On Friday night we returned from an overnight field trip to southeastern Turkey. We left Thursday afternoon to drive to Urfa (ancient Edessa and the supposed birthplace of the prophet Abraham). The drive was about 6 hours, so we were forced to find ways to occupy ourselves. Below you will see one of our favorite bus trip pastimes – drawing on the faces of those who dared to fall asleep. Brandon started it all by drawing on Mike’s face, so then I drew on Brandon. He had no idea until we stopped at a restaurant for drinks and the waiters started laughing at him.
The restaurant was on the banks of the Euphrates River, one of the most important rivers in ancient Near Eastern history. The Euphrates, along with the Tigris River to the east, formed the borders of ancient Mesopotamia and was vital to many ancient empires, including the Babylonians and Assyrians. Several of the students decided to take a swim in the freezing waters of the Euphrates on our way east and/or on our way back, and it was incredibly refreshing in the extreme heat.
After arriving in Urfa late on Thursday night, we made a quick stop by Abraham’s Pond (below) and the Church of St. John the Baptist, as well as Urfa Castle.
We then ate dinner in one of the two restaurants in the entire city that serve alcohol since the Muslim population there tends to be quite conservative. Friday morning we ventured to the archaeological museum, which brags to hold the oldest monumental architecture in human history, a statue dating to the tenth millennium BC.
We also had the fortune to visit a rescue excavation in the old city center where they had stumbled upon a 5th-6th century AD structure while extending the sewer system. The complex is a huge building with many large and ornate mosaics. They uncovered one for us which depicted four Amazon queens hunting wild beasts, and the detail and precision was remarkable. We then journeyed on to a site about an hour away from the city called Gobekli Tepe, which some have suggested was the Garden of Eden. Amanda will be posting a blog with more details on this site.
We had hoped to have time after Gobekli Tepe to visit Harran, noteworthy among other things for its place along Abraham’s journey to the Promised Land and as the site of the triumvir Crassus’ murder in 53 BC. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the extra leg of the journey and instead took an hour to wander through Urfa’s beautiful bazaar, where there were sold beautiful textiles, aromatic spices, and glistening jewelry.
We returned to Guzelyayla on Friday evening, tired and energized from more face-drawing and Euphrates-swimming adventures. It isn’t every day that you get to journey into southeastern Turkey and see archaeological sites off of the normal tourist track, so we were all very thrilled.