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 (2015-05-31)

We’re back for the 2015 season!

After a relatively-dormant winter, our first “voice” from the field season of 2015 comes from the geophysics team that has been working since mid-May at Kaymakçı, located in the western Turkish province of Manisa, on the shore of Lake Marmara (the ancient Gygaean Lake, for those who don’t remember!). Expect many more posts over the coming weeks and months. We hope you enjoy!

The Directors

A resumption of geophysical survey

Güzin Eren, Kyle Egerer, Manny Moss, Dan Plekhov

The 2015 season marks the fourth consecutive season of electrical resistance survey at the Late Bronze Age site of Kaymakçı. This year we are expanding our area of investigation to include previously unsurveyed parts of the site.

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For those unfamiliar with geophysics, the Gygaia Projects blog, or archaeology in general, “geophysics” refers to an aspect of the geosciences that concentrates on the characteristics and physical processes of the earth’s crust. Geophysical survey methods are used in archaeology to identify and isolate subterranean cultural remains. As a non-invasive, site-intensive survey method, resistance survey has proven particularly productive at Kaymakçı because of its local geological and natural conditions.

By introducing a weak electrical current into the ground between probes moved at set intervals along a zigzag pattern, the technique allows us to distinguish stone walls from other man-made and natural features with differing levels of resistance to the flow of electricity. So far this season we’ve successfully surveyed 50 survey grids – 2 hectares!

Until very soon,
the 2015 Kaymakçı Geophysics team!!

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Voices from the Field (2014-12-20)

Gygaia Projects Presentations at Koç University in İstanbul

This fall Gygaia Projects was represented twice in İstanbul, once on the main campus of Koç University and once at its Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (RCAC), the premier research center in the world for scholars focusing on all aspects of the civilizations of Anatolia (archaeology, arts, history, literature, economy, etc.) from the Neolithic through the Ottoman periods.

We hope to report soon on presentations planned for various other venues in spring 2015. Until then, best wishes to all our readers for a Happy New Year!

From Sèvres to UNESCO: Water Diplomacy and Cultural Sovereignty in the Gediz Valley

In September I presented research on long-term and future diplomacy initiatives in the Gediz Valley at Koç University. I examined İzmir and its countryside and the impact of U.S., European, and Russian influence. Case studies included İzmir’s Kültürpark, Gediz Basin water projects, restoration initiatives at Sardis, claims to sovereignty in the region of Bin Tepe, and the future impact of World Heritage and EU programs. My research brought together results from ethnography, policy, and field survey.

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Ceramics of the Second Millennium BCE in Western Anatolia

While pursing my dissertation as a PhD candidate in the University of Pennsylvania's Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World program, I am currently a junior fellow at the RCAC, located in the heart of İstanbul on İstiklal Street near Taksim Square.

As part of my fellowship, I gave a talk in November about my dissertation research on the second millennium BCE ceramics of western Anatolia. The talk gave me an opportunity to introduce to this community the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey (CLAS) (www.bu.edu/clas), the first initiative of Gygaia Projects.

Three other fellows presented on the same night, and their topics give a good sense of the breadth of research being conducted at the RCAC. One presentation discussed the impact of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 on Byzantine book production, while another investigated Greek manuscripts of the Middle Byzantine period. The third talk compared Islamic period grave monument traditions in Turkey and Central Asia.

Voices from the Field (2014-11-20)

We’re back!

Well... Not yet back in Turkey, but…

It took some time to let the dust settle from the season – with annual cycles of report writing, grant writing, and then permit renewal applications – but we now aim to raise our collective voices again, this time reporting over the next months on the various off-season activities of and associated with Gygaia Projects.

In this posting, we hear (or rather see) from Mehmet Şener (son of Doğan and Müslüme), who snapped a few pictures of Kaymakçı in September, wonderfully capturing the golden light of the late afternoon sun. Thereafter, Kyle Egerer reports on a post-season opportunity in central Turkey.

Mehmet Şener’s Pictures from Kaymakçı

  • View from inner citadel east over Lake Marmara

A Presence at QuickLakeH2014 in central Turkey

Kyle Egerer
Barely out of the western Anatolian dust, I soon found myself presenting in Ankara at the QuickLakeH2014 conference between the 15th and 19th of September at the Maden Tetkik ve Arama (MTA) Natural History Museum. This conference was organized by a highly devoted and passionate team of geologists and quaternary scientists from Ankara University (Ankara Üniversitesi) and the Quaternary Research Group (Kuvaterner Araştırma Grubu). The goal of the conference was to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scientists to address the topic of lakes, environment, and human interactions during the Quaternary Period – our current period of geologic time. In a paper titled, “Water and People in the Marmara Lake Basin (Middle Gediz), Western Turkey” (authored by Luke, Roosevelt, Gauthier, and Egerer), we addressed the effects of yearly fluctuations in water availability and long-term environmental trends on humans. We were particularly interested in how these natural changes could help explain the ebb and flow of human settlement in the study area of the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey (CLAS), the first initiative of Gygaia Projects (www.bu.edu/clas).
  • The QuickLakeH 2014 group at the conference.
As the lone archaeologist amongst paleoenvironmentalists and geologists at the conference, I learned the importance of stepping outside the confines of my discipline to engage with research questions and approaches far outside my own. Upon the conclusion of the conference participants departed on a two-and-a-half day fieldtrip through the Konya basin of modern-day south-central Turkey to experience first-hand – at places like Tüz Gölü and the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük – how crucial geology and hydrology can be for interactions between both humans and humans and the environment.

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 (2014-07-01)

Regional Survey / Regional Archaeology / The Central Lydia Archaeological Survey

Brad Sekedat

In addition to the exciting start to excavation at Kaymakçı, work continues on regional data collected over the course of ten field seasons under the auspices of the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey (CLAS). These data, which come in the form of pottery and other finds, archaeological features in the landscape, their associations to the region’s natural topography, subsurface geophysics, and ethnographic study, help us understand patterns in this dynamic region. Although we are not conducting regional survey this summer, work goes on as we prepare to publish our results. My days are primarily spent immersing myself in the database, writing, and synthesizing material in order to understand better human relationships with the landscapes of the Marmara Lake basin over time.

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Flotation and Environmental Research

Nami Shin

This week the paleoethnobotany team started flotation of the soil samples that we have received from the field, and some have the potential to yield ancient plant material! To understand further the environment of Kaymakçı, we have been studying its various plants.

When we aren’t at the flotation tank or studying plants and excavating at Kaymakçı, we help to catalogue the ceramics that are brought back to the lab.

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Excavation

Natalie Susmann

The past few weeks have been very exciting in our area. We began finding features fairly quickly, and the excavations continue to reveal a complex set of activities. The entire team is honing their paperless archaeological recording, fieldwork, and material recovery techniques, including details of conservation and preservation. English and Turkish are being learned by all!

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Conservation

Becky Bennett and Jenna Shaw

Our toolkits are at the ready to respond to the material from this first year of excavation, helping illuminate the palimpsest of Kaymakçı. As the excavators work from the ground down, the conservation team needs to be prepared for anything. The material currently coming in from the field for conservation is thrillingly varied, ranging from evidence of an early twentieth-century military presence to ceramics and metals that hint at the site’s more ancient past.

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