Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Student Kevin Kay in Turkey

“This was the Alaska of the Roman world: vast, untamed, and rich in natural resources. This is where people came who did not want some far-away government telling them what to do. When the Greeks and the Romans tried, they fought back. Not much has changed since.”

This was my introduction to Rough Cilicia, now a part of the Antalya province on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, as I sat at a long table outside of Konrad’s Green Oasis Café, a hub of expatriate activity in the small but bustling coastal town of Gazipaşa.

I had come to participate in the Rough Cilicia Archaeological Survey Project. This was a regional survey in the same vein as the famous Oaxaca Valley Survey, which reshaped archaeologist’s conception of Mesoamerican civilization by filling in the 99% of the map that wasn’t covered by large, excavated monumental cities. Our objective was to cover as much terrain in the highlands and midlands of the Taurus Mountains as we could, finding any remnants of the past inhabitants of the region—from the stone ages to the 20th century—that remain on the surface. In addition, we would be collecting samples of the deep soil in various locations: pollen in these samples can tell us how the dense cedar forests have changed over the years, and by combining that knowledge with our survey data, we can recreate how the region’s vast resources were used by people in the past.

The project had two parts to it: one surveying and digging pollen cores up in the mountains, above the modern tree line, and one following leads from the locals to sites in the midlands, high enough in the mountains to be unexplored (To this day, no accurate road maps, archaeological maps, or maps of towns and villages exists for the areas above 600m in the mountains of Rough Cilicia. The locals navigate by memory; outsiders navigate with help from the locals, or more likely just avoid the region altogether.)

For the first part, we stayed in a small rented house in the tiny mountaintop village of Gökgüzlük. We alternated between days of digging pollen cores—often hacking at dense clay soil on hillsides for hours with pickaxes—and survey, in which we’d line up at evenly spaced intervals and walk across the landscape looking for any signs of pottery, architecture, or other human material remains. During this phase, we made several exciting discoveries—a pre-pottery Neolithic (Stone Age) bead-making site on an island in the middle of a seasonal lake (pushing the earliest known occupation of the high mountains back by several thousand years), a Ptolemaic-era logging camp or trading post with diagnostic Cypriot sigillata-style pottery, and the remains of an ancient forest fire, from which we were able to extract an entire carbonized tree trunk. In addition, we explored a large part of the otherworldly highland landscape, and got to meet many of the locals, some of whom (the shepherds) still live a semi-nomadic lifestyle that in many ways hearkens back to prehistoric times. We camped in the yard of the house, and in the process, became acquainted with other elements of the local population.

The evening procession of sheep through our yard to the secure pastures within the village.

Taking my turn digging a pollen trench into a road cut, just below the tree line.
During the second part of the project, we lived in Gazipasa, a quarter mile from the sea, and drove up in the team minibus (dolmus - Turkish for "all filled up") to sites in the mountains that we'd heard about from various local informants, or to survey areas where we thought sites were likely to have existed. Although we all missed the cool mountain air and the village-life feel of Gökgüzlük, this part of the expedition was when we made some truly spectacular discoveries, including a hitherto unknown fortress of some sort on a butte overlooking the modern village of Corus, with walls preserved at some points up to 5m or taller. In addition, we found Hellenistic or Roman-era native cemeteries and a Roman-era hamlet. The locals also managed to send us on a couple of "wild castle chases." We referred to the fruitless days as "The New Archaeology," poking fun at the tendency of regional survey to turn up long lists of data consisting of nothing but zeros. As Dr. Nick Rauh, our director, reminded us frequently, even a zero is data: we can say with some certainty that there are no major remains in the places we surveyed and found nothing.

Revisiting the small fortress at Doganca, found in previous seasons of the survey. There we compiled data from all of the stone-cut tombs on-site (and took a break to seek out a spectacular panoramic view from the top of the walls).
 It was thus a successful season, and also the project’s last. Over fourteen years, the Rough Cilicia Survey has located over one hundred sites spanning nearly 9000 years of history, in an area where little was previously known beyond the major coastal sites. The pollen cores we extracted will give an ecological context to all of this information, allowing an even more refined picture of one of the most rugged and understudied regions in the eastern Mediterranean, a region whose inhabitants—woodcutters, vintners, shepherds, and pirates—played an integral role in the ancient economy and who often violently opposed intrusion from outside. I enjoyed my month as a part of the expedition, and miss Turkish culture and the daily promise of adventure very much. Next summer I hope to return to Turkey for a longer stay, perhaps to study the language, or to do research at an excavation. The country is beautiful and fascinating, and the archaeology is too good to miss.

Project director Nick Rauh practicing "The New Archaeology."

Alumnus Profile: Scott G. ('00) in Hawaii

Scott Glenn graduated from the University of Evansville in 2000 with a double major in archaeology and philosophy. After graduating, he volunteered at the Murlo excavation for three summers with Dr. Anthony Tuck. From 2003 to 2007, Scott worked in Japan as an English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) Program. While there, he became aware of climate change issues and decided to pursue a career in urban and regional planning with a focus on climate change adaptation.

Scott moved to Hawaii in 2007, where he still lives, and obtained his Master's in 2009. He currently works for a private planning firm, TEC Inc., doing planning and climate change adaptation for the U.S. military, private companies, and Hawaii state and local governments. He specializes in environmental impact assessments and spatial planning.  He has been appointed to the State Environmental Council by the Governor of Hawaii, where he is responsible for updating and amending the state environmental impact assessment administrative rules. He also volunteers with the Hawaii Chapter of the Sierra Club as a policy expert on environmental planning.

Scott still retains a love for archaeology and uses it regularly in his planning work. He has written archaeological and historical assessments for projects around the Hawaiian islands and reviewed archaeological work throughout the Pacific Islands for professional and technical accuracy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Student Elizabeth Frost at Poggio Civitate, Italy

This summer was one of the best I’ve ever had: I participated in the excavation at Poggio Civitate in Italy with the University of Massachusetts Amherst. When I first signed up I was incredibly excited, but as time grew closer, I began to feel more and more nervous. I had never been out of the country before, and this was a pretty big step. Luckily, everyone who was going could get in touch with one another through Facebook and I had plans to meet up with some of my fellow student volunteers in Rome before the dig. When I got there I knew no one, but by the time the six weeks were over we were family.

I expected that when you participate in an archaeological dig, you dig the entire time you are there. As it turned out, this was usually the case except that due some recent changes to the laws in Italy our permit to dig did not start until two weeks after we were due to start. This change in plan didn’t faze the staff, and for the first week they gave us tours of the site and the magazzino, the sort of laboratory we shared with the public cars of Murlo. We listened to lectures, played a few name games, and learned where everyone was from, what their major was, and why they were here. The next week we were split into teams and worked on different projects that needed to be done. I was put on the team that was working with Roman materials. The town had recently put in a new playground and many Roman materials surfaced during construction; they were collected and given to us. My team cleaned, measured, muncelled, and catalogued all one hundred and eighty-odd items in only in four days.

The next week we were finally able to dig. We started out with five trenches, two of which had been started the year before. I ended up in one of these, so my first week was spent digging out the backfill of a rather large, wet, smelly trench. Still, I had a great time working with everyone. Every week we changed trenches. During the next week I was in a trench that was full of material like broken pieces of terra cotta, pottery, bone, and even statue fragments. This week was much more tedious than the first where I got to use a shovel and haul dirt. Now I had to use my trowel, being careful not to pop anything out of the ground, and define rocks like nobody’s business. By the end of the second week at least six new trenches were opened and a few more had extensions added. With our limited time this seemed pretty daunting, but the staff was great at keeping up morale and also the flow of chatter so we were never bored.

Elizabeth (center right) on a day trip in Italy.
Every weekend was free time. We were on our own and could do whatever we wanted, so we traveled a lot. I went to Florence, Siena, Orvieto, San Gimignano, Tarquinia, and many other places. It was great to experience all of these places, each with its own long history.

My trip to Italy was an experience of a lifetime and something I will never forget. I traveled, I dug, and I even discovered what I might want to do for the rest of my life. This summer was one that changed me completely and gave me a new reason to keep going after my dreams.