Follow the archaeological excavations at Ziyaret Tepe, the Assyrian city of Tushhan, in southeastern Turkey with daily updates on the latest discoveries, journal entries from the excavators and scientific specialists, and a candid snapshot of life on a real dig in the modern Middle East
Well, at least one of our artifacts is famous. I just got word that the latest edition of Archaeology magazine just came out and a cuneiform text discovered a few years ago and recently published by John was chosen as the featured Artifact for the September/October edition . You can see the write-up on the Archaeological Institute of America website. The tablet documents a previously unknown language in the form of a list of women’s names found by Dirk and his student, Dominique Wiebe, in the Bronze Palace.
Archaeology magazine is one of the most popular journals for general archaeology readers in the US with a large circulation and an excellent summary of the latest discoveries in archaeology across the globe. As an aside, we have a chapter of the AIA housed at the University of Akron and offer an free lecture series each year. This year, among other interesting speakers, we are pleased to have Dr. Brian Rose coming to Akron on March 14, 2013 to talk about the recent excavation of monumental tombs at Troy in western Turkey. You’re all invited to attend. If you join the Akron AIA chapter, you get a subscription to Archaeology magazine as part of your membership benefits.
The alarm rang at 3am but, to be honest, I had been awake for an hour already working through all the details of the day’s agenda in my head. The first day of excavation was Saturday and we were up early for breakfast and packing all of the dig supplies into the minivan with our driver, Mehmet. The first day of work is always a bit chaotic. Thirty-four workmen from the village of Tepe met us at our depot, where the equipment like wheelbarrows, picks and shovels, shades, and the like are stored, well before sunrise. We loaded the village’s municipal tractor with gear and headed off to the mound. About half our workers are new to Ziyaret Tepe, so there is a lot of explaining to do.
We have a foreman, Süleyman Altun, who has worked for us for many years and his job is to organize the men into work teams, to take role, and to make sure that everything proceeds smoothly. His whistle marks the start of tea breaks, as well as the end of the workday. We spent the morning putting up shades for the team and workmen, clearing away all the debris that had accumulated since we stopped work last year, and scraping the surfaces cleaning our new trenches in the Bronze Palace area of the citadel mound. This photograph shows the first day of the excavations. Dr. Dirk Wicke, who directs this work, is on the far left.
One of the first discoveries we made was a human burial, right below the surface, at a place on the mound where there was considerable erosion. Nothing remained at this point of the later medieval village and, it would seem, the burial was part of the Assyrian deposits, although the context is very poor. The body was badly preserved, as we would expect for remains so close to the modern surface. Only the legs, pelvis, and a few other bones survived. There was no skull or upper part of the body surviving. This picture shows three of our team members at work cleaning the burial prior to drawing, photography, and removal. From left to right: Judith Dosch, a PhD candidate from the University of Mainz, Zuhal Alcan, a student from Diyarbakir, and Dr. Paola Pugsley who serves as project illustrator.
Today we secured permission and a land rental agreement with two landowners in the lower town, so we will start two new excavation areas. Prof. Kemalettin Köroglu will be directing work in Operation M and Dr. John MacGinnis who is charge of the Lower Town project will direct work in Operation V. Operation M is meant to be an excavation of Assyrian private houses, while Operation V is the “barracks” area I mentioned in a previous blog. Tomorrow, we break ground at sunrise.
As anyone who has been on an archaeological excavation knows, the last week is always a crazy time. The last of the finds came in from the field as John completed his digging in Operation U, where a small part of a large Late Assyrian public building was unearthed beneath the Roman buildings I mentioned in an earlier post. While these artifacts were being registered, photographed, drawn, and, in a few cases, conserved, the rest of the crew was busy with the final documentation of their work. Workdays were a blur of photocopying, checking drawings, backing up computer files, preparing lists of samples for export, and the finds that are going to the Diyarbakir Museum, writing reports, and all the other things that make archaeology a science.
Then we shifted gears and started to break down the camp. Everything we own in the field – from iron bed frames to our modest stove to the tents we erect each summer to shade our work areas – has to be packed up into a single depot. It is hot, dusty, uninteresting work, but necessary if we are to have a successful start to the 2012 season. This year, the bulk of this work fell to the few remaining team members, especially Azer, Dirk, and Judith. So while I was off in Diyarbakir, Bismil, and Tepe paying wages, social security, and the rest of our bills, this select team was taking seemingly endless rides with a tractor and a few workmen and carefully fitting all of the dig house equipment and supplies into our concrete depot at the edge of town. The camp has 36 rooms, including our laboratories, and sleeps almost thirty people, so you can imagine how much stuff we have.
So, this is the final post from the field. The six remaining team members – our depot crew, Paola, Mehmet and me – are now sitting by a swimming pool at a hotel in Diyarbakir, enjoying a well earned cold beer. Our dusty little village seems worlds away and our thoughts are turning towards travel home and returning to our other commitments. As we drove away, I saw our workmen in the village buying vegetables, drinking tea at the tea houses, walking with their families, and I was struck by how much we are visitors to Tepe, even if we are persistent ones. It certainly has been an interesting summer.
This year we have enjoyed visits from a number of groups — both old friends and new. We are anticipating one final group of vistors this season: a Far Horizons tour group who are arriving at Ziyaret Tepe on Friday en route from Diyarbakir to Mardin. It is very gratifying to know that ancient Tushhan is back “on the map” even if we are still quite a ways off the beaten path. Far Horizons, located in San Anselmo, California, organizes archaeological and cultural tours to all sorts of interesting out-of-the-way places. Check out their website if you are looking for a really adventurous trip. You may even end up in Tepe!
As I mentioned at the very start of the season, putting together an archaeological expedition of this size is an expensive proposition and we get our funds through a variety of public and private sources. Our visitors from Far Horizons have very kindly given donations in support of our fieldwork and I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge their help in this year’s success. Thanks to Ronald Guttmann, Diana and Peter White, Susan Silver,Tony and Lawrie Green, Willian Tate, and the John Miller family for making this year’s excavations possible. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank Richard Behrman for his generous on-line contribution to the 2011 field season. One reason we’ve been able to pursue our scientific explorations this year is because of your financial help.
So, safe journeys to the Far Horizons group and we will see you all on Friday!
Okay, this may not be directly related to archaeology, but I know my 86-year-old mother is checking the blog daily, so I wanted to wish her a happy birthday from our sunny little village of Tepe. It has been many, many years since I was in the US on her birthday.
For those of us who spend every summer digging, often for two or three months at a time, being in the field is a luxury and a passion. One of the reasons we can pursue field archaeology is because we have a support team back at home: parents, spouses, partners, children, and friends who keep life at home rolling along while we are out of touch and busy with the field. They worry about us, deal with the myriad problems that arise in our absences, make sure the kids are ready for the first day of school, and generally make it possible for us to pursue archaeology thousands of miles from home.
So, Mom, this is just a small acknowledgement of your contribution to the archaeology of southeastern Turkey on your birthday with lots of love.