GIS Program Manager Conducts Geophysical Prospection on World Renowned Iron Age Site in Turkey

In May 2008, EnviroSystems Geospatial Specialist Christine Markussen assisted in conducting a geophysical prospection survey at Kerkenes, an archaeological site in central Turkey. Kerkenes is a large (covering 1 square mile/271 hectares/ha) Iron Age city dating to ca. 650-550 B.C. Its ancient name is likely Pteria, mentioned by Herodotus as the location of a conflict between the first of the Persian Empire kings. The city was inhabited for a very short time before being deliberately destroyed and burned to the ground, and the site has been largely untouched since its abandonment. These factors created ideal site conditions for successful geophysical prospection.

The geophysical surveys undertaken at the site included both magnetometry and resistivity over large areas (Figure 1). Of the 271 ha of the ancient city, ca. 240 ha have been covered over an 8-year span (1995-2002) using a magnetometer. The resistivity surveys have been conducted over the central portion of the site including the area known as the palace. Despite many setbacks in 2008 concerning the instrument’s functionality, the resistivity work focused on supplementing the previously surveyed palatial complex by extending grids west of the palace (Figures 2 and 3). The data add to the overall understanding of architecture at Kerkenes, and future surveys will continue to unveil structural patterns on the site. An additional structure that may have been a later chapel near the Cappadocia Gate was also surveyed.

The trip was funded by the Archaeo/Community Foundation, dedicated to preserving small archaeological sites in the developing world while bringing some benefit to people living in the surrounding communities. Drs. Geoffrey and Francoise Summers from the Middle East Technical University have led a multidisciplinary research effort at Kerkenes since 1993. Dr. Scott Branting of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is Co-Director. The project receives support from several parties and institutions and from the regional town governments of Yozgat, Sorgun, and others. The village of Şahmuratli in particular is closely associated with the success of this project and with the growing Kerkenes Eco-Center. Villagers are intimately involved in the research, being employed for geophysical surveying, excavating areas of interest, and other tasks in support of the expedition.

Figure 1. View of the southern portion of the Kerkenes site.

stomp_the_yardFigure 2. Christine Markussen and Katie Simon, a University of Arkansas graduate student, using a Geoscan resistivity instrument on the area west of the palatial complex.

kings_cribFigure 3. Results of the resistivity survey west of the palatial complex (blue outline). Remnants of additional walls and roads are visible.