#1 Dogs and aliens

“Don’t move!”, they told me. In any other situation, I would have been happy to hear this order. This morning, I had had to get up early to be in time for the breakfast, at 06:00. And now, only one hour later, Hakan, Uygar, Utku and I were climbing a hill that overlooks the town of Gönen (Isparta, Turkey). Packed with bags, water bottles, food baskets as well as drawing and measuring equipment, we walked uphill, as we do so almost every day. According to my sleepy eyes and tired legs due to the work and football match of the day before, I should have been thrilled that I could stop on my way up and get a rest for a while. But I wasn’t...

Names like Cerberus or Monster of Kale Tepe hardly do justice to his impressive appearance

An enormous creature was suddenly standing in front of us. It had the size of a tiger, his eyes were orange and a belt with giant spikes adorned his neck. Growlingly, he walked around us, step by step. He sniffed, as if he could smell our cold sweat. Names like Cerberus or Monster of Kale Tepe hardly do justice to his impressive appearance and the dimensions of his head. The beast turned out to be the chief dog – there were four dogs in total – guarding a herd of goats. No herdsman was around, only the dogs. We only had ourselves to defend. After a first impression, the dog turned his big head to Utku and sniffed at him. Was he going to attack him, or eat him maybe? Or was he looking for a hug? The only thing we could think of to help Utku in some way: “Don’t move!” 

Utku and the Monster of Kale Tepe

It was only my third day in Turkey, when this monster of a dog came into my life. And it was my second day of participating in the Isparta Archaeological Survey – project (IAS-project), directed by Dr. Bilge Hürmüzlü of the Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi in Isparta. The project team consists of a number of students and researchers affiliated to the same university and a representative of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Upon arrival, I was welcomed with great hospitality and kindness by any one of them. My first blog seems to me a good opportunity to express my gratitude: thanks to them, the first two weeks of my stay in Turkey were unforgettable.


The team of the IAS-project at work on Kale Tepe.
Foreground: fortification wall; background (to the right): the village of Gönen

This year, the IAS-project put its focus on Kale Tepe (Castle Hill), the hill that was the scene of our encounter with the dog. Kale Tepe was once the site of a Hellenistic city, surrounded by a fortification wall several parts of which are still visible today. Especially the entrance gate and the eastern wall still reveal the wall’s overwhelming massiveness, that can only have been much greater when it was in use. When looking around from atop the hill, the strategic importance of this location is easily recognized. Drawings and measurements of the fortification wall as well as the tower, situated on the ultimate summit of Kale Tepe, and an archaeological survey of the city’s territory aim to increase our knowledge and understanding of this Hellenistic site. For similar purposes, the team has acquired its own remote controlled helicopter. The camera, that is attached to it, is able to make detailed overview pictures and videos of the wall, its towers and gates. Note to the non-specialist reader: indeed, besides the famous and stereotype activities of digging and excavating, archaeologists nowadays work with a variety of methods to investigate the material heritage of past societies: from archaeological surveying and DNA-analysis (for instance: of bone material) to the use of sophisticated measuring equipment (Total Station) and satellite photography.

"Was this truly an Unidentified Flying Object?"

Our own UFO during the test flight

The actual use of our remote controlled helicopter needed to be preceded by several test flights. In the dark of the evening, the entire team gathered together to watch the first ‘steps’ of the little helicopter. We were ready for take-off. Like a bird in the sky, the machine flew away, quickly increasing in height and distance. Eyes focused on the sky, the team ran after the flying object. Its red and green lights lit up the darkness and its sound, to a certain degree, disturbed the silence in the village of Gönen. It must have been a strange sight for Gönen’s inhabitants: a green-red thing, followed by a group of archaeologists trying to get a hold of it. “What was this thing anyways?”, you could hear them think. “Was this truly an Unidentified Flying Object, signifying the prelude of an alien invasion?” Fortunately for us, we managed to safely return the flying object to its home. However, the people of Gönen might have been as frightened by ‘our UFO’ as we had been by the Monster of Kale Tepe.