Amsterdam

The first stop on my 7-week trip was Amsterdam, where the EuroITV (Interactive Television) conference was being held. Brian Amento and I participated in the Social TV workshop and presented a short paper. This was my first time to The Netherlands and I took the opportunity to explore as much as I could between conference events. Although I never got out of greater Amsterdam, I got a decent feel for the place and people. I opted to stay in a hostel to avoid crazy hotel prices. However, I quickly discovered Amsterdam is not the best city for this type of lodging. My bunkmates were on an 8pm to 6am schedule (my conference was 8am to 6pm) and were generally engaged in “extracurricular” activities. The conference lasted 3 days.



Turkey

From Amsterdam I flew to Istanbul and then onto Izmir, where I stayed the night. The following day, I headed to Aphrodisias by bus. The archeological site would be my home for the next 5 weeks. This season’s work was generally an extension and refinement of work started last year. Early in the season, I ordered new ASTER digital elevation models from NASA. This was significantly higher resolution than out older SRTM data and allowed us to get some better results from our old predicative models. A large swath of high-resolution QuickBird imagery also opened many new GIS avenues. One this seasons big pushes was the exploration of a large aqueduct system that brought water from a neighboring valley through a series of sizeable bridges and tunnels. The GIS-ers mostly concentrated on reconstructing it's path from known portions. Another project looked at modern agricultural plot orientations to see if there was a relation to the ancient city grid. If there was, it would suggest agricultural land was redistributed and organized in antiquity according the city plan, and this scheme has survived to modern times. Additionally, there was an effort to reconstruct the routes of ancient roads that radiated from the city. This was achieved using a combination of tomb alignments (they generally faced the road), modern agricultural boundary orientations and locations (old roads and near-road-structures would make plowing difficult), known destinations, and gates in the city wall. All of the research mentioned will be published in forthcoming papers.

The summer was not all work. We were given a two-and-a-half day break halfway through the season. Four of us took this opportunity to rent a car and head to the Southern Mediterranean coast. We based ourselves in Side, a neat little town right on the ocean with a great collection of ruins (and unfortunately, loads of tourists). From Side we visited Aspendos, Perge and Termessos – all great Greco-Roman sites. We also briefly hit Antalya, a big, modern, but interesting city. Throughout the season, we hit Karaçasu’s Monday market for fun and lunch. We combined this with a trip to ruins of Antioch on the Meander late in the season. A Turkish wedding made for a memorable night. In addition to food, drinks and dancing, tradition calls for guns to be fired into the air throughout the event.



Jordan

With 7 days to spend and a determination to see the whole country, it was destined to be a whirlwind visit. After a quick tour of Amman’s central sites and sounds, we blew south to Petra, arguably one of the most spectacular archeological sites in the world. We spent a full day there and saw pretty much everything. From Petra, we headed further south to the fabulous desert-scape around Wadi Rum, where we took a 4x4 tour with a neo-Bedouin guide, and slept a night under the stars. Public transportation is limited in Jordan, so we resorted to hitchhiking north the following day to Ma’an, where we had better luck finding a bus. We hit Karak for its imposing crusader castle and Madaba before the end of the day four.

The next day we scooted off to the Dead Sea to float around in its ridiculously salty water (super buoyant). We also hiked up the wet, wild and beautiful Wadi Mujib, essentially a deep and narrow gorge cut by a fast moving river. Scrambling over waterfalls in a canyon 10 feet wide and 200 feet deep is crazy fun! Day six – We headed eastwards to visit four desert outposts, returning to Amman in late afternoon. It was Friday, and things were quiet in the city center. However, from our experiences in Cairo, we knew the place to be was the Mall! Mecca Mall was packed and quite a cultural experience – how often do you see a group of Bedouin men in full garb munching down burgers in a 1950’s themed American diner. Or women shopping for lingerie in full body gowns, covered-face and all. On our final day in Jordan, we zipped off to Jerash, a well preserved and sprawling Greco-Roman city north of Amman. Bus service had ended by 4pm, so we had to hitchhike back most the way to Amman. We splurged at a fancy Lebanese restaurant for dinner before grabbing our bags and heading to the airport.

© Chris Harrison