Building Capacity for Archaeological Science in Turkey / / by Emma Baysal and Holly Miller

Emma Baysal from Trakya University and Holly Miller of the University of Nottingham and BGS Visiting Research Fellow were awarded a Newton Advanced Fellowship. 'Building Capacity for Sustainable Archaeological Science and Heritage in Turkey' (NAFR1180204) promotes capacity building, education and training in the field of archaeological science in Turkey. This is the second in a series of 3 blogs that will discuss their initial 3 weeks of activities at BGS with guest researchers from Turkey.

(L-R) Rana Ă–zbal, Hannah Lau and Emma Baysal during their visit to the Stable Isotope Facility

Following our last blog’s description of our first activities at BGS, we’d like to explain something about the wider aims of our project ‘Building Capacity for Sustainable Archaeological Science and Heritage in Turkey’, financed by the British Academy’s Newton Fund.

The safeguarding of heritage plays an important role in ongoing archaeological strategy in every country, and Turkey has an incredibly rich archaeological heritage to protect. At the core of our project are two aims:

  • To make sure that archaeological science research can be carried out in Turkey without reliance on the facilities and expertise of labs outside the country

  • To ensure that any data generated from archaeological science projects will be suitably archived and future-proofed

Our time at BGS has been used to work towards the first of these aims, by learning how isotope ratios in archaeological materials are analysed with the help of Simon Chenery, Angela Lamb and Jane Evans. 

For many years there have been collaborations between Turkish and foreign experts in the analyses carried out on archaeological materials from Turkey and excavated by both Turkish and foreign teams. In many cases this has relied on the use of equipment and facilities outside of Turkey and, while producing undeniably important results, has also acted as a brake on the development of both expertise and facilities within the country. As a step to counter the export of samples for analysis, Turkey has mandated that where suitable facilities for a particular analytical technique are available in-country, archaeological samples may not be exported. While this is a commendable step, designed to ensure that full use is made of existing capacity, there are remaining gaps in both the available expertise in the use of analyses for archaeological materials and in the knowledge of the available analyses and their uses among the wider archaeological community. We applied for a Newton Advanced Fellowship for a wide programme of capacity building in archaeological science and started work last autumn to develop simple strategies with the widest possible impact.

With the above problems in mind, a group of us, including university lecturers and laboratory technicians, came for a three week visit to the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at the BGS, the first part of which we wrote about in our last blog. We gathered information about the sampling, laboratory and sample preparation requirements for different archaeological materials, as well as learning the capabilities of the various machines used to measure stable isotopes at the BGS. This has enabled us to develop an understanding of existing capacity in Turkey and forms the foundation for our ongoing strategy.

Our next steps are aimed at various areas of the existing system; from the administration of decision making processes at government level to raising public awareness about international archaeological standards. In the coming months, our newly gained perspective will help to inform a sustainable undergraduate teaching program for archaeological science, intended to raise the general level of knowledge among archaeology graduates and also encourage more students to choose archaeological science subjects at postgraduate level. This will include the distribution of free teaching materials relating to archaeological isotopes to university departments throughout the country. The long term aim is that a consistently implemented teaching programme for archaeological science will create a new generation of archaeologists who can engage with international standard collaborations and design their own projects and analyses with confidence. This will encourage specialisation in archaeological science among young academics and create a new generation of scientifically literate university lecturers.

To this end, in the coming months we will have a number of education and knowledge dissemination activities taking place in Turkey, including a full week postgraduate training programme on zooarchaeology and stable isotopes run by Holly Miller. We are excited to get started on the next stage of the programme and we’re looking forward to seeing the first results of our work.

In the final part of our blog we will talk about some of the specific issues relating to facilitating a sustainable archaeological stable isotope analysis system within the existing labs in Turkey…