Orhan Çakmur

 * This article has been published first in the personal blog of journalist Orhan Çakmur, who attended the Archaeological Reporting Workshop for Journalists organized by SARAT Project. It is republished here with the permission of the author. For the original: http://www.beyazatlipress.com/terazinin-adaleti/ 


In ancient Egypt, they did not only weigh goods on the balance scale, but also people's sins. On one pan, they would place the heart of the dead soul, and on the other pan, the ostrich feather of Ma’at: the heart represented conscience and the feather justice. If the scale came to a balance or if the heart was lighter than the feather, it was believed that the soul was free of sin and evil. A heavy heart, however, meant too much sin, and the beast called Ammit would devour it immediately.*

I read this story about scales in the exhibition "The Charm of the Market: Shopping in the Mediterranean World Through History" which opened its doors at Kaleiçi Museum of Antalya, run by Koç University Suna & İnan Kıraç Mediterranean Civilizations Research Centre (AKMED).


Archaeological Reporting Workshop for Journalists 

In the weekend, as a group of enthusiastic journalists, we attended the Archaeological Reporting Workshop for Journalists at AKMED in Antalya, organized by SARAT Project (Safeguarding Archaeological Assets of Turkey) run by British Institute at Ankara.


At the beginning of the event British Institute at Ankara (BIAA) Project Coordinator Gül Pulhan delivered a presentation on “The Goal of the SARAT Project and Archaeological Reporting Workshop for Journalists”, and the project's media officer Nur Banu Kocaaslan made a presentation titled "Writing Archaeological News Stories: What to Pay Attention to, Where to Start”. It was a pleasant and informative presentation, which featured examples of speculative archaeological news stories from the press. We, too, shared our experiences and suggestions.

Journalists in Turkey have difficulty in accessing accurate information on archaeology, as in all other areas. In fact, hearsay, and inexperienced news editors play a big role in creating such erroneous news stories. Thanks to SARAT Project, this pollution of information and speculative news stories may be prevented to some extent.


In Turkey, everyone has an opinion about archaeology!


Within the scope of SARAT Project, a face-to-face opinion survey was organised across the country in order to understand how a society, which lives in a country rich in archaeological heritage, relates to archaeology, and through which approaches and values. This is also the first opinion survey on the society's relationship with the archaeology, carried out across Turkey.

In the workshop, Gül Pulhan shared the results of the opinion survey conducted among 3 thousand 601 people, face-to-face. To summarize, "Almost everyone in Turkey has an opinion about archaeology. The overall level of knowledge may be low, but everyone knows something.” 


The issues I find most interesting are the following:

When asked, "Has anyone in your close circle found treasure?" only 7 percent of the respondents say yes. 3 out of every 4 people say they would call the police or gendarmerie if they saw an illegal excavation. 12 percent say they would do nothing.

Across Turkey, archaeological ruins are upheld mainly for their spiritual value. According to the answers of the respondents, 60 percent attach spiritual, 50 percent artistic, 47 percent scientific and 32 percent economic value to archaeological remains.

56 percent of the respondents state that they checked their family tree through the "e-government" web site. The highest percentage is found among youth aged 18 to 32 years.

The most popular answer to the question "Which civilisation has shaped the Turkey of today?" is "All civilisations which have lived here for thousands of years." 46 percent of respondents give this answer, while 28 percent choose "Seljuks and Ottomans", 16 percent "Turks" and 10 percent "Muslims".

9 out of 10 people say, “those who damage historical artefacts should be punished”. It is also remarkable that people from all lifestyles agree on this point. 4 out of 5 people think that Turkey's archaeological heritage should be included in school curricula.

48 out of 100 people say they visited an archaeological site, while this falls to 29 percent among housewives. The highest percentage is seen among students and high-level employees. 


Include an archaeologist in the TV show Çukur!


Archaeologists complain that archaeology is seen as synonymous to treasure hunting. And you can't blame them. According to the survey results, as in many other areas of life, Turkish people gather information about archaeology mostly from the media, especially television.

Considering this impact of television, one can't but think, "What if a handsome archaeologist character were to be placed in a popular TV show, for example, in Çukur: Would it have a positive effect on the perception of archaeology? Could we thus explain to the public that archaeologists are indeed scientists not treasure hunters, and should not be confused with the latter?

This reminds me of the documentary "History Hunters", where Journalist Ahmet Yeşiltepe and Archaeologist Prof. Nevzat Çevik discussed the excavations in Demre Myra. It was a great documentary showing to the public how archaeologists actually work. Maybe we need more such documentaries.

One of the most striking results for me from the survey is that 47 percent of the people who participated in the survey in Antalya have not heard of Aspendos... Let me remind you, 2019 was declared “The Year of Aspendos" by Antalya Governorate. And last year was the “The Year of Perge”. Antalya Promotion Foundation organized great activities to inform local people, especially primary and secondary school children, about Perge. I hope that they will do the same for Aspendos. Almost half of the year is over, but there is nothing but the #AspendosYear hashtag on social media. 


“Shopping Throughout History” Exhibition


During the workshop, we also visited “The Charm of the Market. Shopping in the Mediterranean World throughout History” hosted by Koç University Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Centre for Mediterranean Civilizations (AKMED). 

The building which houses Antalya Kaleiçi Museum used to be Aya Yorgi Church in the past; today, it has been turned into a modern museum. The curator of the exhibition and AKMED Director Dr. Oğuz Tekin is among Turkey's leading scientists in the field of numismatics.

Oğuz Tekin explained that the exhibition started from Ancient Egypt under the pharaohs, and then covers the Mesopotamian civilisations, Persians, Classical and Hellenistic Age, Ancient Greek City States, and the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods: "This exhibition focuses not on commerce, but everyday shopping."

Within the mystical architecture of AKMED, which has been transformed from a church into a splendid museum through restoration works, we listened to the story of the oldest coins and scale weights in the history of civilization.

 IN ANCIENT EGYPT THEY WEIGHED PEOPLE'S SOUL ON THE SCALES! We see the earliest examples of scales for weighing merchandise in the ancient Egyptian civilization. However, the Egyptians did not weigh only merchandise, but also people's sins on the balance scale. In fact, scales are frequently depicted in the Book of the Dead, which consists of records of death and funerals with illustrations. On one pan, they would place the heart of the dead soul, and on the other pan, the ostrich feather of Ma’at: the heart represented conscience and the feather justice. If the scale came to a balance or if the heart was lighter than the feather, it was believed that the soul was free of sin and evil. A heavy heart, however, meant too much sin, and the beast called Ammit would devour it immediately.


The Lydian Kingdom and the invention of the coin


Towards the close of the 7th century BC, the Lydians made a ground-breaking achievement and invented the coin. Thomolos Mountain (today's Bozdağ) was the source of the Paktalos River (Sart River) which passed through the city of Sardis (today's Sart, Salihli), the capital of the Lydian Kingdom. Paktalos River carried pieces of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, from its source and to Sardis. Cognizant that their rivers were rich in metals, Lydians would dip sheep fleece in the rivers to collect the tiny pieces of electrum, which would later give rise to the legend of the “Golden Fleece”. These electrum pieces were then processed in a refinery and converted into metal for coins. The first coins of the Lydian Kingdom were probably minted under the rule of King Alyattes (ca. 591-561 BC). Analyses show that Lydians did not mint their coins from naturally occurring electrum, but rather interfered with the alloy to reduce its gold content and increase the silver content. Under the rule of Croesus (ca. 561 - 546 BC), Lydians stopped minting electrum coins and instead opted for gold and silver coins.


Shopping and exchange offices in the Agora


In antiquity, mostly men, slaves or old women would go to the agora for shopping; the presence of the rich, or young women in the agora was not considered appropriate.

In ancient times, there were exchange offices similar to those of present day.

The exhibition includes the following information on this matter: In one corner of or in the vicinity of agoras, there were shops that resembled today's exchange offices, which would change foreign coins with local coins. If someone from another city had coins of precious metal, such as gold or silver, in order to shop in the agora, they would have to change these with local coins of precious metal. Sometimes the foreign coin would be made valid by marking it with a stamp. The money changers in the agoras were called trapezital (Lat. argentarii). Money changers would provide this in return for a commission (eg.10%).


How to hold the scale? 


The scale (zugos) would be held from the handle at the centre of the beam. Constantine the Great (306 – 337 AD) instructed Euphrasius, the representative of the Treasury in three provinces that, while collecting tax in the form of gold, the scale shall be held with two fingers from its handle, and that the remaining three fingers shall remain free so as to make sure that they do not apply pressure on the scales.

Weights and measures were always considered to be among the most important public instruments, and thus the official standard weights and measures of states would be kept at the most important centres or holy temples.

CAROB SEEDS OR CARATS The etymological origin of the word carat, which is used for indicating the quality of gold, can be traced back to the word for carob seed (keration). A carob seed weighs 0.20 grams (or 200 milligrams). Since it is resistant to weather conditions and water, its weight does not change, and therefore it was used for millennia in weighing precious metals and stones. 

“The Charm of the Market. Shopping in the Mediterranean World throughout History” runs until August 31. Don't miss it.


Archaeologists complain from red tape, too 


In the final part of the Archaeological Reporting Workshop for Journalists, we listened to a remarkable presentation from Akdeniz University's Prof. Gül Işın on “Sustainable Archaeology”.


Gül Işın started her speech with the words, “I hope that archaeology may last”, and although she occasionally cheered us up with humorous remarks, she also shared worrisome information.

She proposed that archaeology should be referred to as not the “science of excavation” but the "science of the old" as its Latin root suggests, complaining “No one can pronounce the word archaeology in Turkey. Even we fail to use it correctly, and we are generally considered to be no different from treasure hunters”.

Gül Işın also indicated that Turkey fails to adopt to the new world of archaeology: “We did not even scan the interior of the Karain Cave to check whether there are wall paintings!”.

She shared striking statistics in her presentation:

For instance, Turkey has around 19 thousand registered archaeological ruins. There are only 190 museums and 138 managed archaeological sites run by Ministry of Culture; however, the number of archaeological sites rises to 50 thousand in the UK.

There are 915 archaeological ruins in Antalya, but only 28 museums and managed archaeological sites.

Antalya holds the record for the highest number of tourists, and also the smallest number of museums and archaeological sites!

We fail to safeguard our history. There are cultural heritage sites where scientific excavations began but these were later abandoned due to lack of funds, or red tape. Now any treasure hunter who gets his hands on a metal detector is free to dig around in those sites as he pleases!

Journalist Yusuf Yavuz indicated that in Italy, where illegal excavations and historical artefact smuggling is also very widespread, the Police Department has a special “Cultural Heritage Safeguarding Unit”. We discussed among ourselves whether we need an “Archaeology Police”.

Archaeologists complain much from red tape as well. Scientific studies in the field of archaeology should be freed from cumbersome bureaucratic procedures.

Turkey has over 50 archaeology departments at universities. However, most graduates work in other professions. Idealism can get you only so far.

I would like to conclude with three phrases from Professor Gül, which still resonate in my mind:

In Antalya, we can protect neither Pisidia nor Lycia. Pamphylia is already teeming with hotels.”

We may be totally indifferent, but an Austrian MP has asked: What do ancient artefacts from Antalya do here in Austria, so far away?" (As regards the Heron Monument, which has yet to be displayed after 134 years in the warehouse of Vienna Museum.)

“In America, they market even ghosts, because everyone shows interest in a good story. The Aphrodite of Datça, Knidos has inspired the entire world: Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Boticelli produced pieces inspired by this Aphrodite. Unfortunately, we are not even aware of our wealth.”

Archaeological Reporting Workshop for Journalists was one of the most pleasant and informative events I ever attended as a journalist. Next will be theOnline Certificate Program for Safeguarding Archaeological Assets”. If you are interested in archaeology, I would recommend you to pay a visit to the SARAT Project web site at www.saratprojesi.com/tr.


 What is the SARAT Project?


SARAT Project is named after the initials for ‘Safeguarding Archaeological Assets of Turkey’. The goal of the project is to enhance information / capacity and raise awareness for the protection of Turkey's archaeological assets. To this end, it organizes various studies and training programs. SARAT is led by British Institute at Ankara (BIAA), which collaborates with the project partners Koç University RCAC (Research Centre for Anatolian Civilizations) and ICOM United Kingdom.