Antiochia ad Cragum

New Finds at Antiochia ad Cragum: Aphrodite Head and Mosaic

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As my frequent readers know, I often contribute to archaeological digs around the world and for the past two years I have been digging and translating at the site of Antiochia ad Cragum in Southern Turkey. And now things have been officially published, I can show you some of the cool things we found this year at the site 🙂

For my previous writing on the site on Graecomuse see below:

Antiochia ad Cragum: Archaeology Blog 2013

Archaeology Travel Blog: Selinus and Antiochia ad Cragum!

Archaeology Blog 2013: Dig Long and Prosper

Archaeology Blog: It’s Not All Fun and Games

Archaeology Blog: The Empire Strikes Back

Archaeology Blog: Back in the Trenches

Archaeology Travel Blog 2013

Piracy in the Ancient Mediterranean

Archaeology Travel Blog

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 2

Ancient Sites of Cilicia, Anatolia: Part 1


First I am pleased to say we uncovered the second half of the mosaic at the bath complex which is huge! Restoration will begin shortly in more detail.


In the pool in the middle of the bath house mosaic was found a head of a statue of Aphrodite 🙂


And a brand new mosaic! This one located to the South of the bath complex at a possible other temple side. This mosaic dates to older than the previously found one and contains much smaller tesserae in beautiful designs.



Archaeology Blog 2013: Dig Long and Prosper

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Byzantine Church at Alanya Castle

And so ends week 3 of the excavations at Antiochia ad Cragum. It has been quite a week, a major find that I can’t even tell you about yet, yes I know I am a tease. Numerous trenches have been dug, blocks recorded and snakes killed. We even uncovered another inscription which is clearly out of situ because it is in a wall but upside down. The inscription looks like it dates from the mid to late first century AD from the letter forms so it could be an interesting find when I get round to giving it more attention. But first we have more trenches to finish!

The trenches at the bottom of the temple hill have been closed due to bed rock, bed rock and more bedrock. Thus we moved up towards the bathhouse mosaic and opened a number of trenches hoping to find something between the mosaic and the temple hill. No luck… less than 20cm down we hit bedrock again and earned ourselves the nicknames of the bedrock queens. If people think that archaeology is all amazing finds or at least finds, well it is, we find amazing amounts of dirt, stones and bedrock. With that we moved to open another trench onto of the temple but haven’t got far with it yet. So far I have found a modern 80’s cassette tape and more dirt.

Elsewhere on site the Turks have continued to uncover the mosaic and have almost finished uncovering the length of it close to the bathhouse wall. In the next week we will be working on cleaning it so look out for photos in the news and on facebook. The Clark University team have also completed work on the blocks in the block field up by the main temple complex on site and have now moved down to work with us in the agora. They have opened a trench to the North of the temple and are currently learning that archaeology involves roots and spikey branches, and hitting rocks with mattocks which sends vibrations right up your arms, a horrible feeling. You can’t be a wimp if you want to do archaeology. On the bright side though they seem to be enjoying doing something different and their enthusiasm is spurring the others on who have by now got a little fed up of countless days of making mud pies. Also by the mosaic a block with face has become visible which could be the pediment over the entrance to part of the building.

Outside the site the students have had the opportunity to visit the site of Lamos which I wrote about last year. Check out previous blog entries.

Fortress Wall at Alanya Castle

Some of us though opted to take the day in Alanya instead yesterday. The city of Alanya is an interesting one, a mix of modern tourist sights and archaeology and history. Alanya is based on the ancient city of Coracesium (in the Latin) from the Luvian word Korakassa meaning ‘protruding city’. The archaeology includes a large multiple period fortress and castle. The fortress contains 140 towers and is situated on a point that protrudes from the middle of the city. The end of the point also contains a small Byzantine church and buildings on the cliff furthest out. The Castle complex includes a number of huge cisterns and a well, barracks and another Byzantine church. The Castle also boasts the best view I have ever seen in Turkey. Amazing!

View from Castle
View from Castle

And thus we continue. Will hopefully be able to tell you more of what we have found soon. Have also discovered that Nutella goes brilliantly with pretzels…

Dig long and prosper!

Archaeology Blog: It’s Not All Fun and Games

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Today brings us to the end of week two of the dig season. How that happened so quickly I do not know but it is a bit scary. While the first week was fairly cruisey, this week has reiterates something I relearn every time I go on an archaeological dig: It’s not all fun and games. Though eight members of the dig crew going to the hospital within three days is a bit excessive.


As I have mentioned, the process of digging does not relate to the romanticised view that many people hold. We do not brush tiny rocks and use tiny tools to make detailed beyond detailed recordings, we do not dig up gold, silver and bronze treasure and we do not dig dinosaurs! This week we have faced deadly killers plants, stomach bugs, spiders, turtles, scraps and bruises, sun burn a plenty and as I type there is minor surgery going on on a foot wound at the end of the table… Welcome to the reality of archaeology.

In relation to the dig itself, apart from a number of team members being relocated to the sickbed for a day or two, we have generally made excellent progress. The agora area has seen two trenches completed and photographed which is both good and a bit annoying. The reason why they were so quickly finished was due to a complete lack of mostly anything. The central trench went straight down to bedrock so that was the end of that. We think that there was originally more there but it was likely washed away due to the trench’s location in a natural floodway. The second trench to the East at the edge of the walkway had a similar outcome.


On the possible temple though we are seeing more features. Stones are turning up that are parallel in size and positioning to previously found features on the main temple of the site. This is exciting because there could be more features underneath. The mosaic is also coming along nicely with a huge amount uncovered. Hopefully this will lead to further conservation and eventually tourists being able to come visit the site to see it in all its glory. Up in other areas of the site the Turkish contingent are clearing more from around the shop area with plans to re-erect some of the fallen columns at some point so that visitors in later years can imagine what the colonnaded street would have looked like.

The wonderful thing about field school is it allows students to visit nearby archaeological sites here in Turkey and to see what completed and associated sites looked like. Tomorrow we are going to Side near Alanya. I went there last year and you can read more about the site if you search for Side in this site’s archives or go the Archaeology Travel Blog option in the menu bar. But last weekend the students went to Selinus, which you can also search, which is an awesome site with an amazing view. Unfortunately it involves a huge and deadly climb up steps. Deadly due to the spikey evil plants of death, hence half the hospitalisations this week. But they will survive, part of archaeology adventures.

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.

Archaeology Blog: Back in the Trenches

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1044826_284063198406330_1967207058_nI 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. 🙂