In 1928, near Yozgat, Turkey, the Oriental Institute first excavated at Kerkenes Dag, an enormous ancient city that we now know was built around 600 B.C. by the Phrygians of King Midas fame.
For the past seventeen years, the Kerkenes Dag project has revolutionized how archaeologists use remote sensing technologies and advanced simulations to understand ancient cities. Two key questions have guided the work. Who were the people that once built and lived in this enormous city? And how did a city like this function; socially, politically, and economically?
Computer software for simulating ancient pedestrian traffic, developed to help answer these questions at Kerkenes, has even attracted the attention of modern city planners who want to design greener cities that encourage people to walk more and use cars less. A sister project to the archaeological excavations, the Kerkenes EcoCenter, also focuses more on the modern world. It provides hands-on opportunities to see how technologies like renewable energy, water minimization irrigation techniques, and organic farming can assist in global efforts toward rural sustainability and development.
The Kerkenes Dag project is a model of what important insights can be gained from long-term work at a site like this. The knowledge gained has already reshaped our understanding of the Phrygians and of cities in general, both ancient and modern. The groundwork has been laid over years of effort to uncover much more knowledge from this ancient city through precision excavations in the years ahead. However, such long-term work requires steady resources: personnel, including conservators, illustrators, and workers hired from the village, are critical to the success of the expedition; ongoing maintenance is needed for expedition tools such as resistivity meters, surveying equipment, and specialized transportation. Adopting Kerkenes Dag as a dig can help sustain this project in its long-term mission.
For more information, visit the Kerkenes Dag website.
Scott Branting is Director of the Center for Ancient Middle Eastern Landscapes (CAMEL) and a Research Assistant Professor in Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Chicago. With MA degrees in Hittitology (University of Chicago) and Geography (SUNY Buffalo), and a PhD in Anthropology (SUNY Buffalo), he crosses a number of disciplinary boundaries with his research. He has worked with numerous expeditions on five continents, but along the way has been a constant member of the Kerkenes Dag Project for sixteen years and Co-Director for five years.
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