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!


Voices from the Field (2014-07-29)


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.



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.



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)!



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.



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.


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!




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!




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.