Voices from the Field (2016-03-09)

The word is getting out! Gygaia Projects directors present on various aspects of the project

Christina Luke and Chris Roosevelt

Scholarly conversation takes place in many venues, one of which is through the presentation of new data and ideas at conferences and as part of lecture series. Such presentations offer an exciting opportunity to collaborate with and get feedback from colleagues around the world.

In mid-February, Christina Luke attended a terrific conference and workshop entitled: “New Approaches to Historic Landscapes.” Her presentation focused on the construction of "heritage and history" through the lens of sovereignty in the Gediz Valley. The title of her paper was "Deep Time: Cultural Landscapes from Antiquity to Modernism in the Gediz Valley, western Turkey”. Christina asked how "the right heritage" is often celebrated at the expense of other historical narratives. She argued that historical landscape analysis offers one way forward in understanding change over time. The sessions were supported by a British Academy Newton Fund Advanced Fellowship, and led by Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (Turkey) and Newcastle University (UK). It is our hope to collaborate with various new colleagues to begin a historic landscape analysis of the Gediz Valley.

Photo Credit: Néhémie Strupler, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut

 

Chris Roosevelt recently spoke on two occasions about the ongoing work of Gygaia Projects. His first talk took place at the German Archaeological Institute as part of their ongoing lecture series. The title of his paper was “A Forgotten Capital in Late Bronze Age Central Western Anatolia: Kaymakçı in the Marmara Lake Basin.” Chris talked briefly about the results of the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey, which found a network of second-millennium BCE citadels around Lake Marmara, and presented some initial results of the ongoing excavations at Kaymakçı under the Kaymakçı Archaeological Project. His talk was well attended by members of the archaeological community in Istanbul.

At the Turkish Art and Culture Lecture Series of the Turkish Cultural Foundation, Chris’s talk “Archaeology, Technology, and Sustainability: Approaches to the Past in the Gediz Valley, Western Turkey” addressed the sustainability of archaeological practice and data. He discussed various non-invasive archaeological techniques, including aerial photography and remote sensing, and also explained the digital recording system of the project as a way of making it possible to "re-excavate" sites digitally. (See Chris’s open-source article with fellow project members Peter Cobb, Manny Moss, Brandon Olson, and Sinan Ünlüsoy, titled “Excavation is Destruction Digitization: Advances in Archaeological Practice” for more information on the latter topic!)

Photo Credit: Jana Mokrisova

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

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 (2015-07-25)

Animals and Archaeology – Faunal Analysis at Kaymakçı

Adam DiBattista, Francesca Slim, Christine Mikeska

Just one season of excavation results in thousands of pieces of bone, antler, shell, and other animal remains, which are referred to collectively as faunal material. This rich body of material allows us to understand the variety of ways animals were used in the past, evaluate potential contamination levels, and examine past environmental conditions.

Adam examines a piece of antler

Adam examines a piece of antler

 

Francesca measures a humerus

Francesca measures a humerus

 

As a team, we sort bones by their type (e.g., humerus, femur, tibia) and then record information about each individual bone. Using a variety of illustrated manuals and a collection of modern bones provided by our supervisor, Dr. Canan Çakırlar, we attempt to determine species. We frequently find domestic animals like sheep and cow, but also wild animals like deer and fish.

Photography and measurement are two ways we document faunal remains

Photography and measurement are two ways we document faunal remains

 

 

By carefully observing, measuring, and recording the excavated faunal material, we can begin to understand the age and health of animals at Kaymakçı in the past. These traits help us understand the habits of the people who used these animals for meat, wool, and a variety of other products and activities. For example, bones from older sheep may indicate that they were being used for “secondary products” like wool and milk, while bones from younger sheep may indicate they were being used for meat. Additionally, pathologies in cow feet can indicate they were being used for activities such as plowing rather than consumption.

Adam, Christine, and Francesca look at the structure of the teeth from a cattle mandible

Adam, Christine, and Francesca look at the structure of the teeth from a cattle mandible

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 (2015-07-13)

Imag(e)ining and recording at Kaymakçı

Emily Wilson

Photography at Kaymakçı is a mix of traditional elements and technological innovations.

Photography is a vital part of the recording process in archaeology. Photographs produce an accurate record of deposits, features, and the relationships between contexts. There are several types of photography that are utilized on site.

 

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On the every-day level, the use of tablets – as opposed to the traditional pencil and paper - allow us to take real-time photographs and annotate them in the field to illustrate our daily notes and create an accurate record of our excavation techniques and thoughts. These images and notes help us to interpret the archaeological record both at the moment of excavation, and later in the lab.

 

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The meter stick and the north arrow are an archaeologist’s best friend! Including these two items is essential in photographs to ensure that an accurate sense of scale and direction are preserved for both formal photos for publication and progress photographs. Without these vital pieces of information, the photograph is almost worthless.

 

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The use of the drone in the field has led to a revolution in photography. The drone is used to take aerials that allow for accurate and detailed day plans (a daily map that includes excavated areas, elevations, and important finds), as well as for “photobatching” large contexts (to create three dimensional models that portray accurate volumes, sizes, and shapes of excavated contexts).

 

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The importance of capturing all of the boundaries of a particular feature or context, as well as its relationships with contiguous contexts, can sometimes require courage and a steady hand at high elevations!

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.

 

unpacking excavation area_Nicole

Nicole unpacking an excavation area from the 2014 season

 

adhesive testing_Remy

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