Monthly Archives: July 2008

Bodies Everywhere!

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I am at one of the worse internet cafes here in Konya, and have been unable to change the keyboard, so this post will be fairly short.  I have managed to upload some images, but still no luck with video–I am hoping to make a short run to Çumra this week, but time is running out!

Digging in Building 49 (the name of the house that we are currently excavating) has been way more fun than should be allowed on a research excavation, but there have also been a few aggravations.  The platforms of the buildings here are where the inhabitants buried their dead, so I have had a lot of skellies to sort out, of all shapes, sizes, and ages.  I care more about their context and their place in the stratigraphic sequence, and so tensions can rise when the specialists who are more interested in the bones come to dig the things.  It will all work out though, hopefully, and we will get the building finished in the next couple of weeks.  Next I will update with another diary entry and possibly an abstract I just sent to a conference.  But for now, I am going to get away from this awful cafe, get some tea, and go shopping for rugs.

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Building 49, Space 100 & 335, f. 4000

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(my site diary entry from a few days ago)

This year I am working in Building 49, Space 100, probably for the duration of the excavation.  Building 49 is a small house, with plaster and the traditional features that characterize Catalhoyuk.  I started excavating platform f. 1651, located in the northwest corner of the building, which had a very large round impression in the center of the plaster, layer 13668.  I took off a series of red make-up, dirty surfaces, and white plaster, revealing the top of burial cut [14437], starting f. 4000.  After excavating the burial fill (14429), skeletons 14441 (a young woman) and 14440 (an infant) were revealed by Lori Hagar.  Along with the young female skeleton were a number of ground stone beads closely associated with the neck of the skeleton.  There was a small greenstone axe in the fill, possibly associated with the infant 14440.  A number of phytoliths were found associated with the young female skeleton, samples of which were taken by Lori.  After the skeletons were removed, I cleared out the burial cut [14437] to bottom of the burial cut, revealing a darker layer with construction debris throughout.  This layer has several instances of semi-articulated human bones, possibly disturbed by the later burials.  To date, I have cleaned most of this layer, in preparation for the next burial fill.

While the burial was being excavated by Lori, I moved to the south end of the building, to work on the north-facing wall f. 1658 and the interior wall, f. 1659.  I removed a layer of plaster that was overlying both walls, 14442.  The plaster was heavily degraded and had been conserved, making excavation difficult.  This plaster was overlying a niche [14450] in the wall above the oven that had been blocked (14448) with brick-like material, both excavated and recorded by Dan.  This wall plaster, 14442, also covered the internal wall f. 1659, a somewhat ephemeral construction of plaster and makeup on the western extent of platform f. 1666.  I excavated several layers of make-up, and another layer of plaster, 14451, overlying, again, both f. 1658 and f. 1659.  This revealed a post-like column 14454, comprised of make-up and plaster.  This column was painted red during a phase of its use-life, and a sample was taken by Duygu Camurcuoglu for further study of painted plasters.  After the column was removed, another layer of plaster, 14453, was removed from the wall f. 1658 and the remains of f. 1659.  The removal of this plaster layer freed 14458, which was plaster in oven f. 4003, removed by Dan.  The last layer of make-up for f. 1659 was also beneath 14453, and the removal of this last instance of make-up freed a series of floors 14423 on platform f. 1666, which were removed as the end of the phase.

Archaeological Photography, the Uncanny Valley, and Lomography

Experimental photography in archaeology is a fascinating and ever-expanding genre.  Fotis Ifantidis’ Visualizing Neolithic has been a source of constant inspiration for reimagining what is usually a very proscribed and ritualized methodology for documenting archaeological sites.  In the Experience, modes of engagement, archaeology session, Sara Perry’s Fractured Media presentation showed some of her own experiments–hopefully she’ll share them online at some point.

Photo by flickr user iessi.

Some of the innovation has been driven by technology, such as the growing prevalence of High Dynamic Range photography.  I find HDR photography uncanny at best, and downright creepy at worst.  Computer screens have a limited dynamic range, leading to problems with tone mapping.  Still, until the display issues are solved, HDR veers into the uncanny valley, where the verisimilitude of the image causes a disruptive response.

Photo by Tsim Schneider

On the other end of the spectrum is lomography, which employs low-quality toy cameras for an intentionally “bad” photograph that is blurry, off-color with light leaks.  These photos are more atmospheric but obviously not as accurate.  They contribute to an aesthetic of decay that compliments the subject.  HDR is too precious to me, too bejewelled and fantastic.  Lomography represents a more “accurate” view of the past in that it is hazy, hard to discern, never quite all there.  I’d like a chance to play with my Diana camera, but the toy cameras are actually much more difficult to handle–they’re finicky, analog, and I haven’t finished my first roll to check where the light leaks are.  Taking photos with a Lomo camera is a lot more risky and most attempts are not likely to turn out, something that is not acceptable for scientific documentation.  Still, it might be interesting to supplement other archaeological documentation with a slightly hazier view of the past.