Scooping Frogs and Excavating Statues in Turkey

By: Emily Coate, 2012 Heritage Fellow

The generosity of those behind the ASOR Heritage Fellowship afforded me my first opportunity to dig at a Near Eastern site. I participated in the excavations at Tell Tayinat, a settlement occupied during the Early Bronze and Iron Ages located in southern Turkey near the Syrian border. You may have heard the name in the news recently, owing to the discovery of a couple impressive statues this season. Particularly noteworthy is the head and torso of King Suppiluliuma, with a Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription across his back.

I worked supervising a square currently in an Iron Age context. We were fortunate enough to uncover many interesting finds and significant architectural features, including clay figurines, loom weights, tabuns, and mud brick wall remains.  Having previously only excavated in the Midwestern United States, I found tracing the mud brick lines beneath our feet to be a new challenge—surely different than the posthole residues with which I had become accustomed. And coming from sites where we were excited to find a handful of sherds, the amount of pottery we unearthed at Tayinat never ceased to amaze me.

Along with the excavations, the experience itself is not one I will soon forget. Our team arrived at site with the dawn every morning, scooped the frogs out of our squares that had wandered in during the night, and prepared for another blisteringly hot day. I quickly found that the experienced local workers’ abilities and familiarity with the area offered a great conduit to improving my own excavation techniques. Even with our limited Turkish vocabulary, they were always willing and effective teachers.

The people in the nearby villages we had the opportunity to get to know, the places we visited, the food we ate, and the mix of Arab and Turkish culture we experienced made the summer all the more remarkable.

Knowing that the work we accomplished this summer adds inch by inch toward a better understanding of the lives, economy, and industry of the people who inhabited the area so long ago makes me all the more grateful for the chance to be a part of the Tayinat excavations, and to the Heritage donors who made it possible.


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