advance of our recent summary publication. Now I will be excavating this area again in 2019. 

A drone photograph of area 97.541 from the beginning of this season.

The extensive digital documentation that results from our workflow at Kaymakçı facilitates the transfer of an excavation area from one area supervisor to another, as well as research during the off-season or during study seasons. 


An excavator or researcher will generally start with the available reports; at Kaymakçı, we write regular interim and final reports that include both a narrative of what occurred during the season and the excavator’s interpretations. The report also includes a Harris matrix, a form of representation very common to archaeologists that helps visualize stratigraphic sequences (or, the physical relationships between deposits and features). 

Part of the Harris matrix from 97.541.

We also create other forms of digital documentation that are extremely helpful in understanding the work that has been done to date.

Excavation journals are written in Evernote and archived on the project data server; excavators can easily take pictures and annotate them to explain how they are excavating or to highlight features of interest.

A section of Emily’s notes from 2015.

Our networked project database allows for easy access to data on contexts and samples. It pulls together information from all participants, including excavators and specialists.

The Excavation database form. We currently use Microsoft Access, but are in the process of developing a web-based platform!

Spatial data recorded in ESRI’s ArcMap (a Geographic Information System, or GIS) are also easily available. We archive all files from previous years, so researchers can access plans from each day of excavation to see how they were recorded by the excavator at the time. These “day plans” show the state of the excavation area at the end of each day.

A day plan from 2015.

We also have access to the 3D models produced for every context, which provide all the spatial data from the excavations. Because these models are detailed and dynamic, they can often provide much more clarity than traditional photographs. These models help us to “relive” the excavation, in a way, by allowing us to see what each context looked like before and after it was removed, in all of its three-dimensional complexity. We also continue to develop 3D volumes of each context using these models, which allow us to virtually reconstruct and re-excavate each area in different ways.

The 3D model from a 2016 context, shown in Agisoft Photoscan.

All these resources are available via our networked data server, and therefore directly on each area supervisor’s computer via a remote desktop connection. With all these tools at our disposal, we are able to get up to speed quickly on previously unfamiliar excavation areas!

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

Voices from the Field (2016-07-23)

Holding the Past

Peter Cobb

(Photo credits: Hakan Hatay)

People in the past used pottery in many aspects of their lives, but especially during meals. As we excavate each day at Kaymakçı, we uncover these vessels, broken into pieces and scattered throughout the site. Many of these vessels are bowls, useful for multiple purposes during meals.

As we work with these vessels, we have the chance to touch and hold them as people did in the past. Handles on the sides of the bowls still fit well in our own hands.

Even though the vessels are usually broken, we can imagine how they would have looked when complete, in the past. In this way, we connect with the people who lived thousands of years ago based on our shared human activities of eating and drinking.

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

Voices from the Field (2016-07-14)

Floating at Kaymakçi

Emily Johnson

So, what does it take to transform bags of unremarkable soil samples into analyzable carbonized material? At the Kaymakçi Archaeological Project, this involves a large orange flotation tank and a lot of water pressure.

In order to deliver water to the tank so that we can dissolve the soil and leave the carbonized remains floating on the surface of the water, an electric-powered pump pushes water up a hill to a repository, where it then flows back down the hill. The floatation team is able to take advantage of the water pressure both as it is being pushed up the hill and as it is falling back down in order to help release stubborn carbonized plant and seed parts from the soil.

Of course, this often involves a bit of troubleshooting, including building a series of canals to divert water flow, dealing with temperamental hoses and valves, and managing the local wildlife.

In the end, the carbonized remains that are analyzed during the off-season are invaluable in helping the project to understand the life and environment of the people living at Kaymakçi.

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

Voices from the Field (2016-07-10)

Newcomers at Kaymakçı!

Haley Chasteene and József Puskás

Newcomers to an archaeological project usually have a period of adjustment. Luckily, here at Kaymakçı, a fast-paced learning environment and very friendly team and staff can help alleviate newbie stress. Haley is a recent graduate from San Diego State University and has a background in the archaeology of California. Joska received a MA degree from BBU from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and has experience in excavating Bronze Age sites in Transylvania. We both decided to join this project to widen our knowledge of digital archaeological technologies and to experience a new environment.

Teamwork: Haley Chasteene recording coordinates with the RTK GPS, while Joska Puskas holds digital photogrammetry target in place.

Teamwork: Haley Chasteene recording coordinates with the RTK GPS, while Joska Puskas holds a digital photogrammetry target in place.

We enjoy the opportunity to learn and use a more digitally based recording system.

Recording new features in our excavation area.

Recording new features in our excavation area.

Our staff lives in villages surrounding Kaymakçı. Having daily exposures to local culture and language is just another perk of this already rewarding archaeological experience.

Çay mola. One of our favorite times of the day.

Çay mola. One of our favorite times of the day.

Every day we continue to widen our knowledge of a paperless digital recording system, while also spanning our view of Turkish culture and language. We are very thankful to be a part of the team.

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

Voices from the Field (2016-06-29)

What happens when you don’t excavate for two years? – reviewing excavation area protection measures

Caitlin R. O’Grady

Every season, we spend a lot of time and effort implementing measures to protect excavation areas between field seasons. This includes “wrapping” architecture, scarps and baulks with geotextile, a water permeable cloth made from thermally bonded non-woven polypropylene fibers. The geotextile protects these features minimizing erosion and plant growth. Following wrapping, we use rocks and “dirt bags” to ensure complete protection.

However, long term exposure to plants, animals and the elements between seasons cause the geotextile to degrade, which makes it necessary to “unwrap” and “rewrap” architecture and excavation areas.

Luckily, I work with a great team of people that make this process smooth – even on the two hottest days of the season! 46° and 47° C (that’s 115° and 117° F!) thus far.

Photo: Hakan Hatay

Photo: Hakan Hatay

In anticipation of this process, the conservation team unrolled geotextile to cut more manageable pieces to use in the field.

In anticipation of this process, the conservation team unrolled geotextile to cut more manageable pieces to use in the field.

We then “unwrap” the excavation area

We then “unwrap” the excavation area.

We then check architecture for stability.

We then check architecture for stability.

Finally, we are ready to “rewrap”! (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

Finally, we are ready to “rewrap”! (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

And more teamwork on one of the hottest days of the season! (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

And more teamwork on one of the hottest days of the season! (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

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