Voices from the Field (2017-07-20)

All Things Small!

Magda Pieniążek and Maria Lill

The small finds team has grown in 2017, with Magda Pieniążek getting support from students Maria Lill and Milos Roháček. The small finds team deals with a variety of manmade objects from diverse materials ranging from metal, clay, faience, and stone to bones. Even though they are called ‘small finds,’ some of the objects (like grinding stones) are quite big; one weighing as much as 2 kg!

The focus this season was primarily on textile tools, such as spindle whorls and loom weights, and metal objects, such as knives, needles, and awls. All these objects bring us closer to the people that lived and worked in Bronze Age Kaymakçı.

Over quite a few days Maria dealt with the 120 spindle whorls found at the site so far, working with them throughout the day (and night, as they even appeared in her dreams!). Spindle whorls were used on spindle spikes as weights to increase and maintain the speed of spinning. The spindle whorls in Kaymakçı were made of clay and come in various shapes: conical, biconical, and spherical. They also differ considerably in weight. Their appearance on the site tells us about people spinning yarn of varying quality for different kinds of textiles.

 

 

 

Many of them were decorated with notches or impressions. We admired the creativity of those living in Kaymakçı and held a spindle whorl beauty contest. Here is the winner: an elegant biconical example!

Magda and Milos concentrated on the metal finds such as pins, chisels, knives, drills, and awls. Bronze Age awls could have been used for fine levering or prying work, carving, or perforating objects made of wood, leather, bone, horn, or even stone. The awls found at Kaymakçı so far are small, 5 cm on average, so they must have been used for very fine craftsmanship. Some of them could be used as drills for perforating very small objects such as beads – one was only about two millimetres thick.

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

Voices from the Field (2017-07-09)

Photographing Finds

Christina Luke

It was a great pleasure to host expert photographer Niki Gail as part of the Kaymakçı team for four days. His good spirit with the various field conditions made the extreme (47 degrees) heat wave much more enjoyable. He worked closely with many team members to document small finds (pins, rings, tokens, spindle whorls, etc.) as well as bones, ceramics, and architectural materials in mudbrick. We were also able to spend a day at the Manisa Museum to document previous seasons of material stored in their collections. While the heat made that work challenging, the wonderful setting of the Ottoman era architecture creates a nice setting for work. 

Getting the right shot can be challenging!

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

Voices from the Field (2017-07-05)

Precision drawings made fast with lasers

Peter Demján

Understanding the development of pottery shapes and forms plays an important role in reconstructing ancient living and making. Each fragment has to be carefully studied and precisely documented, including a drawing reconstruction of the original vessel based on the profile and estimated diameter. This process is usually quite time-consuming and involves either drawing by hand or creating a digital drawing based on a 3D scan.

Caption: Pottery processing team from the Charles University in Prague at work. From left to right: Peter Pavúk, Lucia Šušková, and Kristina Jarošová (not pictured: Peter Demján and Miloš Roháček).

The inventor of the Laser Aided Profiler (Peter Demján), processing a fragment.

 

 

 

 

During this season of the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project, the pottery processing team got new reinforcement in the form of a prototype Laser Aided Profiler (LAP), developed specifically for measuring the profiles and circumferences of pottery fragments.

The Profiler enables us to produce a high-quality digital drawing of a ceramic vessel based on a fragment in a matter of minutes. Such drawings can then be used to analyze various vessel types in traditional ways or to compare the shapes of profiles digitally and calculate their similarity. This process, called morphometrics, enables us to analyze thousands of fragments from different parts of the site, or even different sites, without having to go over every single one by hand.

The Laser Aided Profiler in action.

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 (2016-06-19)

A new season at Kaymakçı!

Chris Roosevelt & Christina Luke

We’re back in the field for another excavation season of the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project. Storage depots and excavation areas have been reopened, the team has arrived from universities in Turkey, Europe, and the US, general orientations are complete, and we are moving fully forward to continue to explore this ever surprising citadel from around 3500 years ago.

We hope you enjoy following the project’s progress as the season unfolds!

 

It’s back to early mornings again for an enthusiastic team (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

We broke ground in excavation areas at Kaymakçı, overlooking scenic Lake Marmara and environs, and held introductory orientations for participants on site and in labs (Photo: Chris Roosevelt)

Catherine Scott (Boston University PhD Candidate and Koç University ANAMED Fellow) discusses excavation strategies with Sinan Ünlüsoy (KAP Assistant Director, Yaşar University) (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

Training in the recording system with Ebru Ayten (Middle East Technical University), as well as Veli Tekin and Mustafa Çelebı (Büyükbelen) (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

Haley Chasteene (recent UCSD grad), József Puskás (Babeş-Bolyai University), and Jana Mokrišová (University of Michigan PhD Candidate and Koç University ANAMED Fellow) plot their plan of action (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

Necmettin Akar (Büyükbelen), Rojda Arslan and Hazel Özmen (Koç University), and Dan Plekhov (Brown University) consider different problems across an excavation area (Photo: Hakan Hatay)

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 (2014-08-05)

“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).

  • Geophysics Team

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!

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Voices from the Field (2014-07-29)

Food!

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.

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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.

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Small Finds

Magda Pieniążek

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.

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Oral Histories (and some lithics)

Nedim Büyükyüksel

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)!

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Conservation

Sylvia Schweri

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.

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Voices from the Field (2014-07-15)

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.

Nearby Sites

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.

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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!

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Excavation

Alice Crowe

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!

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Photography

Keith Adams

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.

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