Monday, July 2, 2007

Tarsus and Kinet Höyük

At 6.15 am on Saturday June 29th, we hopped into our two trusty minivans, armed with water, food, and the naïve hope that today might not be as hot as yesterday, and headed toward the city of Tarsus. Located approximately 40 km southwest of Adana on the Mediterranean coast, Tarsus is most famous for hosting Marc Antony and Cleopatra’s first encounter, as well as for being the hometown of St. Paul. Perhaps less known are the strategically significant Cilician gates that lie north of the city and boast the passage of many famous historical figures including Cyrus the Younger, Alexander the Great, and Pompey. Yet, as Ben was sure to remind us during his presentation, the history of Tarsus is much older than popular memories may suggest.

Excavations by Hetty Goldman in 1935 revealed a history of several thousand years, harkening back to the Neolithic period (ca. 10,000 BCE). The continuity of habitation in this area is no surprise. Tarsus, whose very name reaches back to the Hittite period (ie. Tarsa), was located in an extremely favorable location. In Jeff’s words, the settlement was “situated on a river in a fertile plain along the Mediterranean Sea, and controlled a strategically vital entrance to the Cilician plain, itself an important crossroads of the Orient and the Occident.” Hittites, Romans, Byzantines, Armenians, and Ottomans are but a few of many cultures that took control of the city at various times in history. The picture below, illustrating a Roman road and adjoining structures excavated in the very center of town, is a powerful reminder of the wealth of archaeology that lies sealed under the bustling streets of modern Tarsus.

After an enjoyable picnic in a local park, we made our way to our second destination. The site of Kinet Höyük is especially important within the context of our survey since it is the only excavated settlement in our target region. As such, this site provides us with a basic regional sequence of material culture with which to contextualize our finds, both chronologically and culturally. Marie-Henriette Gates of Bilkent University, Ankara, the director of the excavation and a member of our survey team, was kind enough to give us a detailed tour of this incredible site, whose remains span the third millennium BCE through to the medieval period. Although the name Kinet Höyük may not evoke much at first, some readers may recognize the name of Issos, the famous site where Alexander the Great opposed the Persian King Darius in battle for the second and penultimate time. Research indicates that Kinet Hoyuk was once known as ancient Issos. The picture below illustrates part of the remains of the fourth century BCE Persian settlement that Alexander and his troops would have looked upon after their victory over King Darius.

You may notice that the excavation trench also contains a number of round features. These are Medieval pits dating to the 13th-14th centuries. More specifically, they are robbing trenches, dug into earlier settlement levels with the intent of stealing stone building materials for reuse. The following picture features the remains of a much earlier settlement level dating to the Hittite New Kingdom (ca.1500-1200 BCE).

The picture above shows the remains of a very peculiar find. Excavators came upon this hollow tunnel that appears to have run under the settlement foundations and to have been too small and narrow for a person to crawl into. The nearby discovery of what appears to be a clay pipeline may point to its function as a sewer system.

This last picture is a good example of archaeological stratigraphy. The vertical dirt wall illustrates various layers of occupation. Particularly interesting is the thick layer above the stone remains towards which Dr. Gates is pointing. This level shows the remains of the Iron Age “occupation”. The quotation marks are relevant here because the excavators are still unsure as to the character of the site at this period. No structural remains have been found and artifacts suggest random trash disposal rather than regular habitation. Dr. Gates also informed that whereas previous occupants consumed great quantities of fish, no such faunal remains were found in Iron Age strata. This change in the cultural and physical aspect is especially interesting in view of the events that marked the end of the Bronze Age (ca.1200 BCE) throughout the Mediterranean. At this time, the ancient Mediterranean world suffered a crisis which caused the disintegration of many state-level societies, including the Hittites, and the weakening of great powers such as Egypt. The exact causes of this crisis are still the subject of active research, but scholars generally agree that it occurred as a result of a gradual process of decline involving disruptions in trading mechanisms, destructions (human and natural), and widespread abandonments.

The Kinet Höyük team is performing its last season of fieldwork after 15 years of excavation. In the coming years, material from the site will be further studied and interpreted, a process which we hope will yield more answers to so many interesting questions.

To finish this blog post, here are a few more pictures featuring other sites we visited. Below is the interior of a recently renovated Armenian Church. The last picture shows the exterior part of the Adana Museum, with a beautıful Mosque in the background.

On Tuesday we begin our first day of survey work... we'll keep you updated!!!



Anonymous said...

You finally made it out of the monestary! I bet its a relief to be finally making out to your survey sites. All the long hours of travel and lecture are finally paying off. Hopefully the heat will not get to strenuous for you. The sites look very interesting and the buildings and structures are beautiful! Love the explanations for the pictures we are looking at. And the pictures are great btw! Being able to stand in the shadow of great historical figures, cultures, and events must be breath taking! I cant wait to see and hear more from your survey work! Ill be checking back to see updates.
Good Luck to you and to everyone!

Mary Anne said...

Looks like they are keeping you quite busy. The interior of that church is beautiful.
Good luck on the first day of surveying! Hope everyone's having a great time...and learning a lot.

Wendy A. said...

How come you didn't tell me you had a blog about your Turkey project?? That's it, we're in a fight...jk!

All this information is utterly fascinating. Keep it coming and can't wait to read about your surveys.

Good luck and have fun!