Looking into the stratigraphy: deep sounding at Kinik Höyük (Southern Cappadocia)

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By: Lorenzo Castellano, MacAllister Fellowship Recipient

Thanks to ASOR and to ISAW-NYU, this summer I have participated for two months in the excavations at Kinik Höyük, a site located in Southern Cappadocia (Turkey). The project is a joint collaboration of New York University (USA) and Pavia University (Italy).

In the evening of June 3rd we landed at the airport of Kayseri; a few hour hours of driving and we arrived in the plain of Bor (Niğde) where KinikHöyük is located. The word ‘Höyük’ in Turkish means ‘mound’ (same as the Arabic word ‘tell)’; our site deserves this adjective: already from far away it is possible to see the mound of Kinik emerging from the green and flat northern fringes of the Bor plain. Hidden in this mound there stratigraphic layers dating from the medieval time (the Seljuk and Early Ottoman periods) down to the protohistory, likely – on the basis of the surface materials found during the survey – to the Chalcolithic. This long human presence in the area can be easily explained by the high agricultural potentiality of the plain, rich in water thanks to the many springs in the above mountains, as well by its location on a crucial strategic position – on one of the most important routes between central Anatolia and the Levant.

The view from the top of the mound of Kinik hoyuk.

The view from the top of the mound of Kinik Höyük.

Our team is made mostly by American, Italian and Turkish archaeologists, students, and specialists; often in the dig house it is possible to listen to conversations in several languages overlapping with one another at the same time. This multilingual life becomes here an important part of archaeology, as well as a nice way to learn new languages. We are quite a big team, made by more than 20 people with different experiences and research interests.

As always the field season is a very busy time, long days that start at dawn and finish often in the late evening. At Kinik we spend the morning working at the site, while the afternoon is reserved for the lab work – washing, marking and photographing the ceramic, catching up with stratigraphy and forms, doing flotation for the samples, etc. Five different teams were working this year on the mound in different operations: two operations are open on the top of the Höyük, one operation takes place in the lower town, one on the citadel walls, and finally, one on the southern slope of the mound – the one where I’m working.

The excavation team; from the left to the right: Hakan, Lorenzo, and Ibrahim.

The excavation team; from the left to the right: Hakan, Lorenzo, and Ibrahim.

The operation (technically we call it operation C.3) is a small sounding (ca. 10m long and 3m wide), what in archaeology we call a stratigraphic trench. The main goal is, therefore, to go down, and layer after layer expose the stratigraphy of the site. For the excavation I could rely on the huge help of two Turkish workers, Ibrahim and Hakan. I am thankful to them, for all the work that they made, for the private ‘Turkish class’ while we were working, and above all for the baklava for breakfast. Thank you, Ibrahim. Thank you, Hakan.

We chose to open this trench on the Southern Slope of the mound in order to reach the earlier levels of the site. In this area of the mound later occupation phases are not present, and the stratigraphy begins directly with Iron Age levels, without preserved Medieval or Hellenistic layers. The main goal was to go down to the Bronze Age levels, and we carefully dig in a rigorous stratigraphic way more than four meters down! The ceramics coming from those four meters of stratigraphy are wonderfully decorated by geometric, and sometimes figurative, motifs, beautiful as only the Central Anatolian Iron Age pottery can be. It is a small trench, but is enough in order to appreciate the importance of Kinik during that period, because of the thickness of the Iron Age deposits, because of the structures, and of the high quality materials.

I left Turkey by the end of July, in order to go to another field project – in Uzbekistan … another area, another story. But the work for Kinik is not finished yet. During the excavation we have collected several samples, in the coming months I look forward to work on them: radiocarbon sample to prepare and archeobotanical analysis to carry out. I am sure that more and more exciting things about Kinik will come soon!

Lorenzo Castellano is currently a graduate student at New York University, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. He previously graduated with a Bachelor in Cultural Heritage Sciences and a Master in Archaeology at University of Milan.



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