Tag Archives: istanbul

EAA Istanbul: A Blast from the (Çatalhöyük) Past

Tea on the Ferry across the Bosphorus, taken in 2006 (!)

Tea on the Ferry across the Bosphorus, taken in 2006 (!)

For the first time ever, I’m attending the European Association for Archaeology (EAA) meetings, 10-14 September in Istanbul. Istanbul is probably my favorite city in the world, so full of chaos and color, heady intellectualism, romanticism and a past that stretches deep beneath the Bosphorus. I don’t think my Turkophilia sits all that well with my Turkish friends, who have to struggle with the conservatism of Erdoğan’s government and have to fight in the streets to protect themselves from his police state. I worry about my friends in Turkey, I worry about Turkey’s slide into militancy, but I also believe in them and their passionate resistance and refusal to be silenced.

So my joy to be returning to Turkey is somewhat tempered by the ongoing struggles of the Gezi protesters and Erdoğan’s move from prime minister to president, with the accompanying fears of a cult of personality that will elevate him into an autocratic regime.

Whew–after that fairly heavy-handed politicizing, I’ll be presenting in two sessions, both about previous (slightly old & moldy) work that I did regarding Çatalhöyük that I need to publish.

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First is a paper:  The Life and Death of Virtual Çatalhöyük in Second Life

Abstract: From 2007 until 2011, OKAPI Island in Second Life hosted a virtual reconstruction of the Neolithic village of Çatalhöyük. This simulation included reconstructions of current excavations, past and present lifeways at the site, a virtual museum, and hosted several forums and open days. Using the reconstruction we hosted a mixed reality session,filmed machinima, held university lectures, and collaborative virtual building sessions. OKAPI Island in Second Life was an incredibly fertile proving ground for re-thinking our assumptions about archaeological interpretation and outreach.When Linden Labs, the makers of Second Life, decided to end the educational discount that made OKAPI Island affordable, a team of students and professors at the University of California, Berkeley made the effort to preserve the virtual reconstruction by record, a process that is familiar to archaeologists. After the “death” of a virtual reconstruction of an archaeological site, what lessons can be learned about digital materiality and preservation? How can we use the example of Çatalhöyük in Second Life to inform our future reconstructions? What is next for collaborative virtual work in archaeology?

Since my fairly effusive 2009 work in Archaeologies, (Re)Building in Second Life: Changing Virtual Reality in Archaeology, I wanted to add a coda–so many virtual reconstructions and digital projects are built, published, and we are left to puzzle out what happened later, so I wanted to wrap up all the work that we’d done and the eventual fate of the reconstruction.

I’m also very happy to be putting together a poster with my good friend and colleague Jason Quinlan:

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Title: Fifty Years of Visualization at Çatalhöyük

Abstract: Çatalhöyük, a spectacular archaeological site in central Turkey, has been the subject of visual interpretation for half a century. From Ian Todd’s photography performed during James Mellaart’s 1960s excavations to Ian Hodder’s work since 1993, a vast visual record has accumulated of over 100,000 images. The collection records not only site excavation and finds but also embedded changes recorded in the archive’s collective “metadata” in both technical and theoretical approaches to site photography over time.

In this poster we explore the changes in technology, methodology and theory at the site as seen in the changing modes of visualization at Çatalhöyük. Through quantitative and qualitative analyses of the visual record, we provide insights regarding the contrasting archaeological processes at the site. Finally, we look to the future of visual interpretation at Çatalhöyük.

I’m happy to finally be able to draw a line underneath my work at Çatalhöyük and get more of my dissertation research out the door!

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The Summer Plague

Istanbul

It was a cool, breezy summer day; as I wandered among the dead and the dying I thought how it had been years since I had been able to love life this much.  I went into the mosque courtyards, wrote down the number of coffins on a piece of paper, and walking through the various neighbourhoods, tried to establish a relationship between what I saw and the death-count: it was not easy to find a meaning in all the houses, the people, the crowds, the gaiety and sorrow and joy.  And oddly enough my eyes hungered only for the details, the lives of others, the happiness, helplessness, indifference of people living in their own homes with their own families and friends.

Toward noon I crossed over to the other shore of the Golden Horn, to the European quarter of Galata, and intoxicated by the crowds and the corpses I wandered through poor coffee-houses, around the dockyards, shyly smoked tobacco, ate in a humble cookshop simply out of a desire to understand, strolled in bazaars and stores.  I wanted to engrave every single detail on my mind so I could reach some sort of conclusion.

Orhan Pamuk, The White Castle

(Poems, prose and comics that remind me of archaeology, pt 9)

Continuous Movement

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I took an overnight train from Konya to Istanbul, and snapped this photo as the sun was going down over the Anatolian plain.  I’ve never ridden a proper train before, or at least one that wasn’t connected to a larger metro.  The trip took sixteen hours and we passed squat minarets and blasted mountains and miles upon miles of orchards with fat apples and peaches that swayed in the train’s breeze.  After the train I took a ferry across the Bosphorus, then a taxi, but I kept having to look down at my feet–I’d lost my land legs–the cool tile floors of Istanbul rolled and trembled on imaginary rails.

Even after my enormously awful plane flight home and a handful of days spent sleeping, I still feel like I’m on that train.  This is probably not helped by watching Brief Encounter and reading Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train:

“In the train, however fast it travelled, the passengers were compulsorily at rest; useless between the walls of glass to feel emotion, useless to try to follow any activity except of the mind; and that activity could be followed without fear of interruption.  (…) But in the rushing reverberating express, noise was so regular that it was the equivalent of silence, movement was so continuous that after a while the mind accepted it as stillness.”

I’m just starting to extract individual strains of noise out of the cacophany, to make sense of the summer, and to shudder-start my research/Berkeley/graduate life again.  In the meantime, I’ll be tracing my intials in my breath on the glass windows of the train while I wait for my stop.

When the Bosphorus Dries Up

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“Amid the doomsday chaos, among toppled wrecks of old City Line ferries, will stretch vast fields of bottle caps and seaweed. Adorning the mossy masts of American transatlantic lines that ran aground when the last of the water receded overnight, we shall find skeletons of Celts and Ligurians, their mouths gaping open in deference to the unknown gods of prehistory. As this new civilization grows up amid mussel-encrusted Byzantine treasures, tin and silver knives and forks, thousand-year-old wine corks and soda bottles, and the sharp-nosed wrecks of galleons, I can also imagine its denizens drawing fuel for their lamps and stoves from a dilapidated Romanian oil tanker whose propeller has become lodged in the mud….

…No longer will we soothe our souls with songs about the birds of spring, the fast-flowing waters of the Bosphorus, or the fishermen lining its shores; the air will ring instead with the anguished cries of men whose fear of death has driven them to smite their foes with the knives, daggers, bullets, and rusting scimitars that their forefathers, hoping to fend off the usual thousand-year inquiries, tossed into the sea.

Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book
(poetry and prose that reminds me of archaeology, pt 3)

It’s no secret that I deeply enjoy the works of Pamuk, especially My Name is Red. I brought Istanbul with me during my last trip to Turkey, and especially enjoyed his descriptions of the quiet neighborhoods I was walking through. He writes very evocatively of the Bosphorus, and Istanbullus’ relationship with the large, muddy river, so I was happy to catch this bit in The Black Book about the history that not only surrounds the channel on both sides, but that which lies underneath.

I’m looking forward to his multiple Bay Area engagements later this month, but am a little annoyed that he is not giving a talk here on campus–I have to schlep to a church (he’s speaking at one in the city and one here in Berkeley) or to Stanford. I don’t mind the schlepping necessarily, it’s more the surprise that he’d be around and Berkeley wouldn’t be taking advantage of his presence.