University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Teens and Trowels, Cultural Heritage Education at Gordion, Turkey


By: Naomi Miller

August 19, 2015

By Naomi F. Miller, Ayşe Gürsan-Salzmann, and Janelle Sadarananda

This post is part of a series reporting on the Gordion Cultural Heritage Education Project, conceptualized and led by Ayşe Gürsan-Salzmann, Assistant Director of the Gordion Project. Halil Demirdelen, Deputy Director of the Ankara museum, provided invaluable educational support. Naomi F. Miller, consulting scholar at the Penn Museum, and Janelle Sadarananda, graduate student in AAMW, provided additional adult supervision in 2015.


Turkish non-archaeologists sometimes wonder why we come all the way from America to live in a village for a couple of months, away from our families and the comforts of home, just to dig holes in the ground. Participation in a dig is an excellent way for people to answer that question for themselves. For the high school students in this year’s Cultural Heritage Education Project at Gordion, the opportunity came on July 8.

Large Middle Phrygian blocks in foreground
Large Middle Phrygian blocks in foreground

Ayşe arranged with Sarah Leppard, the supervisor of Area 1, to host the kids. Sarah is digging the monumental Middle Phrygian wall (ca. 800 BC).

The girls enjoyed sweeping up the dirt around the stone blocks that are bigger than they are; they commented that they already had excellent sweeping skills. The boys fit right in with the men who were clearing off the surface. Lest anyone think we are unaware of the gender implications, rest assured. Yet, a good time was had by all!

View of the excavation Area 1
View of the excavation Area 1
Sarah and Ayşe supervising the cleaning operation
Sarah and Ayşe supervising the cleaning operation
Irem and Berna
Irem and Berna
Sude and Süeda
Sude and Süeda
Mert and Ege
Mert and Ege

Having done some excavation, it was time to do some lab work. Janine van Noorden, our zooarchaeologist, had the students put together the comparative sheep/goat skeleton as an introduction to her concerns: the relationships between people and animals.

We start with a pile of bones...
We start with a pile of bones…
That begins to look like a skeleton
That begins to look like a skeleton

Janine asks, “What do the teeth tell you about the animal’s diet: dog, pig, or cow?”

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Many cultures around the world play with the heel bone (astragalus; aşık in Turkish), and Ayşe told us about the Turkish game. A highlight was Ege’s observation that if most of the animal’s weight is carried by the functional equivalent of toes, it’s sort-of like high heels.

Photo credits: all photos and movies by Naomi F. Miller


Part 1: Teens and Tumuli: Cultural Heritage Education at Gordion, Turkey

Part 2: Teens and Trowels, Cultural Heritage Education at Gordion, Turkey

Part 3: Teens and Trips: Cultural Heritage Education at Gordion, Turkey

Part 4: Teens and Treks: Cultural Heritage Education at Gordion, Turkey

Part 5: Teens and Tea: Cultural Heritage Education at Gordion, Turkey

Supplement: Angora Goats in Yassıhöyük, Turkey, Near Gordion


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