Celebrating Five Years of Excavating Kınık Höyük

This article first appeared in ISAW Newsletter 13, Fall 2015.

Lorenzo d’Alfonso
Associate Professor of West Asian Archaeology and History

Spring and summer 2015 were a particularly intense and fruitful season. I received notice of tenure from NYU in March for the coming academic year, and that gave me even more energy and push to teach, present the results of my research at congresses and, above all, to have a strong excavation campaign 2015 at Kınık Höyük, Turkey during June and July.

As the campaign completed the first five year cycle of investigation at the site, it was the right time to start working on the publication of the first volume of the final site report. Therefore a group of scholars participated in the excavation to plan this monograph and start analysis of its materials. This volume will investigate the Hellenistic occupation of the site. Knowing that it will be the first such work for the entire Hellenistic kingdom of Cappadocia, it was wonderful to have Irene Soto (PhD, ISAW) working on the ceramic typology of the Hellenistic period, as well as Kathryn Morgan (PhD, UPenn) studying the rich collection of textile production tools from the citadel and the lower town of Kınık. The emphasis on the Hellenistic occupation also dictated the strategy for the main excavation area on the citadel, namely Operation B.

Four people sit in the middle of a partially excavated area. Portions of walls and stone structural components can be seen. One individual holds a hand broom. Another holds and leans over a cylindrical ceramic object with dirt still inside it. Prof. Lorenzo d’Alfonso and his team at Kınık Höyük, Turkey, June 2015 Here two months of excavation provided us with the reconstruction of a new and quite unusual spatial organization on the citadel. We now know that the top of the mound was likely encircled by a 1m thick defensive wall; houses and other buildings developed along the wall. In a niche on a wall of one of these mud-brick buildings we found a large vessel likely connected with wine drinking in a ritual context. Given the rarity of the find, this became front page news for the site of the Turkish ministry of culture and tourism for almost three weeks! Beneath the buildings, the mound core was almost empty and eventually was used as a huge dump area. Since so little is known about the planimetry of the small Hellenisitic centers in inner Anatolia, and classical authors claimed that even with a large number of inhabitants most of them could not be called a polis, this discovery provides us with new evidence about how those towns were structured. In the northwestern portion of the summit of the mound Andrea Trameri’s (PhD, ISAW) team kept working on the sacred area of the site. Beyond the Hellenistic level, they brought to light an earlier occupation, likely dating to the Achaemenid period, which possibly had the same function as the previous one. Amazing finds came to light from the area, including a fragmentary zoomorphic rhyton of the Achaemenid tradition.

Investigation of the pre-classical occupation continued also on the citadel walls and the lower town. While Nancy Highcock (PhD, ANEES/NYU) and Erkan Akbulut (MA, ANEES/NYU) studied the diachronic occupation of the lower town, reaching the levels dating to the 7th-6th century BCE (KH-Period IV), Anna Lanaro (Research Associate, ISAW) and Lorenzo Castellano (PhD, ISAW), Marco De Pietri (MA, Pavia University), and Phillip Stroshal (MA, ANEES/NYU) reopened Operation C, investigating the citadel walls on the southwestern slope of the mound. Lorenzo excavated a small sounding trench inside the walls, in order to reach and explore the Bronze Age occupation in the citadel. Carbon 14 analyses are ongoing; they will tell us whether this 5m deep trench reached that level. For sure the structure he found, the western wall of a huge pit coated with vegetal (possibly straw?) remains, came as a surprise, immediately reminiscent of huge underground silos of Hittite sites, such as those uncovered at Sarissa Kuşaklı.

The team led by Anna, Marco and Phillip had the biggest visual impact. They were able to expose some 40m of the perfectly preserved stone socle of the citadel fortification, as well as an imposing 6 x 6 meter tower protruding from the walls. A sounding into the masonry demonstrated that a huge fortification such as that of Kınık is not made with only one technique, and that repairs and adjustments are multiple, on both inner and outer faces. One of these phases had a post quem dating provided by a beautiful example of Alışar IV ceramic, with the typical deer represented in a silhouette style. The presence of this excellent production is one more clue to the importance of the site in the early first millennium BCE. As usual, the good results of one campaign instill in the archaeologist the desire to dig more and more.