August 20th, 2014

Workshops and dolia in Harbor 4 (L4)

(guest post by Megan Collier)

When excavating a harbor site (or a series of harbors like we have in Burgaz), it is impossible to explore all the areas of interest.  We have mostly focused our effort in Harbors 1 and 2, but for a few days, Kilian, Matthieu and I spent some time in Harbor 4. This is the latest of the harbors at Burgaz, which saw its primary use in the Hellenistic and Late Roman periods.  Within the harbor are several areas with preserved workshops foundations and large round built storage vessels or dolia that were used to store wine or oil in antiquity.

Megan, Matthieu, and Kilian at the workshops and dolia in L4

Megan, Matthieu, and Kilian at the workshops and dolia in L4

These structures raise many questions about the archaeology of ancient production and trade. How were the dolia constructed—and when? What product did they contain? Was this an area of production as well as storage?  What is the relationship of this harbor with the nearby port of Knidos and when exactly was this harbor in use?

Instead of opening full excavation units in this area of the site, we used a few naturally exposed banks along the shore to study the stratigraphy of L4, focusing on the area around the built dolia.  After cleaning the natural baulk and recording the stratigraphy, we collected visible ceramics which we hope to will aid our understanding of the structure and scale of this harbor’s involvement in regional agricultural production and distribution.

August 10th, 2014

Elemental analysis of ceramics at Burgaz

(guest post by Megan Daniels, Kilian Mallon, and Matthieu Abgrall)

As a supplement to our visual analysis of the pottery, a second step is to run the sherds through the portable x-ray fluorescence analyzer, nicknamed the “ray-gun”, the tricorder, or just plain old XRF. We clip off a small section of the sherd, trying to make the surface of the sample as flat as possible. We place the sample directly on the tracer, and after clicking a billion buttons to calibrate it, the analyzer emits x-rays at the sherd for two minutes. Unfortunately it does not make any zapping sounds, so we have to remember to stay clear of the beam (generally it’s under the cover anyway) and to be wary when the big red light is flashing.


The XRF gives us an elemental breakdown of the sherd. Most pottery is made of the same stuff, so most of the readings look quite similar. We work off the assumption that each ancient pottery workshop got their clay locally. Thus, because rocks and clays differ slightly from place to place, and different human traditions also make pottery in slightly different ways and use pottery for different purposes, each workshop or region or time period should have a pottery fingerprint. We are looking for the tiny variation that can tell us the fingerprints for the pottery produced around Burgaz. Of course, a lot comes down to interpretation. The XRF is a tool that is only as useful as the archaeologist who uses it. We have spent a lot of time working out what data we need, and what it means.

We get levels of different elements in the pottery sherds we analyze. Through the Artax software and Excel, we are able to build a database with all the elemental breakdowns of the pottery. When possible, we also tie this data to a time period and a specific place of find or production, i.e a context or a workshop. When all the data is gathered, we can run several statistical analyses, such as simple correspondence analyses (CA) or more elaborate multicorrespondence analyses (MCA). The objective is to tell how close two pottery sherds are, when analyzed either according to the totality of their elemental profile, or solely on a part of their composition, such as iron, calcium and strontium. We run analyses of the levels of elements but also compare pottery sherds to find out what element is present or not. Our results take the form of bar charts and scatter graphs on which several fabrics will group together around one or two elements: what it will tell us is that those fabrics, because of their relative proximity, most likely are made out of the same clay source. When we add up the time and location data, we hope to link specific elemental compositions of pottery to specific workshops or time periods. Meanwhile we reserve additional visual and petrographic analyses to determine further the firing processes and the various “recipes” of potters. We pool all our resources together to get answers.

Through these efforts, we hope to tie Burgaz into its surrounding socio-economic environment and to understand better the changing uses of landscape and how this relates to Burgaz’s position at various periods in history, from a regional maritime center in the Classical and Hellenistic periods to (perhaps?) a more localized production site in the later Hellenistic and Roman periods.

August 9th, 2014

A moment of clarity

(guest post by Peter Mizanski)

Having grown up ensconced in SCUBA culture and lore, working in the family dive shop every summer since I could lift a tank, I naturally jumped at the opportunity to take part in an underwater archaeological excavation in the surreal waters of the eastern Mediterranean that I had only seen in textbooks.

I completed my first dive in the summer of 2003 in the St. Lawrence River of Ontario and was amazed at the exciting world beneath the water surface. Ever since then all of my diving has been done in and around the same areas of Ontario. I had it in my mind that I would be forever limited to cold, dark, and murky waters devoid of spectacular colours. Shortly after our arrival in Turkey and before the archaeological work began, team members completed check out dives just outside the walls of Harbor 2. This being my first salt water dive, I was completely enthralled by the colour and the exotic creatures in the vicinity. Now I was ready to dive and excavate.

Day one: I slipped into our 2×2 meter trench and saw…nothing! The visibility was so poor due to our shallow trench and the silty sediment that it was a struggle to see my hand flat against my mask. It came as such a shock that the experience of the beautiful undersea world I saw previously was replaced by the cold, dark, murky waters I was already so used to. But there is always an up side; in this case, getting the opportunity to work in an ancient harbor provides all the motivation I need to keep going.

August 8th, 2014

Ceramic analysis at Burgaz

(guest post by Megan Daniels, Kilian Mallon, and Matthieu Abgrall)

Ceramic analysis at Burgaz centers on the study of both forms and fabrics of pottery. Goals for this analysis in 2013 focused on identifying the range and variety of local ceramic traditions around Burgaz and its territory as well as taking the first steps towards quantifying long-term trends in the import and export dynamics of an eastern Mediterranean maritime center. Recently we have focused mainly on visually identifying a range of local fabric groups within the excavation assemblages and developing a reference collection with which to sort incoming assemblages according to fabric type. Last season Megan developed this reference collection along with accompanying fabric descriptions and XRF analyses; in 2014 our goal is to further test and refine the collection through (a) identifying and testing the fabrics of dateable diagnostic sherds and (b) comparing fabrics at Burgaz both visually and chemically to fabrics from surrounding pottery workshops.

After ceramic finds come in from the field, we spend desalinate them before laying them to dry. At that point they are first sorted into functional groups (amphora, common ware, fine ware, cooking ware, and tile/brick/pithos) based on size, form, and coarseness of the fabric. Each of these groups represents some type of human activity. For example, amphoras usually indicate transport and trade of agricultural products. Common wares were for day-to-day dining and serving. Fine wares did more or less the same job, but were for special occasions. Cooking ware was for cooking, and usually contains more temper to keep the pot intact under repeated thermal stress.

Next we record the number of diagnostic sherds (rims, bases, handles) in each group, we count the number of sherds, and we weigh each group. Some of our lots could fit in your hand, and some stretch over three big crates. The next stage is to re-sort the amphora and common ware sherds by fabric group, of which we currently have ten. We look at the type of clay paste, the porosity, the type and density of inclusions and temper, the color, how it broke, and the coarseness under a small hand-held 10x microscope. Once again we count and weigh each group. Meanwhile, we take out and examine diagnostic sherds so that we can pin down a feature to a period or place of origin. For example, cone shaped amphora toes with a prominent ring were made in the Knidos area from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD.

From visual analysis, we move to elemental analysis with a portable x-ray fluorescence tracer (pXRF), the topic of our next post…


August 7th, 2014

Musings from the bakıcı

(guest post by Elise Baker)

I sit on lots of things, chairs mostly, but I love a good couch or bed to rest my weary bones on and I’m usually not opposed to the floor or a nice sized rock.  What are never included in the list of what I sit on, however, are babies.  That seems weird and frankly very dangerous for the poor child acting as a support for a full grown adult.  So why, as an early childhood educator, am I usually called a babysitter?  I have no idea.  I’ve never liked the term or identified with it.  That being said, you can imagine my delight when I found out that here in Turkey, my people are not called babysitters.  Instead, we are called bakıcı, or in English, “watchers”.  How cool is that?  It almost has a biblical air to it, reminding me of the angel who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar in his foreboding dreams.  No, I don’t think of myself as some holy being, come down to bestow my eternal wisdom on the child in my care, but watching is the foundation of my job. At his age, the ordinary is rather extraordinary. Though I do other things, like feed and clothe and comfort and snuggle and sing, his exploration keeps me watching all day. So you see, bakıcı is a much more apt name for what I do.

Max and Elise, the bakıcı

Max and Elise, the bakıcı

Max, the son of Liz and Justin, is the coolest 15th month old around and happens to be the perfect combination of his parents.  He is busy and curious, adorable and hilarious, and loves to say “Ba”.  Through my watching duties, I’ve noticed that Max’s favorite activity is putting things in other things.  A rock on the floor?  That goes into a cup.  A couple of kuruş?  Those will fit nicely in this medicine container.  Some tiny berries scattered about?  Well obviously those should be jammed into the grooves of this here clothes pin.  Toys hardly ever work their way into the rotation of things played with.  He does love his books and will devote a few minutes of his day to stacking blocks, but other than that, the natural world and everyday household items are what he’s interested in.

Two natural toys: a gourd and a pot

Two natural toys: a gourd and a pot

Max’s penchant for ordinary objects brings to mind an interesting conversation that I had with Liz and Justin in which they explained that toys are only rarely found in archaeological excavations.  Perhaps it’s because most ancient toys were made out of wood or other materials that eventually decomposed and were never able to be excavated.  Or maybe it has more to do with the simple truth that toys, as we think of them now, have never been a necessity and weren’t treated as such in ancient times.  If Max can be surrounded by manufactured toys and still opt for the classic rock-in-cup, I’ll bet that children in the ancient world could have been pretty happy placing stones in amphoras or other artifact-y things.  I’m no archaeologist: all I can say is that when I see the delight on Max’s face when he shoves a twig into an empty snail shell or plops an almond in a puddle, I am reminded of the value there is in letting children explore their surroundings just as they are.

Manufactured “edutainment” toys may be marketed to parents as essential for their child’s developmental progress, but it’s just not the case.  Children will continue to develop cognitively and physically whether they’re putting stones in ceramic containers or pushing buttons on a fake phone.  I tend to think the more natural mode of exploration is healthier in that it gives children a chance to appreciate the environment around them, but that’s just me.  And who knows?  Maybe this disinterest in toy products is just a phase and Max’s next favorite thing will be playing Candy Crush on the iPad.  I guess we’ll just have to watch for what happens next in the life of Max.  That’ll be easy for me; I’m the bakıcı after all.

August 5th, 2014

Shipwrecks and harbors

(guest post by Marissa Ferrante)

Prior to joining the Burgaz Harbors Project team for 2014, I was working on the Marzamemi Maritime Heritage Project, excavating a Byzantine shipwreck off the coast of Sicily.  This summer’s fieldwork has allowed me to compare the differences between working on two different forms of maritime sites, with the shipwreck representing one event or moment in time and the harbors representing multiple phases of use over hundreds or thousands of years. The nature of each type of site leaves a distinct composition of archaeological materials for us to excavate and study.

Marissa working underwater on the "Church Wreck" at Marzamemi, Sicily

Marissa working underwater on the “Church Wreck” at Marzamemi, Sicily

After removing the top, loose layer of sand in our trenches at Marzamemi, most of our excavation occurred in a single layer consisting of small pebbles, sand, and light colored silt until we reached bedrock.  In a few areas we came across a color change from light silt to black, but this was most likely due to natural processes of decayed sea grass or organic wreck material.  This stratigraphy is not surprising because we presume the shipwreck represents one event in time and thus the entire site deposition occurred at roughly the same time.  In comparison, excavating in the harbors of Burgaz is much more similar to terrestrial excavation, where we have seen several distinct changes in the bottom composition, indicative of different context layers. Each context layer may represent a different phase or change in use of the harbor over its lifetime. We hope that these discrete layers and their associated diagnostic finds will help us understand the stratigraphic sequences and chronology of events in the harbors.

August 3rd, 2014

Three seasons at Burgaz

(guest post by Molly McMeekin)

Now working toward my M.A. in the Archaeology stream of Brock’s Department of Classics, I began participating in the Burgaz Harbors Project in 2012 when I was an undergraduate at Brock. When I first heard about the project, I was excited to develop my archaeological field skills and become more familiar with marine and coastal archaeological sites. I had previously excavated terrestrial sites from Roman Italy and Bronze Age Greece, but I was most interested in the Classical and Hellenistic world and this project seemed like a fantastic opportunity to refine my interests.

My first field season at Burgaz was a whirlwind. Despite having no prior experience with the recording of archaeological features, I learned to measure, record, and draw, then began working with Tarah drawing one of the large stone harbor installations in L2. By the end of the summer I had helped to draw five dolia situated along the coast and a large workshop located in L4 (an area revisited this summer to consider the coastal production and distribution of wine). Meanwhile, Lana taught me the basics of how to set up and use the total station in order to map the features we drew as well the general topography of the site.

Molly and Tarah record the northern mole of L2 in 2012.

Molly and Tarah record the northern mole of L2 in 2012.

Beyond the technical skills I learned on land, I also learned how to excavate in the water. Working in a harbor means we are neither on land nor fully submerged in water and it can be challenging to excavate. Starting at a relatively shallow depth in L1, where the water was no higher than our ankles, we used our hands and small shovels to remove an initial layer of rocks and sediment. As we dug deeper, water dredges facilitated the process, and I learned not only the techniques of wet excavation, but also the mechanical aspects of operating water pumps and keeping the machinery up and running in our challenging environment.

The past two years on the project I have been adding to my list of field skills, including artifact photography, digitizing drawings with Adobe Illustrator and recently learning how to draw artifacts. During my work at Burgaz I have learned many valuable archaeological skills that I hope to use throughout my career. From an intellectual perspective, the harbor setting has inspired me to consider the archaeological landscape—particularly the architecture—of commerce and exchange, a topic I am exploring for my M.A. thesis in the Department of Classics at Brock. More on this in a future post!

August 1st, 2014

Student first impressions

(guest post by Emily Schaljo)

I arrived at INA’s Bodrum Research Center on the 17th of July, and took a ferry to Datça on the same day. For the first couple of days I helped Lana and Tyler with preparations for the season. This included cleaning out the shed at the dig house and organizing pottery crates from previous years, learning how to set up the total station and take points with it, visiting the site, and going to Rhodes to get research visas. It was great getting to learn how to do total station work, and being able to practice it in the field. The trip to Rhodes took a little longer than expected, because our research visas could not be prepared in a single day. This inspired an impromptu overnight in Rhodes for Tyler, James and me. Despite the fact that we were not prepared for staying the night, we got the chance to see Rhodes, do some souvenir shopping, and eat some Greek food.

Excavation work started shortly after we got back to Datça. I became a part of Lana’s team along with Molly, and Itay in L1. About a week after we began digging in L1T5.A, the rest of our team arrived in Datça, and we added Peter to our group, as well as Sarah and Megan C. after they finished their work in L4. We have now opened up T5 B, L and M. We are finding so much interesting material, including a lot of pottery from T5.A, and some bones and teeth from T5.L.  I have taken on registration duties for the pottery from L1, L2, and L4, which has given me the opportunity to see the diagnostic finds and learn about the different types of pottery we are finding on site. I am really enjoying my work and all of the opportunities to learn about the different aspects of an archaeological project.


Emily, Peter, Molly, and Sarah at work in L1, silhouetted by the morning sun.

July 29th, 2014

Historical trends in the relocation of cities

(guest post by Tyler Laughlin)

My experiences last year working on the Burgaz Harbors Project—my first archaeological experience—have been influential to the directions of my dissertation research. A returning member of the 2014 team and a PhD student in the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, my research will focus on historical evidence for the movement of harbors within cities, as well as the relocation of coastal cities entirely. While built constructions such as harbors and other urban works (walls, buildings, etc.) seem to be permanent features of maritime centers, historical sources from Aegean cities in the Classical Period offer evidence for a number of types of movement at various levels from port to city. What reasons are given for such movements? Are there discernible patterns in the historical accounts of relocation? Was relocation a common occurrence or something done only rarely? These are some of the questions I hope to answer through my research.

Economics, warfare, politics, and environmental change are all possible motivators for the movement of Greek coastal cities throughout the Aegean, and the historical sources suggest that various combinations of these options could have led to change. My dissertation seeks answers to questions about such movements, and a more general inquiry into the role of the sea in influencing the historical fortune of cities. As I work towards the completion of my Ph.D., I am fortunate to have found a project that fits so well with my research interests and look forward to seeing whether the archaeological evidence from the harbors at Burgaz matches broader historical trends I hope to identify in the Classical Aegean world.

The double harbor at "New Knidos." What factors made the city a more favorable locale?

The double harbor at “New Knidos.” What factors made the city a more favorable locale?

July 25th, 2014

A trip to Knidos

(guest post by Nicholas Riddick)

Having come early to Datça to get started with mapping and the organization of gear, Tyler, Emily, James and I found time for a Sunday trip to Knidos.  We arrived late in the morning to avoid the intense midafternoon sun. With little knowledge about the site, I was not sure what to expect or the extent to which these ruins were preserved.  Needless to say, I was surprised and delighted to be able to walk on ancient streets and the floors of ancient temples.  While I have seen pictures of Greek and Roman ruins before, not being a student of Archaeology or Classics, nor particularly well traveled, I was amazed by what I saw and couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like to live in or visit this city in ancient times.


Before writing more about experience at Knidos itself, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the journey to this site.  As a GIS person who has worked with data concerning the Datça Peninsula, I had some idea of the topography of the area.  To be honest, the first time I saw the data for the peninsula—particularly its slope—I did not believe I was looking at a correct representation!  While I later decided that the data must be correct, a part of me was still unsure, until I saw it firsthand and watched from the back seat as our car climbed up and down the steep paths.  This trip to Knidos had some of the best views I have ever experienced and certainly the best landscape.  Had I been driving, we may not have made it to Knidos at all, so many photo stops would I have taken (along the way, I made a mental note to visit one of the beaches we saw on the way, which I would do the following weekend).



Of the many things we saw at Knidos: the temple of Dionysus, the temple of Apollo, the Round Temple (of Aphrodite?), the theater, etc., I don’t think I can pick a favorite spot.  What I can say is that I have a favorite aspect: the craftsmanship.  The techniques that went into making the Round Temple so round and the columns so decorative are what really impressed me. And although none of the architecture survives in its entirety, it has held up long enough for me to admire ages later.

Not only would I recommend a trip out to Knidos to anyone reading this post, but I would gladly go many more times myself.  I don’t think one visit provides even a fraction of the time required to explore this site in its entirety.  Finally, from the perspective of the Burgaz excavations, my visit to Knidos helped me to visualize the relative merits of the two sites, and to understand why the inhabitants of Burgaz may have decided to move.