The Fledgling: The Maeander Archaeology Project

The Big Maeander River by Ali Ertim

I haven’t really wanted to write much about the project I’ve been working on–even now it’s a bit scary to mention it because there are so many ways it can fail. I always have at least 3 or 4 (more like a dozen) academic schemes up my sleeve at any point in time and most of them fail. I don’t have time to implement them, I don’t have the money or the technology (or my knowledge) is just not there yet. Obviously I like talking about the projects that succeed much more. The success of the Meander Archaeology Project  is impossible to tell so far, but it’s been an incredibly important part of my life for the last few months–too important to keep it under wraps, even with the potential of a large public disappointment.

So it was with great hope and absolute dread gripping my heart that I dropped a large envelope off at FedEx, containing the applications of my colleagues for a research permit for archaeological survey in southwestern Turkey. I’ve been looking around for suitable regions to begin a project for a couple of years now. Last summer in Jordan and Syria were very much occupied by that very task. More and more I realized that as much as I love learning Arabic, that my heart (and some of my favorite archaeology) was in Turkey. Everything since then has been a whirlwind. I’m lucky enough to have some incredible friends and colleagues who are willing to try out a new project with me. I got to see them all yesterday, in their most unflattering guise–passport photos that I stuck to dozens of visa application forms, seven copies for each person to pass through the labyrinthine bureaucratic process. The passport photos were so bad (most of them were taken at the last minute–my fault) that I wanted to post a note along with the package, “The team is not normally this angry or this stoned, I promise!”

Still, it would have been absolutely impossible to come even this far without the love, interest and support of Daniel Eddisford, Dan Thompson, and Ruth Tringham. So the permit is in for recommendation by ARIT, and the visa applications are finished, and there are some funding schemes in the works. It will be hard if this project doesn’t come through this year, as we’ve put so much effort into it, but I’ve learned so much that ultimately it will be worth it even if we have to try again next year. Here’s to hope & very occasional and fleeting success!

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