There is never a dull moment in Tayfursökmen, the Turkish village that contains our dig camp. This is my first experience with both survey and excavation, and it is fabulous so far. I have really enjoyed sorting pottery (and bone) in the pottery yard before dinner; I think I have learned a lot just by asking about the pieces I find.

Along with learning tons of new things about archeology and how it’s ‘done’, I have really enjoyed visiting some village families in the evening, once even for dinner. I have been taking some observations each time I go, and here is an excerpt from the dinner we had with an Arabic family (you think understanding Turkish is hard, but Turkish-Arabic!?):

At 7:30, we headed back to the Arabic family’s house for dinner. We met them a few hours earlier while wandering the village. As we turned left from the bakkal onto the family’s street, the children ran to greet us. The street is a dusty road that is used for cars, tractors, cows, goats, dogs, and many other things that move. They walked along with us (and behind us) to lead us toward the house. We took off our shoes, walked up the narrow steps to the second floor of the house, and were seated in a traditional Arabic living room with some of the little girls and their father. A large carpet covered the floor, and cushions lined the walls for people to sit. A calendar hung from the wall supporting the MHP, or Turkish nationalist party. The centerpiece of the room was a television on a stand, and the father of the girls switched the channels between Turkish and Arabic stations. Finally, he decided on an Arabic music station. “Probably from Egypt,” he said. A belly dancer flashed across the screen with Arabic writing scrolling across the bottom.

The physical characteristics of the family differed quite a bit from person to person. The father and mother both donned bright blue eyes and lighter skin. Some of the children had the same, with light brown hair, while others had quite dark features, including dark brown eyes.

Before dinner arrived, Michelle taught the little girls how to play some hand games that we learned when we were little. It was an immediate hit. The girls learned our games, showed us some of theirs (some that were the same). We also taught them rock, paper, scissors and tried to explain that you can use this game when making big decisions. We played for a while, and then dinner arrived.

The girls (all of them, except the mother) brought bowls of salad, fresh cut herbs, a mezze of eggplant and other vegetables, and huge black pans of chicken, fresh cooked. We drank the cola that we brought as a hospitality gift.  We also brought along some cookies and chocolates. The men (the father and Trevor) sat at the ‘head’ of the table; farther from the door than all the women. The girls also brought out huge circles of flat bread, which one girl informed me was baked by the mother only hours before. We ate until we were full, and then we ate more. The parents and girls were very eager to know how we liked the food. We confirmed that it was delicious (it was), and thanked them. They shook off the thanks; it was their pleasure. After we had convinced them that we were full, the plates cleared (again by the girls) and one girl in a headscarf (around 16-17) swept the carpet. The father asked us if we believe that President Obama was not born in the United States. When we replied ‘no’, he told us he never believed the rumor either. The TV turned on again, and we watched more Arabic music.

Finally, we played more hand games. The girls started to ask me about my family. “Do you have a father?” they asked, “what is his name?” The girls ran out of the room at one point and returned with some jewelry, with which they proceeded to adorn my ears and hands. One bracelet had a ring attachment and chains crossed along, sort of like a henna design. I tried to give the bracelets back to the girls when we left, but they sincerely refused and told me to keep them.

USC Professor Lynn Dodd has taken several students to the Hatay province of Turkey. AVRP Survey 2011 is about wrapping up and the students are now preparing for Alalakh Excavations:

2011 AVRP Survey Team

In the meantime, a handful of USC undergraduates are just beginning their archaeological excavation in Rome. The students join USC Professor John Pollini to excavate Ostia Antica. Grant Dixon will be blogging daily about the experience, so check out his blog here: http://grantdixonrome.blogspot.com/

2011 USC Undergrads Fight On during a break from excavation in Rome

Tonight as the 2011 AVRP survey team prepares for our first day in the field, the ezan echoes through the village and into our compound from the loudspeakers of a nearby mosque — a call to prayer in digital distortion. This happens five times a day, including every morning at around 4 AM which turns out to be very a convenient thing since we begin our day at 5. Tonight the Turkish skies also play host to ay tutulması, or lunar eclipse (peep the commemorative Google logo, exclusive to this side of the world), a good omen I’m sure as we set to make our way through the rich landscape of the northern Amuq valley. Over the next two months, I will be participating in my very first archaeological survey and excavation season. I could not be more thrilled to be here and to be working with the incredible Alalakh team, whose knowledge and enthusiasm inspire me daily. I am also thrilled to receive the support of AIA Los Angeles summer fieldwork scholarship (awarded to USC archaeology students for three years running) and hope that this summer is only the beginning of a long (unpredictable, strange) foray into our past (present, future).

In case you forgot – http://alalakh.org/ !

-Michelle L.

Hi all,

I just wanted to take a moment here and brag about the amazing students in the ARC Lab. I know they won’t write their own praise here, so I will go ahead and take a moment to do so for them:

*Sarah Butler is currently studying abroad in Australia and received the Weibel-Orlando Undergraduate Research Fund awarded by Dr. Weibel-Orlando herself from the Anthropology department. Sarah will be traveling this summer to Turkey in order to participate in survey and excavation under the supervision of our own Professor Lynn Swartz Dodd.

*Michelle Lim received a USC Summer Undergraduate Research Fund award. She will also be joining Professor Dodd for survey and excavation in Turkey.

*Jacob Bongers is a Senior and was awarded a $10,000 prize from the USC Global Scholars program to be used for graduate school. Jacob is also one of only two 2011 USC Phi Beta Kappa Undergraduate Award Winner. Jacob focuses his research in Andean Archaeology and has been an important part of the ARC Lab since he was a freshman. Congrats to Jacob and Good luck!

Jacob works on survey during summer 2010

We have had previous posts regarding our great success in the Humanities category at the USC Undergraduate Research Symposium, Danika Jensen receiving an undergraduate scholarship fund to excavate in Rome through AIA, as well as AIA recognizing our ARCSmart program with a Society Outreach Grant. And these all happened this Spring! Hopefully we will have even more honors and awards to share with you soon 🙂


The depot was locked today, and I am mostly packed. We’re now having our last BBQ and I will be taking the 15:30 train out of Antakya tomorrow. Over the years, I have spent about 6 months living here at Atchana, so it is bitter-sweet to be leaving. In the very least, I’m going to miss the dumb “guard” dogs 🙂

I have been out in Turkey for a while now, but will be finished here in less than two weeks. woot.

In the meantime, I have done a ton of work here, including rearranging the depot organization and of course registering tons and tons of small finds. I have organized the drawing of materials, and now Im assisting with the photography. Data entry and then we are set for the season!

Question: What do you do when a local villager’s cow dies?
Answer: Naturally, you would bury it on the compound, and then a couple of seasons later dig it up once the flesh is gone. The bones have defleshed, so give them a good washing and then you a have a perfect cow study collection for your zoo-archaeology team!

So I have been here at the compound for a full day now. In part its a huge change to enter dorm-style living on the edge of a village where you cant drink the freezing cold water. In other ways, I kind of jumped in easily since I have been here a few summers in a row now and am familiar with the routine.

It is still early in the season, so there are only about 7 of us right now. The pottery girls, me (the registrar this year), and the field supervisor. Things are nice and casual so far since the excavating hasn’t started. In the meantime, my big job is to get all my work up and operating seamlessly by the time everyone else arrives and the digging starts.

My sleep schedule is still blessed with jet-lag and the anti-malarial is giving me vivid dreams that turn into hallucinations when they dont go away after I wake up. Other than that, everything is right on track 🙂


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