Gazipasa

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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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. 🙂

Archaeology Travel Blog: Selinus and Antiochia ad Cragum!

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So it is about time I told you all about this archaeological dig I am on. Welcome all to the wonderful world of Gazipasa and Antiochia ad Cragum!

Arrived in Gazipasa after a long bus trip from Antalya and several lessons: Lesson number one, learn more Turkish; two, people lie; three, people don’t know their own country. After many hours and help from a lovely Swedish woman who explained that the Turkish men were having fun confusing us, grrrr, we are now in a lovely town with lovely people and excellent food.

Gazipasa is located in the south of Turkey and is associated with the ancient city of Selinus. Selinus has settlement evidence from as far back as the Hittites in 2000 BC. Selinus was established on the River Kestros and is now called Hacimusa and was incorporated into Cilicia in 628 BC. It is located about 180 km to the East of Antalya on the Southern coast of Anatolia.

Beach side of Gazipasa

Selinus became part of the Roman Empire in 197 BC and became particularly famous in the first century AD when the Emperor Trajan died there. As a consequence, for some time Selinus was known as Traianapolis. Selinus later became part of the Byzantine Empire alongside the rest of Cilicia before falling into the hands of the Turks in 1225 AD. It is listed among the castles of Gazipasa alongside Iotape, Lamus, Nephelis and Antiochia ad Cragum and is still subject to archaeological research by a team from Florida State University. The archaeological artefacts from Selinus are now mostly housed in the museum of Alanya.

The dig site itself is located about 7 miles the east of Gazipasa. Antiochia ad Cragum has also been called Antiochetta and Antiohia Parva which basically translate to ‘little Antiochia’. Its name ‘Cragum’ comes from its position on the Cragus mountain overlooking the coast. It is located in the area of modern Guney about 12km from the modern City of Gazipasa. The city was officially founded by Antiochis IV around 170 BC when he came to rule over Rough Cilicia. The site covers an area of around three hectares and contains the remains of baths, market places, colonnaded streets with a gateway, an early Christian basilica, monumental tombs, a Temple and several structures which are yet to be identified. Excavations are currently being undertaken by the Antiochia ad Cragum Archaeological Research Project headed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The site and its harbour likely served as one of the many havens for Cilician pirates along the South Anatolian coast, likely because of its small coves and hidden inlets. Unfortunately no definite pirate remains are visible in the modern day. Its pirate past ended with Pompey’s victory in the first century BC and the take over by Antiochis IV. Initial occupation appears to have occurred in the Classical and Hellenistic periods followed by a surge of activity in these Roman periods. The city itself was built on the sloping ground that comes down from the Taurus mountain range which terminates at the shore creating steep cliffs; in some places several hundred metres high. The temple complex is situated on the highest point of the city and most of the building material remains though in a collapsed state. There is also evidence of a gymnasium complex nearby.

Side of Temple at Antiochia ad Cragum

The harbour at Antiochia ad Cragum measures about 250,000m squared and is one of the few large, safe harbours along the coast between Alanya and Selinus. On its Eastern side are two small coves suitable for one or two ships but with limited opportunity for shipping and fishing due to wave activities. The area is well situated as a defensible position against invaders. Recent Terrestrial survey at Antiochia ad Cragum has had emphasis on finding evidence of pirate activity which has been limited, but it has turned up Pottery principally from the Byzantine Period with additional pottery from the late Bronze Age, the Hellenistic and some from the Roman periods. There is little evidence of pre-Roman occupation at the fortress or pirate’s cove at Antiochia ad Cragum. Banana terracing may have caused much of the evidence to have been erased. The maritime survey has turned up shipping jars, transport Amphoraes and anchors from the Byzantine, Roman and Hellenistic periods as well as a range of miscellaneous items. The assemblage appears to indicate early activity to the West of the harbour moving East over time.

Part of Mosaic in Bath Complex at Antiochia ad Cragum

So that’s the site. Now to what I am doing because this is my blog! We have started a new trench at the back of the temple which is abutted by the temple wall and a neighbouring trench. So far we have uncovered all the steps down to the base of the temple, which isn’t bad for a week or so’s work if i do say so myself. We have a wall running oddly through the middle of the trench with a channel situated about two thirds down. Tomorrow I intend to investigate this channel but it looks like some form of drainage system. We also have stone and mortar strangely situated alongside the south edge of the trench which we can see also in the abutting trench but here it seems to lose uniformity. MMMM, questions arise. Well we continue in the hope of answering them!

My Trench on Day 2 at Back of Temple

Elsewhere we have two of the boys excavating the West side of the temple and the some others starting a new trench in which we have thus far found a snake, a frog and several snake eggs. A goat was also found in my trench but that was cheekily put there by the site foreman while I wasn’t looking! Sufficed to say I got a bit of a fright…

We have found several coins and a mountain of pottery as usual in addition to glass and tiles. We also have a Turkish team restoring the mosaic down the hill which is probably the largest mosaic in Turkey. And a team from Clark university drawing and recording the huge number of marble blocks in our block field so that one day work can begin on restoring the temple! Very exciting.

That’s the start of it. More soon. Now though it is time for dinner at a lovely little restaurant and bar owned by an English Expat which acts as our home away from home. Dig Hard and Live Free!

My Trench on Day 10