Undergraduate fieldwork bursaries 2016 –Beth Watson and Nick Groat at Sinop Kale Excavations

At the Department of Archaeology we offer our undergraduate students fieldwork bursaries to help fund their participation in archaeological fieldwork or work experience within the heritage sector. These present fantastic opportunities for our students to develop their skills and to enhance their CV. Successful applicants report back to the department about their experience. Here, BA Classical and Historical Archaeology student Beth Watson and BSc Archaeology with Employment Experience graduate Nick Groat write about their experiences excavating with Sheffield Archaeology staff in Sinop, Turkey.

Nick Groat

In July this year I was fortunate to be invited back to excavate as part of the new season at the Sinop Kale Excavations Project in the coastal town of Sinop, northern Turkey. A key shipping port since antiquity, Sinop is located within an extensive archaeological environment with many connections to the sea, where one aim of the project was to investigate the nature of pre-Greek maritime settlement as well as the early Greek settlement and its later development. Unfortunately, the excavations were prematurely ended because of the political situation in the country, however the Undergraduate Student Bursary from the department allowed me to work in an archaeologically rich area of the world and develop my archaeological skillset, albeit it for a shorter period than expected.

Understanding such themes and techniques helped me to appreciate the intricacies and deeper connections between the material we were uncovering, the landscape we worked in, and the prolonged cultural or social changes over time.

nick groat

A short, but successful season in 2015 confirmed the need for further excavation in 2016, and hopefully for many years to come. Adjacent to the incredibly well-preserved city walls, Archaic, Hellenistic and Byzantine material had been uncovered within two excavation trenches from 2015, where there was also a strong representation of prehistoric ceramics. Furthermore, a possible prehistoric structure with associated ceramics was also uncovered. Based on the results of last year then, there was a possibility that Early Bronze Age to Iron Age structures forming the basis of an extensive, prolonged settlement could be found.

The experience and academic knowledge that I gained whilst I was working in the town presented me with a wider appreciation of Black Sea archaeology...

Nick Groat

Nick Groat and fellow Sheffield Archaeology student excavating near the Hellenistic fortification

Sinop Kale Excavations 2016

The excavation this year was therefore expanded to include extensions to both excavation trenches to confidently characterise deposits and features identified during last year’s season, but also reveal the extent and age of the settlement. To achieve this, I was excavating within part of the foundation trench of the city walls where, because of prior work on defining the walls and construction of a now disused bus park, many of the archaeological deposits had been disturbed. Working with such material presented a number of challenges, though I quickly learnt how to differentiate between deposits, and (as a consequence) I experienced the difficulties that arise when working on ‘developed’ archaeological sites.

The excavation was supplemented with lectures or talks by the academics and archaeologists running the project. These provided the necessary archaeological, historical and scientific context for both the material that we found, but also the analytical and excavation methods employed on site. Understanding such themes and techniques helped me to appreciate the intricacies and deeper connections between the material we were uncovering, the landscape we worked in, and the prolonged cultural or social changes over time. It was refreshing to be working within a learning environment alongside an archaeological project, as I truly felt that I was learning practically about the material that we encountered during the excavation. As Sinop itself is filled with visible archaeology, a number of the talks incorporated tours around the remains to provide tangible representations of the subjects discussed. It was through a combination of practical excavation, lectures and visits that I built a holistic understanding of the area in which I was excavating.

The experience and academic knowledge that I gained whilst I was working in the town presented me with a wider appreciation of Black Sea archaeology, beyond focussing just on Turkey. The excavations furthermore opened me up to exploring wider archaeological questions on mobility and exchange within the Black Sea region, which still can have an impact today. The project equally allowed me to undertake an archaeological investigation in a different country, which also carried new protocols and materials that I would never have encountered within the UK. Over all, I am grateful for the opportunity that the Undergraduate Bursary opened for me to work in Sinop, where I hope I will be able to work again. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Jane Rempel and Dr. Susan Sherratt for getting me onto the project, along with the Director of the Sinop Kale Excavations, Associate Professor Owen Doonan, for being so welcoming and providing a great working environment for me and everyone involved.

Beth Watson in Sinop

3D model of a section of the Hellenistic fortification wall created using photogrammetry

Beth Watson

After surviving the threat of terrorism, a military coup and an earthquake, it is safe to say the excavation at Sinop Kale was a first time experience to remember and tick off my bucket list! Saying this, it was one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences that I had the privilege to take part in. I learnt a lot about archaeology from a completely unique perspective, as well as meeting a wide range of personalities and nationalities, and living in a completely different culture.

...it was one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences that I had the privilege to take part in.

Beth Watson

It was a major disappointment for me that due to the political situation we had to leave 2 weeks early, particularly as I was enjoying the excavation so much. At the site, we were uncovering a range of objects and architecture from a broad time span, including Hellenistic and Byzantine foundation walls, cannonballs, delicate pottery and Bronze Age buildings. As well as the spectacular finds, I was working with professors with wide range expertise in different areas of archaeology, which made me feel very grateful to be asked to excavate at this site.

...I was able to undertake my own photogrammetry and total stationing research project...

Beth Watson

Whilst out at the site, I was able to undertake my own photogrammetry and total stationing research project, supervised by Jane Rempel. The aim of the project was to be able to record and phase the existing standing Hellenistic fortification wall at the site of Ancient Sinope, a task which has never been undertaken before. It is visible throughout the Sinop isthmus today, and would have served to ensure the security of the Ancient Greek settlers at the site.

For someone who had only ventured outside the country very few times, it has opened my eyes to the world of possibilities in archaeology further afield...

Beth Watson

My original intention for the final project was to be able to create a 3D model of each section of the wall, which could be stitched together and then I will start to undertake phasing the sections of the wall, which would help in understanding the dating of the site. As we left early, I was unable to stitch the models I had created using MeshLab, and did not undertake any total stationing work.

However, the research I have conducted will undoubtedly help further the understanding of Hellenistic Sinope. I hope that I can participate in future seasons at the site, as I have learnt so much and enjoyed the experience thoroughly. For someone who had only ventured outside the country very few times, it has opened my eyes to the world of possibilities in archaeology further afield. I’d like to thank the department for the funding, as it helped me to have one of the most memorable summers in my life.

For a summary of the results of the 2015 season of the Sinop Kale Excavations, see ‘Sinope ancient Kale excavations 2015’ in the Antiquity Project Gallery 351 (June 2016): http://antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/578

Sinop Kale Excavations web site: http://srapexcavation.wixsite.com/kale