Day of Archaeology 2012

Important plug inbound.


I’m going to be posting for the Day of Archaeology 2012, and so should you be.  Due to a series of visa-related confusions and a myriad of potential options (yes, I’m about a week behind – I’ve been through Jerusalem and you don’t even know!) I’m not actually sure where I’m going to be on June 29th but I’ll be doing something, and I will be blogging about it in-depth to talk about the actual grind of a working day.  So will some 400+ others, one of whom could be you!  Stuff like this can only make us even cooler than we, y’know, are, and seeing as I’d be doing it anyway it’s hardly bad for me.

It’s being run through WordPress, and all you need to do for now is email to give them a heads-up that you’ll be involved.  We’ll get details closer to the day.  So no matter where you are or what you’re working on (it doesn’t have to be excavation: it just has to be archaeology), I suggest you start thinking.  Could be fantastic.

P.S. stay tuned tomorrow for not so much a blog about Jerusalem as a blog about a Jerusalemite RIOT FANTASTIC (definitely not archaeology)


Istanbul, Turkey: Surprising Visitors

N.B. with thanks to Professor Neil Price, whose lectures I am shamelessly cribbing.

So instead of waxing lyrical about the timeless qualities of the East-meets-West city that I’ve been sleeping in bus stations and crossing Turkey in fantastic time to see, I’m going to show you the single most mindblowing thing in the entire metropolis, which basically has nothing to do with Greeks or Turks.

Preserved under glass now which is cool.

That right there, on the upper level on the right hand side of the Hagia Sophia, the grandest achievement of Byzantine Christendom, scratched into the stone, is a nice little set of Nordic runes.

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

So this leads to the obvious question: what on Earth are Vikings doing hanging out in Constantinople?  The answer is surprisingly simple, but in explaining it we’re going to have to zoom out a little.

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Çatalhöyük – About goddamn time

N.B. the official spelling is Çatalhöyük but as I am no longer in Turkey and don’t have the necessary keyboard this is not happening.

I’d just like to kick off by pointing out that this is pretty much the sole reason I decided to bother with mainland Turkey, having wanted to see this place since I was about ten and it appeared in the Reader’s Digest of Vanished Civilisations (1983), and that I can now die content.  I’d have much preferred to help out with the excavations run by so many different universities, but I needed to decide that six months in advance to get the appropriate visa.  Oh well.

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Adana and Konya: So this is Turkey then

So the boat from Turkey worked in prinicple.  Four hours late in leaving (people didn’t even show up until two hours after) and somehow eight hours early I beached at Taşucu at ten at night, tired, disoriented, and with absolutely no idea what was there.

It would be fair to say that I hadn’t really planned this part (or, indeed, any part).  For a while the Internet had been swearing blind that a direct Girne – Istanbul route was running, but pretty much no-one in the TRNC seemed to agree (yes, I know, the Internet is a brazen liar).  Only boat on offer, then.

A taxi tore out of the dark, preying on the people escaping customs, before spotting us, the only tourists on the boat, Scottish, Iraqi and Sri Lankan,  holding up the Turkish labourers who were looking for work in Cyprus as the border guards reacquainted themselves with passports and their own visa laws.

”Bus station?”

Sod it.  ”Evet.”

The bus station obviously has one goal in existence: getting people on buses.  Reps from the myriad of bus companies patrol the corridors of all Turkish bus stations, shouting destinations like metronomes, escorting you to their booths, like wraiths on commission.  ”Adana?”

I’m fairly sure this is a city I need to go to.  ”Adana.”

”Bus in 20 minutes,” he says, taking my money.  No time to think, no time to plan.  The bus passes an open cheap hotel on its way out of the bus station, dragging me the 200km along the southern coast of Anatolia to where I think Adana is.  I sigh.

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A Large-scale Catch-up: Nicosia, Mağusa and Girne

In my defence the reason I haven’t been talking for the last week is because I hit the road.

N.B. What follows is what I have seen and what I have been told by people on both sides of the Green Line, and my interpretations of that.  Remember the disclaimer.  I use the Turkish names for cities in the TRNC as these names are de facto.

Nicosia (Greek: Lefkosia, Turkish: Lefkoşa) is frankly crazy.  The most obvious fallout of the Turkish invasion is here, with the entire city divided by the Green Line, the creation of the UN during pre-war ethnic strife with (yes, you guessed it) a green pen.  Even on the tourist literature the line ‘last divided capital’ is paraded, which frankly strikes me as tasteless.

Your first clue that something is going on would be the mountains on the Turkish side:

 Photo taken from atop the Ledra Tower, looking north into the TRNC across the Green Line

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Fabrika Hill, Pafos, Republic of Cyprus: the Overview

I’ve just realised that I shouldn’t go into too much depth here (after all, the results remain unpublished and they’re hardly my results), but nonetheless I’m going to give a basic rundown of how things went on the hill, and the coolest things we’ve found.  Don’t confuse my interpretations with those upcoming in academic form from Avignon.

Here is my terrible map of the site as we left it (assume an E-W width of no more than 7m).  The numbering is my own throughout, the points of interest are those that interest me personally, and everything that I mention here is either clearly visible from the road or something I pointed out multiple times to curious visitors.  Formal site maps are much more serious things: one of the French team was a dedicated drawer, and he spent most of his time stretching tape measures over walls, and drawing features to photographic accuracy (whilst playing up the key features, an advantage he’s got over photos).


A breakdown of the points of interest:

1) This wall – the S-N retaining wall – seems to have been cut out of bedrock: after a while as we went down we found this section, unlike the rest, was held up by a gigantic slab of bedrock material that we never did get to the bottom of.

2) This is the wall hole that starred in Holeception.  There were hints of mortar and wall paint in this corner as well, which I’ve taken as support for my interpretation.

3) This E-W wall isn’t contiguous with the walls to its south and east: we know this both because it’s built in a different style with different stone (the rocks are more angular, and only fit due to liberal use of pebble mortar, whereas the original walls are built out of mostly similar, large blocks of sandstone).  We hit the bottom of it towards the end, which demonstrates that it’s from a later period, after much of the bottom of the original house has been filled in.  I’m not sure if this extends into House 3 or even across all of House 4, as much of what could have been this wall is no longer standing.

4) Owain, after wheedling and wangling, managed to get permission to take light trenches on both sides of the House3/4 dividing wall: the reason we know that there even is a House 4 rather than a huge House 3 is due to his discovery of mortar on both sides of the wall.  This sort of thing is uncommon for outside walls.

5) The base of a large and ornate wall painting sits here, the white mortar glinting in the sun.  The paintings themselves have been carefully removed for restoration, so hopefully they’ll make a return soon.  I’ve seen the skills of the restorers: I’m pretty confident they can deliver an accurate and quality piece.

Houses 1 and 2 are probably our best candidates for maintenance.  Look at the site profile again, this time with Microsoft Paint involved:


Only House 1 and 2 have been taken down to their floors: preservation-wise, it seems best to fill in 3 and 4 and restore 1 and 2.  This hopefully will be sharpish, as you can see 1 is being held up by wooden supports right now, and another rainy season could easily take much of this apart.

So what is this place?

The houses, in the end, are probably Augustinian (for Augustus Caesar, reigned 27 BC – 14 AD), as we’ve got nothing Hellenistic to my mind that we can pin on the site except for disorganised pottery fragments.  Given that we know the fill has come from a higher spoil heap, this signifies little, although the assemblage seems substantially weighted to the Roman period.  I still stand by the single-generation hypothesis, but unfortunately nothing explains why it was abandoned.

At some point afterwards (possibly the Lusignan period?  The pottery samples from the fill end around there), House 4 was partially rebuilt, incorporating the remaining ancient walls into a new structure.  No such evidence exists for the two open houses, and House 3 is inconclusive, so we can assume it’s a one-off event: such opportunism in building is universal, with existing walls either being built on again or, as with Hadrian’s Wall, being taken apart for pre-cut building materials.

More Cypro-Archaic Cities: Greco-Phoenecian Overload

(Cypro-Archaic is the term favoured to describe the Greek kingdoms of Cyprus prior to their contact with Alexander the Great and annexation by the Ptolemies)

To return to that map from the other day:

From D.W. Rupp, in E. Peltenburg, Early Society in Cyprus, Edinburgh, 1989, p. 347)

The various city-state kingdoms of Cyprus do fluctuate over time – this map shows them at their most numerous in the Cypro-Archaic II Period (550-500 BC) – with each centred, of course, on its parent city.  Another list exists as they stood at 703 BC, recorded  on an Assyrian stele (the Assyrians exacted tribute from much fot he island in their heyday)  The example of Pafos, where the capital is actually moved, is not repeated anywhere else as far as we know so each city’s a good proxy for the life and death of its state.

In the last couple of days I’ve passed through Amathus, a nearly forgotten set of ruins on the edge of Lemesos (Limassol) surrounded by hotel developments, and Idalion, which the Cypriot Department of Antiquities is quietly excavating with a state-of-the-art, brand new museum sitting besides it.  This makes four of them under my belt now – Kyrenia (in northern Cyprus and still settled, as Kyrenia in Greek and Girne in Turkish), which isn’t on the map above, will make a fifth and Salamis, just outside of Famagusta, a possible sixth.  I feel like a collector.

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