During this internship I have managed to learn a few key things. First is the importance of challenging your own assumptions. This was a lesson that I learned constantly in my month on site. The most notable example of getting carried away with assumptions was the last one. That is, when our prior theory of a potential post Roman group of people that were not Turkish or Ottoman, based upon the animal bones found on site, was better explained by the part that we were digging up just being trash dirt for a fill pile. That movement really crystallized something that I had been mulling over all month: that in a field such as Archaeology, where you work constantly with a huge range of unknowns, both known and unknown, it is easy to build castles in the sand. That is, to make a complex and fleshed out site theory that, upon closer examination, is built upon a series of warrant-less assumptions. I believe also that as someone in the Philosophy program, I was somewhat more vulnerable to this flaw, as oftentimes the assumptions we work with are by nature unprovable, and it is the latticework of supporting ideas that are of interest. Working on site I was able to learn how to be more exacting in theorizing, and question the origin of my assumptions in the first place. Another important thing I learned was that there’s no such thing as a decent burger in Turkey, and that most attempts to rectify that end in disappointment.
As for how this trip changed my perspective, I think that my opinion on Turkey changed a great deal. First and foremost, I came to recognize how much of Turkey’s identity is tied up in being a cultural crossroads. The country blends European, Middle Eastern and even some Asian culture together both spatially and temporally. Watching a brand new Volkswagen drive past a goat herder in the shadow of Roman ruins was a truly surreal moment of understanding. In addition, my perspective on time and history has changed. In addition, I’ve long been skeptical of the rest of the world’s ability to maintain thousand year rivalries and ape conflicts from what is essentially a different era. However in traveling to Turkey I now get it. History is a living active thing in the world. People in Turkey live amongst the ruins of their past, and I never understood the psychological component of that until I spent time there. It’s hard to forget a past that’s literally within sight at all times.
If I were to offer any advice to future participants it is to try and learn some relevant regional history, and some Roman history. I definitely realized during this project that I had a real gap in my understanding of Roman history that impacted my understanding of some of the presentations and field trips every now and then. In addition I’d also pack more books than you think you’ll need, as constant wifi access is a bit of a faraway dream, and reading a book in the shade after a hard day’s work is a real pleasure. Finally make sure you try all the kebabs, they’re all great and you just can’t find Adana Kebabs in the states.