Archaeology Blog: The Empire Strikes Back

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1016579_285801521565831_1127392435_nToday begins week two of session one of the Antiochia ad Cragum Research Project and field school. Finally we have stratum! Today’s misconception by the students: that anyone can swing a mattock and use a shovel. The archaeology and the dirt is fighting them back.

The site area we opened up in the agora yesterday is now a hive of activity as students, archaeologists and Turkish workmen from the planet Turkjeon (which was destroyed by the dreaded dictators of Capitalism from the realm of Capitivia forcing the Turkjeons to flee and settle on Earth and become SuperTurks who gain their powers from sunlight). In the centre of the possible temple area we are now uncovering numerous tesserae which is unexpected. It is unfortunate though that no intact mosaic seems to appear there. In the centre of the agora we have finally got rid of the roots in the centre of the trench and uncovered the majority of a large marble block with a standard decorative border and a spiral design which we can’t see the end of at the moment. And finally we have finds! Okay just a few pottery fragments and some tile but better than nothing. I once dug for two weeks on an Iron Age hill fort and only found two pieces of charcoal…

Over by the mosaic area the inscription is almost uncovered but appears to be cut in half from wear and time. Hopefully the other piece is still lying somewhere in the dirt near by because it’s hard to translate only half an inscription. So far though it appears to be a statue base dedication which is associated with the large niche in the East wall of the bath house. Hopefully it will make a nice publication later in the year.

Outside the dig site is just as interesting as on the dig itself. The area is little visited by tourists except for the few stray ex pats from Germany and England who are far between but can generally be found congregated at the Green Oasis Cafe in Gazipasa owned by Konrad and his wife Pauline. Which is where we are generally found when not digging too. Funny thing about archaeology: when not on a dig most tend to drink sparingly a few glasses a month at most, while on a dig it is necessary to have a beer at least once a day. Remember, we are digging here in forty degree (one hundred and ten Fahrenheit) heat on the worst days.

In terms of learning experiences they still come about for the experienced archaeologist but they come by the minute for the field school students. At least most realise quickly that they have no idea what they are doing and thus ask insightful questions. The shovel, the pick, the trowel (especially the trowel), the mattock and the wheelbarrow are skills and tools that require accuracy and technique otherwise unexperienced outside of archaeology. Rahmi the SuperTurk has long been skilled in these ways and I am happy to have picked up many useful skills but these are new to the students and it is admittedly a little amusing watching them as they get confused by the fact the 61 year old Turkish foreman can remove four times the amount of dirt in half the time. But none seem too disillusioned yet. Though my trench was the envy of a few of them because it was actually going somewhere. Archaeology is an experience and experience is archaeology.600164_285801491565834_1912571675_n

The Tarsus mountains are all around and one of the many reasons to try archaeology becomes also obvious. This is a beautiful country. Digging let’s you appreciate a country like you never have before. And thus archaeology in Turkey can be an eclectic mix of super human Turks, broken toes, death trees, beautiful scenery, troubled students, sun burn and fun.


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