It may have been the extra four hours I added onto an already gruelling itinerary by moving west this past year, or it may have been merely the usual lack of sleep on an overnight flight, but my first hours in Turkey were strangely surreal. After nine years it still feels bizarre to have traveled so far only to find it all so wonderfully familiar. Once we reached “home” here at Zincirli and I’d had a solid night’s sleep and a full morning’s work, I felt a second assault on reality: had I actually ever left?
Returning to Zincirli reminds me of Christmases past – a confusion of memories tumbled one on another until separating one season from the other is near impossible. How many seasons have I worked with each of these people? Who was here the year we found the stele? Remember so and so? Who went to the sea with us that year? The familiar stories are re-told; we offer up our newer tales and settle into the familiar routine.
I joined the dig already two weeks in progress. The areas under excavation were already significantly changed from the past season and notable things found. We’re a sizeable team this year – nearly 50 – and in five days I have still to put names to all the fresh new faces. Some dear friends of past seasons are missing, but it is nonetheless like coming back into the embrace of family.
My table is strewn with drawing instruments and sketches and a few carefully placed artifacts awaiting the morning’s work session. The curtains flutter with cool night breezes, making the fan at my elbow finally redundant. The final call to prayer of the evening is echoing through the courtyard. Another week begins.