The mound at Çadır Höyük.
View from the mound.
View from the mound
Laurel Hackley, daughter of Mary Jean Hughes '08, instructing a pair of Turkish college students about digging.

By Jennifer Ross, Ph.D., Professor of Art and Archaeology

I’ve just arrived in Turkey for the 20th time in 21 years, meaning I’ve been coming here to dig and research since before most of my current students were born. I’ve also been bringing Hood students here since 2001. This year, I don’t have any students with me, but there are a lot of Hood archaeologists and archaeology alums digging around the world this summer. Workmen ask me about prior students who came in past years, and one of our core team members is the daughter of Mary Jean Hughes (Class of 2008, and staff member in Art and Archaeology and the Honors Program), so the Hood connection remains strong.

I’ve been digging at Çadır Höyük (CHA-dr HOO-yook) since 2003, with a team of American, Canadian, European and Turkish archaeologists from a variety of universities. We live in the village of Peyniryemez (literally, “We do not eat cheese,” which is not true), which feels like my second home. At my desk at the moment, I can hear the bells on the sheep and goats walking down the road in front of our house, while sounds of vegetable-chopping come from the kitchen behind me. Soon I’ll smell something wonderful cooking, which the team will come back together to eat around 1:30 p.m., at the end of the digging day. (The afternoon is devoted to work in the lab.)

Our days start early, with breakfast and coffee (mostly brought from the U.S. to sustain us—the national drink in Turkey, despite what everyone thinks, is tea) before leaving for the site at 5:45 a.m. We work until 9 a.m., when we have a “second breakfast”—my students’ favorite meal, I think—of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies. Then work at the site continues, for another few hours, until it gets too hot to think or see subtle differences in the dirt.

Our site was occupied beginning around 5500 B.C., and people lived there until the Byzantine period (A.D. 1000-1100) at least. The mound was created by people building on top of earlier occupations over these 6000-7000 years. Each level represents a different period of time, as the residents used different tools and pots, cooked different foods, and were in contact with different neighbors and political powers. But over that entire time, their landscape must have looked much like it does today—green in the early summer, with ripening grain and abundant pasture lands, and snowy in winter. I imagine the flocks of sheep and goats of 3000 years ago looked a lot like the ones who graze around the site today, heading out from the village in the morning, and returning to their pens every night, protected by the ever-watchful Anatolian sheepdogs.

I hope to post a couple more updates while I’m here, but I wanted to offer a sense of what life is like on a dig: it can be hot and the power may go out frequently, but the fun of researching with a wonderful team and working alongside our generous Turkish colleagues and workmen makes it all worthwhile. Over the last 21 years, technologies have changed in once unimaginable ways, but out here we also have a sense of timelessness that connects us to the past.

Read the next post:
Part Two: Good Teamwork, Good Archaeology: Professor Jennifer Ross Writes from Turkey

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