I write this page to educate people on archaeology and history but there is nothing more educating than experience. My first week back at the site of Antiochia ad Cragum has been revealing and fun. Revealing because you realise that even those people with the enthusiasm to actually go on a dig for the first time come with so many preconceptions which is something I often forget because I have now been digging so long. Fun because I’m back in the trenches with awesome eccentric people, archaeology breeds eccentricity and craziness.
After flying into Istanbul for a few days we are now in Gazipasa in Southern Turkey after a long commute down to Antalya and then through Alanya on the bus for three hours. The Antiochia ad Cragum Research Project is a joint venture between field school students, specialists and enthusiasts like myself, staff from the University of Nebraska, Clark University and Ataturk University. So despite having been at this dig before, it is a whole new assortment of faces and experience levels. Most common experience level being zero. But that is good too, we get to mould minds and they get a life changing experience because that is often what archaeology is. It gives you a new appreciation of history, hard work, team work, new cultures and the wind on a very hot smouldering day where you feel like you are dying but somehow manage to get through it before falling into the pub for beer.
This year we are focusing on the agora down by the larger bath house inside the city gates. The area has not previously been excavated and has grown over significantly. The bath house itself is the realm of the Ataturk University team led by Professor Birol Can. This year they are extending the excavation of the mosaic (which you can see in the news) which is one of the biggest in the area. So far they have uncovered approximately half of it in previous years and half of a pool with a marble base. The mosaic also appears to extend outside the doorway that was discovered at one end of the mosaic last year. It will be a while until they are in a position to excavate more of the area inside the bathhouse itself but so far they have uncovered an inscription on the wall which I will be translating and hopefully preparing for publishing later in the season. Which is exciting because Bean and Mitford have previously published most of the inscriptions on the site so a new one is awesome. Additionally I personally am working on two dice oracle inscriptions in the block field near the temple on the site and a Latin milestone which has somehow made its way into the early Christian church outside the city gates. But first the agora…
We spent the first two days of the dig clearing a forest of brush that covered the area of the agora. The Turkish workmen, led by the SuperTurk Rahmi, were an amazing asset considering they had a chain saw and superhuman skills that makes me believe that they are in fact aliens from the planet Turkjeon. Underneath the brush you could already see columns from the original structure scattered throughout the area. As brush for gradually removed more features came to light including a possible temple area and a raised walkway area. A number of decorated marble blocks could also be seen after the central area of thick bush was removed. After the bush was finally removed and the tedious dragging of trees and twigs back and forth to the spoil pile finally drove us all mad, the digging could finally begin.
Out of the group this year digging in the agora there are only three members who are actually archaeologists: Myself, my partner Rob and Helen who is an Australian archaeologist from Melbourne dipping her toe into Classical archaeology. And thus the three site supervisors were born! So far we have begun opening five trenches. Three are located on or next to the possible temple mount, one has been placed on the walkway to the side of the main area up several steps and full of roots, and the last is located in the main open area where the marble carved blocks were located previously. This year the field school students appear to be an excellent bunch. They have already proved to be hard and diligent workers in the initial brush clearing stages and they have enthusiastically thrown themselves into the trenches. While some have admitted that they never expected this and expected brushing of small rocks, none have taken a step back and are instead asking intelligent questions for the most part and are keen to learn which is great and somewhat unusual. Hopefully the heat won’t kill any of them before we get the work done…
The Clark University students are up in the block field and going slightly mad in the heat but have already made a great start into drawing and mapping the blocks from the temple for future reconstruction. And with that I end my first blog back in Turkey. Let the archaeology continue. 🙂
- Antiochia ad Cragum: Archaeology Blog 2013 (graecomuse.wordpress.com)
- Late Roman mosaic at Antiochia ad Cragum (adrianmurdoch.typepad.com)
- Excavation Projects in Ancient Corinth (greece.greekreporter.com)