Voices from the Field (2019-06-07)

We’ve Moved: Reorganizing the new depot

Ayce Büyükmete and Kader Gürgen Erdem

This year, we were the “early birds,” arriving at the new Kaymakçı dig house to begin work in advance of the rest of the team. Our work will focus on identifying, analyzing, and sorting 2nd millennium BCE pottery that comes from the site each day.

Ayce, Kader, and Hakan working with artifacts.

We started the season by sorting and checking the inventory from previous years; this gave us the opportunity to touch and observe artifacts before the excavation started. We are indeed lucky! 

We begin by pulling all of the samples from each context (right now, we are focusing on area 97.541). We check the pictures in the database to make sure they are correct. We also re-weigh and re-count the samples to make sure that our data are accurate; these measurements will be used to study the ceramics from the site in the future. This process involves becoming familiar with new systems and technologies, including the project’s networked database and a series of apps that automatically save and label photographs of samples. We have also had the opportunity to learn about tools like the Pantone CapSure; this device digitally measures the color of artifacts and identifies their Munsell color.

The Munsell color chart was developed to describe the color of soils, ceramics, and other materials in archaeology. These “Munsell readers,” as we call them, make taking these measurements very quick, and also help to keep measurements standardized between analysts.
Yiğit and Mustafa looking for “joins” (where two sherds fit together).

After checking all the data in each sample, everything is put back into the depot. The new depot will be organized by excavation area and context number, so all samples will be easy to find for researchers in the future. 

Yaşar working in the new depot.

Now that excavation is beginning, we are excited to welcome new information and materials, and to share new experiences with friends and fellow researchers. 

Let this be a successful excavation season! 

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 (2019-05-27)

Welcome back to Kaymakçı!

Voices from the Field has been “on leave” since the 2017 field season, but the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project team has not been idle! The project continues to move forward with a number of publications, discussing topics ranging from broad overviews of the site and its region to specific studies on materials from the excavation and previous regional survey.

We are excited to explore three different sectors of the site this year with continuing excavations. In area 95.555, Ebru Kaner (PhD candidate, Istanbul University) hopes to improve current understandings of the fortification system, including refining the date of its initial construction and later modifications. In area 97.541, Catherine Scott (PhD, Boston University) aims to investigate the earliest phases of a suite of building complexes in the Inner Citadel. In area 109.523, Dalila Alberghina (PhD candidate, Koç University) is continuing to explore the use of a suite of buildings in the middle of the Southern Terrace, with an additional goal of determining the depth and date of artificial fills that extend at least 3.5 m below the modern ground surface.

There are new developments in our off-site work, as well. We’ve recently moved from the temporary accommodations we’ve been privileged to make use of for the last several years to a new facility and have begun to re-inventory and reorganize five years of excavation materials. Long-term and painstaking work with ceramics, metals, small finds, mudbrick, sediment chemistry, plant remains, animal bones, and more is beginning to bear intellectually stimulating and interesting fruit, helping to situate Kaymakçı within broader understandings of second-millennium BCE western Anatolia. We are continuing to develop digital technologies for 3D recording on site and in the lab, also, with improvements to display and analysis coming soon. 

More detailed posts on many of these topics are soon to appear, so we hope you’ll welcome the return of our “Voices” and follow along here and on our social media accounts!

Voices from the Field (2017-07-24)

Goodbye, Kaymakçı (for now!)

The 2017 season of the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project has come to an end, with many thanks to all members of the full team (local and foreign academics and staff) for their hard-working dedication.


As we continue to research and write about the past few years’ discoveries in our respective institutional homes, we are already looking forward to next summer’s new developments!

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

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 (2017-07-17)

Learning about Local Ceramic Production

Catherine Scott

One of the many benefits of a study season is the chance to follow new lines of research that we wouldn’t have time for during a normal field season. This year, a number of team members were lucky enough to visit Gökeyüp, a village on the outskirts of the Gediz Valley, and watch the traditional production of ceramics. This is our first trip since excavation began at Kaymakçı, though we have visited the village multiple times over the past 15 years as part of the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey (CLAS).

Ceramicist Peter Pavúk studies the unfired pots, which have been drying in the sun.

Ceramics before firing (below) and after firing (above).

Wet clay ready to be mixed with mica.

Our area has been known for producing “goldwash” pottery since the second millennium BCE. “Goldwash” generally refers to ceramics that have a deep gold or bronze color following firing, which is created using local mica. In Gökeyüp, mica is used as a temper to strengthen cooking pots, and as a wash or slip to make them shine. Goldwash ceramics are also found at Kaymakçı, though their method of production seems to be different. That said, observing modern production can still be informative.

This pot has a silver spot where it wasn’t heated evenly.

All the ceramics are made by hand by women who have passed down the skill over time. For this firing, they made 800 objects in two weeks!

When pots are ready to be fired, the potters build a circular pyre and stack the ceramics on top, covering them with wood. The location of the pyre here is in the street, at an intersection that gets a lot of wind to stoke the flames. The firing takes anywhere from about 30 minutes to two hours, and is carefully controlled.

The firing is a social event. Neighbors came to help and to watch, and even cooked potatoes on the embers for a snack! We are very thankful for the opportunity to have observed and participated in this local tradition.

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

Voices from the Field (2017-07-11)

Detailed Tasks: Sorting Bones in the Heavy Residue Fraction

Francesca Slim

Heavy residue analysis begins! This year the faunal team grew, and we have a wonderful workforce to get some work done this study season: Dr. C. Çakırlar, Francesca Slim, Jildou Kooistra, Madison Blumer, Conor Mead, and Elif Özsöy.

A large workforce to handle a lot of small bones: Jildou, Elif, Conor, and Madison.

This year the faunal team has begun the analysis of the heavy residues retrieved during flotation. After a long workflow involving collection of sediment samples by excavators and flotation, heavy residue collection, and sorting by the archaeobotany team, the bone material within the heavy residue samples ended up with the faunal team. Using a variety of tools, the heavy residue samples are laid out on trays, meticulously examined in bright daylight, and sorted into categories with small brushes and dental tools. We have been finding various taxa of not just the common domesticates, but also bones from amphibians, birds, fish, molluscs, and small mammals such as mice.

Francesca doing detailed analysis on the identifiable mammal bones from the heavy residue samples.

In these heavy residue samples, we find bones that do not usually appear in the hand-selected and dry-sieved samples. In addition to finding small animals, here and there we find small bones from very young animals, showing that even very young baby animals were kept at Kaymakçı. This means that the heavy residue samples are very complementary to the dataset, as a whole, and give us better insight into the full spectrum of domestic, wild, and commensal animals present at Kaymakçı in the past.


When we do the sorting, we also keep our eyes out for some specific bones that may be used for other types of analysis. For instance, we are hoping to find fish otoliths (a type of ear bone), which can be used in future isotope analysis. In this way, we collaborate not just between specialists, but also across many years of the project!

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 (2017-07-07)

Ebru in Tekelioğlu

Christina Luke

The first weekend in July brought ebru (marbling) artist Nedim Sönmez to Tekelioğlu. He offered ebru and papermaking workshops for the children of the village. Short lectures and videos covered the history of these crafts in Turkey, and then the students had many opportunities to try the crafts themselves.

Children were able to share ideas and approaches for two days. At the end of the workshops, they brought their art back to their families.


Nedim is the director of Ege University’s Paper and Book Arts Museum in Bornova, Izmir, as well as an established and well-known artist. This is his second workshop with our project.

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

Voices from the Field (2017-07-06)

Sweet Treats: Baking American Pies in Turkey for the Fourth of July

Emily Wilson and Caitlin O’Grady

The 4th of July means many things for Americans: the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, barbeques, family and friends, and fireworks. For many Americans, it also means fruit pies, a dessert that is especially popular on this holiday. This year, we decided to make fruit pies for our annual 4th of July barbeque – a taste of the US while working in Turkey. But making these pies was not without its challenges.

Shopping - do you think we have enough ingredients?

So much butter!

Prepping cherries.

Making a lattice crust.

Our baking challenge.




Using the oven, which cooks only one pie at a time at a constant and unknown temperature, gave the bakers an even greater appreciation for the cooks who use it everyday to make our food!

One crust completed, 2 more to finish.

So many delicious pies! 

Ready for feasting!

The pies and crumble were safely transported down to the shores of Lake Marmara for the holiday barbeque. Without exception, they were proclaimed a delicious success!!!

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