Voices from the Field (2016-02-24)

Glorious Mud: Working with Mudbrick in the Archaeological Lab at Koç University

Jana Mokrisova

Although writing my dissertation is the primary purpose of my stay at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED), I have also had the opportunity to continue working with my field dataset – earthen architecture in Kaymakçı, including mudbrick. Once every week or two I make a trip to Koç University’s campus in Sarıyer, northern Istanbul, to work in the archaeological lab there. The “hike” up north presents a good opportunity for me to get away from the dynamic (but at times raucous) Istiklal Street. The campus is located in a forested but windy area, and at times it is difficult to believe than I am still in the same city.

A mixture of earth, water, and organic temper, mudbrick is a very versatile and popular building medium used as early as the Neolithic period in Mesopotamia and Anatolia (as early as 10,000 years ago!). At Kaymakçı, mudbricks were used for a variety of building purposes, and one of my aims is to reconstruct the logic of Bronze Age architecture. In order to do so, I describe the basic properties of mudbricks, such as color, shape, size, texture, character of inclusions, and hardness. I also note manufacture process and preservation. Furthermore, I am interested in seeing how communities at the site organized mudbrick production. By looking at diversity or similarity in mudbrick appearance and composition, I can assess if people selected the same source materials and additives and if they produced them using similar production steps. Interestingly, earthen materials were not limited to bricks – they were also used to cover roofs, as is suggested by this piece of daub.

The archaeological lab at Koç is a great environment for such an investigation, as it has all the necessary equipment and space for processing, as well as the support of dedicated staff.

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

Voices from the Field (2016-01-21)

Gygaia Projects Presents at the AIA conference in San Francisco

Dan Plekhov

I recently had the opportunity to travel to and present at the 117th annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America, held in rainy San Francisco. These conferences are often quite overwhelming, with many wonderful sessions to attend and people to meet who are engaged in exciting new research. This year was no exception, and I was happy to present my work to other archaeologists working on similar projects and to compare methods and results.

The research I presented took the form of a poster, coauthored by me, Chris Roosevelt, and Christina Luke, titled “Assessment of Iron Age Lydian Tumulus Distributions through GIS-Based Spatial Analysis.” The underlying question of this research was to determine what features of the Bin Tepe landscape influenced the placement of the burial mounds, which appear to follow certain patterns and form clusters.

By combining various spatial datasets into a Geographic Information System (GIS), representing such features as Lake Marmara, the Gediz River, streams, water features, and contemporary archaeological materials, we were able to measure the distance between each tumulus and the nearest of these features to measure proximity. Additionally, using digital elevation models, we were able to measure the visibility from each of the mounds to other features on the landscape, such as Kaymakçı, the Lydian city of Sardis, the three most prominent mounds, and all other mounds. Altogether, these measurements give us a sense of how the tumuli relate to the landscape in respect to their placement.

(Here we see the distribution of elevation values for the tumuli (dashed red line) in contrast to the distribution expected from a random pattern (black line). The gray polygon represents a 95% confidence envelope around the random pattern, achieved through bootstrap resampling.)

 

While this is useful information, we were interested in determining which of these landscape features may actually have been considered by Lydians when they chose sites for the mounds. To test this, we generated a set of random points equal to the number of mounds within Bin Tepe (137), and we did this 100 times. For each simulation, we again measured all these variables to get a distribution of values that reflected a random pattern representative of the landscape. By comparing this distribution to those of our real tumuli, we were then able to determine where our pattern significantly departed from the pattern we would expect if the mounds were placed randomly.

We found that there was a notable subgroup of tumuli that showed a clear preference for ridges and that intervisibility between the mounds was significantly greater than what we would expect from a random pattern. This suggests that proximity and visibility to other mounds was more important than proximity to natural features such as Lake Marmara or the Gediz River.

 

We received great feedback on these methods and results, which will factor into further analysis of the mounds to be presented at the Society for American Archaeology conference in early April. Stay tuned for more results then!

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

Voices from the Field (2015-12-16)

Project members’ adventures in Ankara and the Anatolian Highlands

Jana Mokrisova and Catherine Scott

 

 

 

Recently, project members ventured to Central Anatolia as part of a trip organized by Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations. The first destination was Ankara, where we visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations and participated in a joint symposium with VEKAM (Vehbi Koç ve Ankara Araştırmaları Merkezi), the RCAC’s sister institution.

 

Jana Mokrisova gave a talk at the symposium that examined the appropriateness of some popular models that emphasize the presence of imports from Crete and Greece and locally produced imitations of them in western Anatolia during the Late Bronze Age as part of a conference organized by VEKAM.

Next, we traveled to Kerkenes Dağ, a large Iron Age (seventh century BCE) city constructed by the Phrygians. The history of this site is of particular interest to us working in Lydia, as Kerkenes was a multicultural city and its archaeology shows links with the Lydian kingdom. The city was inhabited for only about three generations, and it is thought by some to have been destroyed by the Lydian army; fortunately, this Lydian invasion was less damaging than the last!

Finally, we visited the Hittite capital at Hattuşa. This is yet another site of particular importance for our research, as the Hittites ruled at the same time as Kaymakçı was occupied, and the boundaries of their hegemony may have included Kaymakçı at certain times. We explored the fortifications, the reconstruction of the mudbrick wall, as well as the temple precincts.

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

Voices from the Field (2015-10-19)

Conservation Research at the University of Delaware

Remy Kneski and Adrienne Gendron

While working with KAP during the 2015 excavation season, Remy and Adrienne conducted research on conservation problems pertaining to material culture in archaeological settings. They are continuing to expand these research projects during the 2015–2016 academic year, after which their conclusions will be discussed in their senior theses.

Currently, Remy is working on aging of adhesives on a brick substrate. The four adhesives selected (Paraloid B-44, Paraloid B-72, Ground Hide Glue, and Derby) were naturally aged outside for 6 weeks over the summer and will be artificially aged this fall. The results of her research will determine which adhesive would be best for reconstruction of ceramics at an archaeological site in conditions of high temperature and relative humidity.

Adrienne is performing artificial aging on copper-alloy samples under different conditions to determine the effects of certain variables on their degradation. She hopes to obtain a more complete understanding of the chemical processes that cause degradation of copper-alloy (bronze) artifacts in situ in order to further characterize conservation concerns with metal artifacts excavated from Kaymakçi and propose effective solutions to ensure their long-term preservation.

In September, Remy and Adrienne also presented an outline of their summer experiences at KAP to the Art Conservation Freshmen Seminar at the University of Delaware. Because many art conservation students at the university have a wide range of interests in related fields, they spoke about the many components of fieldwork as well as their experiences performing conservation treatments on archaeological materials.

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

Voices from the Field (2015-09-23)

Gygaia Project Members Meet in Istanbul

Catherine Scott and Jana Mokrisova

The field season has ended, but work doesn’t stop for project members! Four of us will continue our research in the heart of Istanbul this year.

Professor Chris Roosevelt has been appointed as the new director of Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (RCAC). Professor Christina Luke is an associate professor in the Department of Archaeology and History of Art at Koç University. Catherine Scott and Jana Mokrisova have received Junior Fellowships at the RCAC, and will be living at the center located on Istiklal Street for the coming year.

 

Koç University is one of the main hubs of archaeological research in Istanbul, catering both to the academic community and the general public. Here you can see project members attending the opening of a public exhibition featuring some intriguing early archaeological photographs, entitled “John Garstang’s Footsteps Across Anatolia,” located at the RCAC and curated by Dr. Alan Greaves.

 

The RCAC is home to an international and interdisciplinary community of scholars dedicated to the study of the history, heritage, and cultures of the civilizations that have inhabited Anatolia. In this way, the missions of the center and Gygaia Projects are similar in that they both advocate the idea that the past should be studied through varied approaches, and that this endeavor should not be divorced from the understanding of contemporary Anatolia.

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

Voices from the Field (2015-07-22)

Small is Beautiful

Magda Pieniążek

 

Returning to Kaymakçı, I have dived into the fascinating world of western Anatolian small finds: objects of everyday activities such as basic tools like loom weights or needles, objects of cult like animal figurines, or objects of dress and body adornments like bronze pins or beads. Between taking measurements, trying to make sense of rounded pieces of broken pottery that are sometimes found pierced, and planning improvements to the database, I try to imagine life at ancient Kaymakçı: rituals involving recently excavated parts of vessels shaped like bulls and snakes; children playing with small bits of broken pottery neatly worked as “tokens” or gaming pieces; women spinning yarn with conical, biconical, symmetrical, and asymmetrical spindle whorls…

 

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My office! The small finds, once they are brought in from the field and properly conserved (if needed), are brought to me for identification and analysis.

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Many of the finds brought in are easily recognizable as utilitarian objects, while others are mysterious and require more thought! Here are two items that share a similar round shape and ceramic material. The larger quotidian loom weight was used for weaving (it was pierced so it could be tied to weigh down the end of a string of the loom), whereas the small “token” has an unknown function.

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Here are some of the bronze pins excavated last year. These are some of the nicer objects I handle on a daily basis.

Voices from the Field (2015-07-11)

Piecing the past together: revealing archaeology through conservation

Caitlin O'Grady, Adrienne Gendron, Remy Kneski, and Nicole Passerotti
 

The process of excavation reveals artefacts and architecture that often require stabilization from the Kaymakçı conservation team. We work in the field and laboratory – where artefacts are brought following their recovery.

 

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Nicole unpacking an excavation area from the 2014 season

 

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Remy analysing adhesives used in conservation treatment

 

 

Adrienne measuring the plasticity of soil from Kaymakçi using a Casagrande apparatus.

Adrienne measuring the plasticity of soil from Kaymakçi using a Casagrande apparatus.

 

Our work involves the identification of archaeological materials when degradation makes it difficult to understand what is preserved. We also work to develop and test treatment methods to stabilize objects and conduct research to better understand the burial environment at Kaymakçı.

Recovered artefacts frequently have surfaces covered in burial soil and accretions due to the high percentage of carbonates (a kind of salt) in Kaymakçı soils. During treatment, we typically remove the soil and burial accretions, which mask surface features and decoration, using a variety of methods to reveal the object below.

 

Acid cleaning of a ceramic sherd

Acid cleaning of a ceramic sherd

 

After cleaning and stabilization, sherds are reconstructed to produce partial or whole vessels using archival conservation materials.

Adrienne using a syringe to consolidate a reconstructed vessel fragment with adhesive.

Adrienne using a syringe to consolidate a reconstructed vessel fragment with adhesive.

 

We typically use magnification when working with small metal artefacts made of copper alloys or iron in order to see the varying layers of burial soil, accretions and corrosion.

 

Nicole treating an iron artefact under magnification

Nicole treating an iron artefact under magnification

 

The conservation team at Kaymakçı enjoys working closely with archaeology specialists both in the lab and the field in order to stabilize, identify and research the many different materials excavated daily.

Remy’s reconstructed pot            

Remy’s reconstructed pot

             

Teamwork in the field

Teamwork in the field

 

Voices from the Field (2015-07-05)

Kaymakçı from Above!

Manny Moss

Eyes in the Sky: a new UAV is providing fresh perspectives on the site and surrounding landscape, and changing the way archaeology happens.

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have recently become affordable, reliable, and powerful enough to join the archaeological toolkit. Here at Kaymakçı, we’re using the camera mounted on our new DJI Phantom to document ongoing excavation activities, explore the surrounding landscape, and aid in our efforts to construct 3D, volumetric models of archaeological deposits.

Capable of taking video and still imagery, precision-guided by GPS, and with flight times exceeding twenty minutes, our new UAV allows for shadow-free, top-down shots from ten, twenty, or even 100 meters above the ground.

 

The images from the UAV have also proven to be an excellent addition to the mapping and 3D spatial components of the project. The UAV’s photographs can be pieced together in a photogrammetry program to produce a hyper-accurate digital elevation model of the site, the landform on which it sits, and the surrounding hills, valleys, and waterways. This landscape model can be used by many of the other specialists on the project to make inferences about past and present land use, hydrology, agriculture, and human occupation.

 


Taking aerial photographs, and shooting HD video early in the morning takes advantage of the raking light to reveal subtle topographical details.

 

New perspectives offered by the UAV have aided in understanding spatial relationships difficult to see from ground level, and have given those of us working on the ground a fresh eye on Kaymakçı’s neighborhood. We look forward to applying this tool in new ways in the near future!

Voices from the Field (2015-06-23)

Archaeological Ceramics at Kaymakçı

Peter Cobb

The case of the broken vase: how an archaeology team investigates Bronze Age life through detailed study of everyday items.

For many millennia people have used ceramic vessels for the storage, preparation, and consumption of food and drink. Pottery's centrality to basic human activities along with its near indestructible material nature usually make it the most abundant material class uncovered by archaeological excavations. Of the samples found at Kaymakçı last year, 90% were ceramic when measured by either count or weight, with the remaining samples including material classes such as bone, stone and metal.

Because of its abundance, the careful recording of the ceramics is a team effort (see photos). Each day, team members study such characteristics as the shapes, colors, and clay fabrics of the ceramic vessels.

 

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The team sorting a context of sherds.

Continuing the careful and detailed digital recording done with field stratigraphy, we also apply a set of technologies in the lab to record information about ceramics accurately and efficiently. Thus we use Pantone Capsure devices to measure colors digitally and a NextEngine portable 3d laser scanner to record shape. In this way, we can most objectively compare each ceramic sample both with each other at our site, as well as with the published materials from other nearby sites.

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Lab co-manager and Ege University student Tunç Kaner 3d scanning a ceramic sherd.

Gygaia Projects has always strived for scientific rigor in the study of pottery. Research led by project co-director Dr. Christina Luke analyzed survey ceramics from Kaymakçı and the surrounding region typologically, chemically, and mineralogically. This has provided a very interesting picture of the social, economic, and political history of the region, a picture that is detailed in an article in a fully Open Access issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology, already available online (http://www.maneyonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/2042458215Y.0000000009)!

Voices from the Field (2015-06-18)

Excavation North

Kyle Egerer

Meet the excavation team working at the northern edge of Kaymakçı’s citadel!

 

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Our tireless and endlessly enthusiastic team from the nearby villages of Hacıveliler and Büyükbelen!

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At times, objects come out of the ground that require hands-on explanation. An inspiring aspect of working with this fine group of people is their eagerness to learn about the cultures and materiality that previously populated the areas they now inhabit.

 

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We eat a number of different types of bread during our breaks. After explaining that the Hittites of Late Bronze Age Anatolia had at least 120 types of bread, our workers laughed proclaiming, “That’s nothing, we have 150 different kinds!” Here, you see three local varieties along with menemen, olives, and a tomato – all local fare.

 

From an ethnoarchaeological point of view it is interesting to listen to descriptions of local histories and understandings of the past. This dialogue adds a different character to the archaeology we are doing on site!