The transformative political events in the Middle East over the past two years have had, among many other unexpected outcomes, profound effects on the direction of research in Near Eastern archaeology.War and civil unrest act as both a carrot and a stick, forcing the cessation of fieldwork in some areas, while promoting new investigations in places that might otherwise have gone unexplored. The geopolitics of the post-Arab Spring world are changing where we are able work, and by consequence they will shape the research questions we investigate, as well as the regions where future generations of scholars will likely specialize. But the present moment of realignment is far from unique—our discipline has been shaped from the beginning by the tumultuous political history of the Middle East.
In the spring of 1920, James Henry Breasted and a group of scholars from the University of Chicago’s newly founded Oriental Institute embarked on a survey of major archaeological sites in Mesopotamia and Syria. It was Breasted’s hope that the return of political stability under British rule after the end of World War I would facilitate renewed investigations in Mesopotamia. Having traveled by steamer from Egypt, via Bombay, to Basra in southern Iraq, the team began making their way up the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, visiting many of the most prominent sites in the region, including Uruk, Babylon, and Nineveh.
Oriental Institute expedition team members pose with British officers at the west gate of Dura Europos, May 1920. (Image reproduced courtesy of the Oriental Institute Museum’s Photographic Archives http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/collections/pa/).
I am helping clean what seemed a possible differentiation in the color of a plastered mud-brick wall.
By: Mehrnoush Soroush, 2012 Heritage Fellow
In the summer of 2012, I received an ASOR fellowship to join a field project in central Turkey, in the region of Cappadocia. Elsewhere, I described my immense happiness about receiving the fellowship and the invaluable experiences I gained in the field. Here, I would like to write about the significance of the ASOR summer fellowship for my professional career and the reasons I hope ASOR can sustain its support of students in the future through the generous donations of its supporters.
Like everybody else, I guess, I spent the fellowship to pay for my flight and ground transportation. As a general rule, the majority of field projects in the Near East provide basic accommodation and food, when you get there. But, finding financial support to pay for your flight is a big challenge for students. Field directors cannot spend the limited resources they have paying for inexperienced beginners. Several other available funding resources are given only to those who are advanced in their research and can develop a coherent research plan of their own. I applied for the ASOR summer fellowship because it supports beginners like me, with limited options, and enables them to take their first steps into the field. Continue reading →
ASOR’s Heritage Fellowship afforded me, along with many other students with an interest in Near Eastern archaeology, the opportunity to participate in archaeological excavations throughout the Near East. This past summer, I worked at Tell Taʾyinat, a small site in the southwestern province of Hatay, Turkey, close to the Syrian border. Continue reading →
By: Ebru Fatma Fındık Research Assistant Hacettepe University, Faculty of Letters, Department of Art History, Beytepe, Ankara / TURKEY
Fig. 1: The house of a Turkish villager
The ancient city of Myra (mod. Demre) is situated in a plain of Lycia, surrounded by the Taurus Mountains to the north and by the Myros River (mod. Demra Çayı) to the east. Located to the south-west, on the banks of the Andrakos River, is its ancient harbour Andriake (mod. Çayağzı). The city has a large rural territory and during the Byzantine period the city had close religious, social, and economic ties with its territory (Foss 1996: 315).
Since 1989, the excavation and restoration work of the most important ecclesiastical building of the ancient city, the Church of St. Nicholas, has been carried out by the Art History Department of Hacettepe University. On the other hand, the excavations in the ancient city have been carried out by the Archaeology Department of Akdeniz University since 2009. Continue reading →
Sensational discoveries of mosaics periodically make the headlines of newspapers in Turkey. After being discovered, unearthed, cleaned, and removed, these ancient floors slowly make their way to museums or private collections. For this month’s ASOR Blog on the Archaeology of Anatolia, I wish to examine the curious afterlife of mosaics in, out of, and more recently, back to Turkey. I want to analyze their transformation from buried and forgotten things in the ground, to sanitized artifacts, aesthetic masterpieces, and contested objects of desire.
Unearthed in the late 1990s at Zeugma in Southeastern Turkey during rescue excavations before the construction of the Birecik Dam, the 2nd century AD mosaic below is now displayed in the newly built Mosaic Museum of Gaziantep. It shows Achilles on the island of Skyros leaving for the Trojan War. Thetis, Achilles’ mother, knowing that her son would die by joining the Greek army, dresses him as a girl and sends him to live with a king and his beautiful daughters on the island of Skyros, far away from the war.
Odysseus (R) takes Achilles (C) away from Deidameia (L)
Basalt lion from the castle gate at Zincirli Hoyuk, in the Pergamon Museum
By: Leann Pace and Eudora Struble
When Eudora and I began graduate school together at the University of Chicago, I don’t believe either of us was planning to work on a long-term archaeological project in Turkey. Eudora was very involved with archaeology in Jordan and my limited experience led me to believe that I wanted to work on excavations in Israel. However, we were given the opportunity to join what would become the Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli. This journey began in 2006 and we are eagerly anticipating another great season in the summer of 2013. Obviously we are hooked on working at the site and on being part of the larger research community working in Turkey. Continue reading →
By: Krysia Spirydowicz, Associate Professor, Art Conservation Program, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, CANADA and Senior Conservator, Gordion Furniture Project, Ankara, TURKEY
Figure 1. Inlaid Table from Tumulus MM (E. Simpson, Gordion Furniture Project)
The ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion in central Anatolia was first explored in the early 1950s by a team from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Located approximately 100 km southwest of Ankara, this impressive site consists of a flat city mound with occupation levels dating from the Early Bronze Age to Hellenistic times and nearby clusters of burial mounds or tumuli. Rodney Young, the first director of excavations, explored three of the largest tumuli (Tumulus MM, P and W) as well as sections of the City Mound. Over 40 pieces of ornate, inlaid furniture dating to the eighth century BC were discovered in wooden burial chambers located deep inside the large earthen mounds. Continue reading →
By: Stephanie Selover, PhD Candidate, the University of Chicago
Stephanie excavating at Marj Rabba, Israel
My dissertation project centers on the study of evidence of warfare from Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age Central and Southeastern Anatolia. To date, research on the subject of warfare in the Ancient Near East in general and Anatolia in particular has been largely limited to overviews that include the entirety of the Ancient Near East and go into few details. These include Roper’s “Evidence of Warfare in the Near East from 10,000-3,400 BC (1975), Ferrill’s The Origins of War (1985), Hamblin’s Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC (2006) and Gat’s War in Human Civilization (2006). Indeed, many such reviews of ancient warfare compile all of human existence from the Upper Paleolithic (100,000 BC) to the start of the Late Bronze Age (1300 BC) into a single chapter (e.g. Ferrill 1985: Chapter 2; Hackett 1989: Chapter 1). Commonly, these studies lead off with the assumption that the origins of warfare start at some point in the ancient Near East then spread elsewhere (Ferrill 1985, Kelly 2000: 2; Vencl 1984). Continue reading →
Özlem Çevik (Archaeology Dept., University of Thrace, Edirne, Turkey) and Çiler Çilingiroğlu (Dept of Protohistory and Near Eastern Archaeology, Izmir, Turkey)
Fig 1: General view of Ulucak mound.
Ulucak is a settlement mound located 25 km east of İzmir, in western Turkey (Fig. 1). The mound contains cultural accumulations spanning periods from the Early Neolithic to Late Roman-Early Byzantine periods. The lengthy sequence at Ulucak allows observations on long-term continuities and discontinuities in the settlement layout, architecture, material culture, and subsistence patterns in Aegean Turkey over many millennia.
The start of excavations at Ulucak encouraged an increasing focus on Neolithic culture in western Turkey as the earliest occupation at the site is significant for understanding the neolithization mechanisms in the region. The early farming communities of Ulucak occupied the site from around 6750 to 5700/5600 cal BCE, thus providing us with valuable information on multiple aspects of their daily lives and cultural changes through time. Continue reading →
The Late Bronze Age (LBA) of Anatolia is a period that has been described to us through history and myth. The history of LBA Anatolia comes primarily from the Hittites, who actively created and maintained records. Written in cuneiform, these records provide us with a wealth of information ranging from sweeping royal military campaigns to the correspondence of local leaders discussing missing slaves. The myth comes predominantly from the Archaic and Classical Greeks who wrote about how their Bronze Age ancestors interacted with their Anatolian neighbors. The most famous story of this nature is Homer’s Iliad. If we carefully weave the historical knowledge together with the myth, we can use the two together to accomplish more than either can do alone. However, this is a delicate task. Both sources need to be treated with their shortcomings in mind. For instance, one issue with the historical record is that it is incomplete. This is due to several reasons, though time will allow us to improve some of them. With time, scholars will continue to translate the many Hittite tablets that have been uncovered. Also, additional Hittite tablets will come to light through archaeological excavations. What time cannot touch are the historical details that were never recorded by the Hittites, details that were left out because they were deemed insignificant or perhaps politically damaging. Continue reading →
By: Jordan Skornik, University of Chicago Divinity School
After a later-than-usual start due to Ramadan, the 7th season of the Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli (ancient Sam’al), an archaeological project of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, began in earnest. Digging officially commenced at dawn on Saturday, August 25, and with only one week under our belts, there was already much to be excited about. Thanks to the Heritage Fellowship, I was able to experience it firsthand. Continue reading →
The generosity of those behind the ASOR Heritage Fellowship afforded me my first opportunity to dig at a Near Eastern site. I participated in the excavations at Tell Tayinat, a settlement occupied during the Early Bronze and Iron Ages located in southern Turkey near the Syrian border. You may have heard the name in the news recently, owing to the discovery of a couple impressive statues this season. Particularly noteworthy is the head and torso of King Suppiluliuma, with a Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription across his back. Continue reading →
The southeastern provinces of Turkey will soon be home to a series of new, state-of-the-art, archaeology museums. Such buildings are being (or have already been) planned, constructed, remodeled, or expanded. The Gaziantep Museum, for instance, houses many of the Roman mosaics of Zeugma unearthed before the construction of the Birecik Dam. Other mosaics, discovered during the expansion of Şanlıurfa’s sewage system, will be displayed in an Arkeopark near the city center.
Diyarbakır, a third city in southeastern Turkey, is not lagging behind. Work is underway to transform its citadel (içkale) into an archaeology museum. Recent finds at sites threatened by the Ilısu Dam will make up a large part of its collection. Hence, the displaced antiquities will slowly find their ways to a new home. A win-win situation for Turkey, it would seem. As the country develops its infrastructure, investing in dams, roads, and sewage systems, it is simultaneously seen as protecting its past. A paradox, nevertheless, since it is these attempts to modernize that are threatening the country’s cultural heritage in the first place.
This year we are pleased to announce a new workshop session for the ASOR Annual Meeting, Archaeological Conservation Strategies in the Near East. Both conservators and archaeologists tend to present research within their own fields, effectively segregating the disciplines. But this year, thanks to ASOR, we have an opportunity to foster collaboration and promote information sharing among conservators and archaeologists working in the Near East. As conservators who work on excavations in the Near East, this topic is important to us and we hope you’ll find it interesting and important, too.
The workshop contributors will present multi-disciplinary projects and research on archaeological heritage from Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Iraq. Topics examined will include regional trends in conservation, balancing preservation and access, site management, treatments of challenging materials, and collaborations with local conservation and archaeological communities. Moderated discussions between the presentations will engage the contributors as well as the audience, creating an ongoing dialogue that we hope will ultimately improve preservation for archaeological materials and sites in the Near East. If you have questions, insights, or just an interest in these topics, please join us. Continue reading →
I am helping clean what seemed a possible differentiation in the color of a plastered mud-brick wall.
By: Mehrnoush Soroush, 2012 Heritage Fellow
I received the Heritage Fellowship to participate in my first fieldwork at the site of Kınık Höyük, in Cappadocia. Kınık Höyük is close to the small city of Altunhisar, and Niğde is the closest real town where we spent several free Saturday afternoons. I cannot think of a better way to have spent this scholarship. To begin with, our höyük (mound) is located in such a picturesque landscape. My early morning trips to the site and my afternoon trips back to the dig house were like short dreams in a wonderland: endless combinations of horizontal lines of golden grain fields and orchards and vertical lines of poplars which constantly sway in the cool mountain breeze. All of these are embroidered on a blend of clear blue sky and pinkish gray mountains that infinitely reflect one another. Our höyük is the most prominent feature, at least in my eyes, in this landscape: a miraculously intact golden cup, set up-side down amidst orchards and fields and visible from almost everywhere, including our dig house in the village of Yeşil Yurt. Continue reading →
Thanks to the ASOR Heritage Fellowship, I am currently participating in my fourth archaeological excavation season. This is the first year I am working at the site of Tell Tayinat in southern Turkey, having worked three previous seasons in excavations around Israel. The site is best known for its Neo-Assyrian temple and Bit-Halini palace, but also has exciting Early Bronze Age occupation. We are situated in a region called the Amuq plain, across the street from the equally famous site of Tell Aççana (ancient Alalaḫ).
By: Carrie Swan, The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University, 2012 Platt Fellow
As a glass artifact specialist, my research is not limited to a particular time period or geographic region, so I am able to study material from a range of times and places. It’s incredibly interesting and rewarding to view material culture over a long chronological sequence, and to study the particular ways in which glass was produced and used within various regions and by different cultures. This summer I’ve been fortunate enough to work with two different projects, studying the glass assemblages unearthed during the excavation of Horbat Huqoq in Israel and Hisn al-Tinat in Turkey.
Huqoq is a Jewish village located in the Galilee region of Israel, just west of Lake Kinneret and within the area of ancient Migdal, Capernaum, and other villages made famous by the life of Jesus. The site dates primarily to the Roman-Early Byzantine period, but our excavation project actually has three main goals: 1) to study the ancient village, 2) to study the synagogue of the ancient village, and 3) to study the “modern” Arab-Palestinian village of Yakuk that was built on top of the ancient village but abandoned in 1948 and bulldozed in the 1960s. Continue reading →
Kyle Egerer (foreground) and Peter Cobb (background left) with fellow CLAS team member Bradley Sekedat, conducting an architectural survey of a school house located in Eski HacÄ±veliler, Turkey.
We each received the ASOR Heritage Fellowship for the 2011 summer field season in Anatolia. We both participated in the Central Lydia Archaeological Survey (CLAS) in western Turkey, on the shores of the Gygaean Lake (modern Marmara Gölü), north of ancient Sardis (modern Sart). The CLAS project is co-directed by Christopher Roosevelt and Christina Luke of Boston University, and we would like to thank them for the opportunity to be a part of this research. We are also very thankful for the hospitality we received from the villagers in TekelioÄŸlu, the CLAS project’s host village. The residents of Tekelioğlu made us feel at home in the beautiful landscape of Lydia while ensuring we had our fill of the world’s best olive oil! Continue reading →
One of the six-ton column drums comes to the surface.
This summer I was able to travel to Turkey to participate in the final season of excavation at the Kizilburun column-carrying shipwreck as a direct result of the ASOR Heritage Grant I was awarded. Because of the high cost of running an underwater excavation from a remote location, project directors typically require students to pay for their own travel to and from the site. The remoteness of this project served also to increase travel costs for interested participants. As a result of these expenses, I was one of only two students able to join the excavation team this summer. Continue reading →
Last year, working at Bir Madhkur with Dr. Andrew M. Smith II, one of the volunteers had brought a footlong trowel meant for heavy-duty gardening, or possibly harpooning whales. We were constantly inventing theories as to its possible intended purposes, until eventually we only had to pick up the thing (if we could lift it) or simply mention the “Mattie trowel” to inspire laughter.
This year, at Çatalhöyük, I had brought the Mattie trowel. My digging partner–along with everyone else working in the building, for that matter–had a trowel with a small, sharp, triangular head. I looked like I had brought a pie-slicer to site. But my Mattie trowel had been through four seasons of fieldwork, across continents, where I had perfected my excavation technique with her. I had learned to cut Rubiks cube corners with vertical walls and flat floors. Continue reading →