I should clarify: I am afraid of dogs because I was chased down by vicious, barking, salivating, mastiff-sized köpekler in central Turkey. And I was only there because ASOR selected me as one of the recipients for their Platt fellowship.
I applied for ASOR’s generous stipend program so that I could participate in excavations at Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic-period archaeological site in central Turkey. I wanted to understand how the reasoning that archaeologists do in the field gets translated into how they write later—and I wanted to look for some better ways that archaeologists can write, so that less gets lost in this translation. There was no place more appropriate to start this research than at Çatalhöyük, where Dr. Ian Hodder has been experimenting with progressive archaeological methodologies since the early 1990’s.
ASOR’s support put me on the plane, subway, and night bus that got me to the site (if you haven’t taken a Turkish night bus, you should—ice cream is much better than airplane peanuts ever were). And I got to excavate 7,000 year old skeletons buried under the floors of houses. I got to chip away plaster to reveal an elaborate wall painting, imagining the equally steady hand that applied the red paint to the walls so long ago. I got to give a video presentation on the building in which I was excavating, explaining concepts like “dirty floors” and “lumber partitions” that I had known nothing about before the summer of 2011.
ASOR’s funding put me in this place where I got to stuff myself with Turkish food, and thanks to ASOR, I got to go on evening runs into the Anatolian sunset with one of my soon-to-be-colleagues at Stanford, where I entered the PhD program the following fall. And it was because of these runs that I outran the shepherding dogs that charged at me and three of my now-close friends while out for a stroll one night.
So in a certain sense, ASOR’s Platt Fellowship not only laid the groundwork for my future dissertation work—but it also saved my life.