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.

 

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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 (2015-07-05)

Kaymakçı from Above!

Manny Moss

Eyes in the Sky: a new UAV is providing fresh perspectives on the site and surrounding landscape, and changing the way archaeology happens.

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have recently become affordable, reliable, and powerful enough to join the archaeological toolkit. Here at Kaymakçı, we’re using the camera mounted on our new DJI Phantom to document ongoing excavation activities, explore the surrounding landscape, and aid in our efforts to construct 3D, volumetric models of archaeological deposits.

Capable of taking video and still imagery, precision-guided by GPS, and with flight times exceeding twenty minutes, our new UAV allows for shadow-free, top-down shots from ten, twenty, or even 100 meters above the ground.

 

The images from the UAV have also proven to be an excellent addition to the mapping and 3D spatial components of the project. The UAV’s photographs can be pieced together in a photogrammetry program to produce a hyper-accurate digital elevation model of the site, the landform on which it sits, and the surrounding hills, valleys, and waterways. This landscape model can be used by many of the other specialists on the project to make inferences about past and present land use, hydrology, agriculture, and human occupation.

 


Taking aerial photographs, and shooting HD video early in the morning takes advantage of the raking light to reveal subtle topographical details.

 

New perspectives offered by the UAV have aided in understanding spatial relationships difficult to see from ground level, and have given those of us working on the ground a fresh eye on Kaymakçı’s neighborhood. We look forward to applying this tool in new ways in the near future!

Voices from the Field (2015-06-23)

Archaeological Ceramics at Kaymakçı

Peter Cobb

The case of the broken vase: how an archaeology team investigates Bronze Age life through detailed study of everyday items.

For many millennia people have used ceramic vessels for the storage, preparation, and consumption of food and drink. Pottery's centrality to basic human activities along with its near indestructible material nature usually make it the most abundant material class uncovered by archaeological excavations. Of the samples found at Kaymakçı last year, 90% were ceramic when measured by either count or weight, with the remaining samples including material classes such as bone, stone and metal.

Because of its abundance, the careful recording of the ceramics is a team effort (see photos). Each day, team members study such characteristics as the shapes, colors, and clay fabrics of the ceramic vessels.

 

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The team sorting a context of sherds.

Continuing the careful and detailed digital recording done with field stratigraphy, we also apply a set of technologies in the lab to record information about ceramics accurately and efficiently. Thus we use Pantone Capsure devices to measure colors digitally and a NextEngine portable 3d laser scanner to record shape. In this way, we can most objectively compare each ceramic sample both with each other at our site, as well as with the published materials from other nearby sites.

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Lab co-manager and Ege University student Tunç Kaner 3d scanning a ceramic sherd.

Gygaia Projects has always strived for scientific rigor in the study of pottery. Research led by project co-director Dr. Christina Luke analyzed survey ceramics from Kaymakçı and the surrounding region typologically, chemically, and mineralogically. This has provided a very interesting picture of the social, economic, and political history of the region, a picture that is detailed in an article in a fully Open Access issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology, already available online (http://www.maneyonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/2042458215Y.0000000009)!

Voices from the Field (2015-06-18)

Excavation North

Kyle Egerer

Meet the excavation team working at the northern edge of Kaymakçı’s citadel!

 

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Our tireless and endlessly enthusiastic team from the nearby villages of Hacıveliler and Büyükbelen!

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At times, objects come out of the ground that require hands-on explanation. An inspiring aspect of working with this fine group of people is their eagerness to learn about the cultures and materiality that previously populated the areas they now inhabit.

 

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We eat a number of different types of bread during our breaks. After explaining that the Hittites of Late Bronze Age Anatolia had at least 120 types of bread, our workers laughed proclaiming, “That’s nothing, we have 150 different kinds!” Here, you see three local varieties along with menemen, olives, and a tomato – all local fare.

 

From an ethnoarchaeological point of view it is interesting to listen to descriptions of local histories and understandings of the past. This dialogue adds a different character to the archaeology we are doing on site!

Voices from the Field (2015-06-15)

End of the Geophysics Season

Kyle Egerer, Güzin Eren, and Dan Plekhov

Hoşçakal Geophysics, Merhaba Excavation! (“See you later Geophysics, Hello Excavation!”)

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From Kaymakçı we are able to see weather systems building above Bozdağ, only to descend towards Bin Tepe and the site…

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It’s difficult to say which way storms will go, but it’s easy to keep an eye on the weather when it presents views like this!

 

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… in the thick of things!

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Other than storm clouds, we also had frequent visitors of a different type!

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A happy geophysics team at the conclusion of the season!

Voices from the Field (2015-06-14)

Welcome to our new blog coordinators!

Emily Wilson, Nuray Yılmaz, Catherine Scott, and Jana Mokrišová

With a new season come new coordinators for Voices from the Field! Stay tuned for future updates from the Gygaia Projects.

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Emily Wilson (University of Chicago) is excited to be joining the (field) team here at Kaymakçı.

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Nuray Yılmaz (CUNY) is thrilled to be excavating in Turkey, her home country, for the first time.

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Catherine Scott (Boston University) is a four-year veteran of the project, but it is her first year as an area supervisor.

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Jana Mokrišová’s (University of Michigan) fourth year on the project will be dedicated to excavating and mudbrick studies.

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 (2015-05-08)

Gygaia Projects Presentations at the SAA meetings in San Francisco

I recently traveled to San Francisco to represent Gygaia Projects at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. This year’s meeting attracted more than 5,000 archaeologists – the largest turnout in the Society’s history. The lobby of the conference hotel was a sight to behold; I’ve never before seen so many people in one room wearing hiking boots with suits.

On the second day of the conference, I presented a poster on behalf of myself and coauthors Christina Luke and Christopher Roosevelt at the symposium “The Robustness and Vulnerability of Food Production and Social Change: An evaluation of interdisciplinary concepts using archaeological data, models and ethnographic observations”. This session brought together researchers from several methodological backgrounds, each of whom used food production as a framework for thinking about how past societies interacted with their environments.

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Our poster – “Extreme weather events and 10,000 years of land-use change in the Gediz River valley” – arose from recent efforts to understand how the ancient inhabitants of the Gediz River valley adapted to the risks of extreme weather. We used data from a state-of-the-art paleoclimate simulation to estimate how frequently droughts and floods would have hit the valley over the past 10,000 years. Drawing on concepts from game theory, we then explored how the risks of extreme weather might have influenced an ancient farmer’s choice of which crops to plant from one year to the next. We compared our models to data from the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey and related Gygaia Projects initiatives. We found that the impacts of extreme weather are contingent on the vulnerabilities of each particular society, and that very often what farmers might think to be the best option for minimizing risks in the short term makes them more vulnerable in the long term. Discussing these findings with our colleagues in San Francisco led to several new hypotheses that we look forward to begin testing upon our return to Kaymakçı in the weeks to come.

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