Turkey Expedition, Kerkenes Archaeological Project, June - July 2002

In 2002 I was invited by Prof. David Stronach to join the Kerkenes Archaeological Project in Turkey. Prof. Stronach is my Phd advisor from U.C. Berkeley and the co-project director, along with Geoffrey and Francoise Summers, both of whom live and teach in Turkey.

What follows is my adaptation of the site description from the Kerkenes website:

Kerkenes is an Iron Age city built on a low mountaintop in Central Anatolia (AKA Turkey). Geoffrey and Francoise Summers believe it to be, and want it to be, the place that Herodotus called Pteria, in which case it would have been founded by the Medes around 600 BC and used as the base from which they conducted the 5-year war with Lydia that ended at the Battle of the Eclipse in 585.

(Alas, nobody else, myself included, believes their claim as there is no evidence whatsoever to back it up. In fact, there's nothing Median about the site, let alone a suggestion that it's the specific Median site of Pteria. Geoffrey said to me "Although there is no evidence to prove it yet, I will continue to defend my identification of Kerkenes as Pteria.") And, in 2003, this theory was disproved, once and for all.

Seven kilometres of strong stone defenses, pierced by seven gates, enclose 2.5 square kilometers. The entire urban area was planned to include public buildings and urban blocks as well as a sophisticated system of water management. The city was then deliberately torched and the defences comprehensively slighted. According to Herodotus, the Pterians were enslaved by Croesus, King of Lydia, before the Battle of Pteria, fought between Cyrus the Great of Persia and the Lydians, in about 547. Later occupation was restricted to the Kale (citadel mound) and the Kiremitlik. An international team has been working each summer since 1993 on the Kerkenes Dag, using new techniques to reveal the secrets of this ancient city.

Here is what was accomplished during the 2002 season at Kerkenes, according to the project website:

"In 2002, the tenth season of research, the geomagnetic survey of the entire 2.5km2 of this exceptionally large Iron Age capital on the Kerkenes Dag was finished. This brought to a conclusion the remote sensing survey in which various methods, including satellite imagery, balloon photography, close contour GPS mapping and geophysical survey have been used to reveal surface and sub-surface remains in remarkable detail. Excavations at the Palace Complex revealed architecture of quite unexpected sophistication and grandeur. The location of a monumental gateway leading into the complex was established and excavation at the very large Audience Hall was resumed. In addition, a special building incorporating a row of ashlar masonry with incised ‘mason marks’ was partially investigated. At the Cappadocia Gate a section was cut across the entrance passage, the extent of the well preserved walling at the back of the north-east tower was revealed and a part of the stone glacis was repaired."

My perspective:

I happily flew half-way around the world - and took a costly time-out from my life and business - to work on this project at the invitation of Prof. Stronach, my graduate advisor since 1992. Though we have enjoyed many years of gradaute seminars, friendship, and collaboration, this was our first opportunity to work together in the field. Well, at least we thought so. Unfortunately, my work schedule as an endurance sports promoter didn't mesh well with his, so our stays at Kerekenes only overlapped by 24 hours: just long enough to snap a few photos in the field to prove that I really had worked overseas with one of archaeology's most respected and clear thinking pioneers. It was a proud moment for me, but I regret that we didn't enjoy actual time working in the field together.

The silver lining of the trip was three-fold:

  1. Prior to the commencement of the project, I enjoyed an amazing ten day road trip around Western Turkey with Barbara P. Mendoza, a fellow Phd student from the UC Berkeley Department of Near Eastern Studies. She's writing her dissertation on Egyptian bronze statues of priests and priestesses from the Greco-Roman period. She needed to visit a few museums in Turkey before tackling about twenty museums across Europe, so we agreed to travel through Turkey together since it fit both our schedules and also because this was her first trip overseas. During our whirlwind roadtrip - like only an American can imagine and implement - we visited essentially every major site, and city, in Western Turkey - from any period - that Barbara or I had ever wanted to see. It was an incredible opportunity and easily done since the Turkish people are so wonderful and because it's so easy to travel by car in their country.
  2. During the Kerkenes project itself, the leadership notwithstanding, I worked with some of the best people I've met or known in archaeology. To them I am thankful for providing the stimulating conversation, Turkish language lessons, and good cheer that made my month in this remote place a survivable, if not enjoyable, experience. Their names are listed below and their smiling faces populate many of my online slideshows.
  3. At the end of my stay at Kerkenes, I had the very good fortune to meet the Turkish/English family of Dominic, Belgin, and Melissa Clissold. Dominic is British and works for the British Foreign Service in their Ankara embassy. His lovely wife Belgin is Turkish and their teenage daughter Melissa is thus half and half. A friendly and warm family, they came to visit Kerkenes and ended up giving me a ride back to Ankara. They were generous enough to take me to visit Hatusa on the way to Istanbul, then host me at their home for a few days while my planet tickets and such were worked out for my return to the USA. They are delightful, fascinating people with whom I became "fast friends" almost instantly. I am forever grateful to the Clissolds, as well as all the other wonderful people whom I met in Turkey!

My slideshows from the summer

Istanbul, Gallipoli, Troy, Pergamon, Bodrum, and Samos (Greece)
Ephesus, Sardis, Gordion, and Hatusa
The Dig House and Staff in Shah Muratlu, beneath Kerkenes Dag and near Sorgun, Yozgat
  Site Tour and Initial Excavations at Kerkenes Dag, near Sorgun, Yozgat
Three Types of Surveying at Kerkenes Dag, near Sorgun, Yozgat
Hiking and Exploring at Kerkenes Dag, near Sorgun, Yozgat

Here are the main people with whom I worked and lived at Kerkenes:

Geoffrey, Francoise, Pamela, and Natalie Summers, Turkey
David Stronach, USA
Catherine Painter, USA
Mevlüt Üyümez, Turkey
Ertan Ozcan, Turkey
Nurdan Atalan, Turkey
Nahide Aydan, Turkey
Nevin Gezer, Turkey
Judith Sellers, Australia
Mark Francis, UK
Isabelle Ruben, UK
Kristina Pfeiffer, Germany

For further info on my work and studies in archaeology, click here.