My Experience in Ankara

An Internship at the UNESCO Chair of Cultural Heritage and Digital Memory

During February and March, I had the opportunity to take part in an internship in Ankara in cooperation with the UNESCO Chair of Cultural Heritage and Digital Memory at both the Ankara Baskent University and the Ankara Bilim University. Over the duration of six weeks I took part in multiple courses and projects and had time to visit some sights in and around Ankara as well as a small excursion to the city of Fethiye on the Aegean Sea.

I arrived in Ankara on the 31st of January in preparation to begin my work at Ankara Bilim University on the 1st of February. Upon landing and while I took the shuttle to my first accommodation, a Konuk Evı (guest house) directly next to the main building of the university, I was immediately greeted by the Anatolian winter. It was snowing heavily around Ankara, which was the first time I ever experienced snow in Turkey, as I had been only there during the summer months before that time. A stark contrast, compared with the mild winter we had experienced in Germany during that time. The guest house was more akin to a basic hotel, which was equipped with all the necessities. However, because it was secluded on the weekends – the Bilim University is situated within a big industrial zone – far away from the city centre, I only stayed there for the first 9 days of my time in Ankara. Prof. Atik Korkmaz had kindly also arranged a Room within the guest house of the British Institute at Ankara (BIAA), which I choose to stay in for the reminder of my time in Turkey. The room with the BIAA had some considerable advantages. Not only was it closer to the city-centre, allowing me to easily visit the ancient sites within Ankara and the big museums during my stay, but it also allowed me to visit the rather extensive library of the institute in my spare time. Thereby allowing me, to continue work on some other projects on the weekends. The only downside, to this change of accommodation, was the increased travel time to and from the University grounds.

During the first week, while I was still staying close to the Bilim University, I did not actually work there, but worked with another colleague, Dr. Alev Değim Flannagan, at Baskent University. During this first week, Dr. Değim Flannagan and I worked on a little project using the 3D program Maya. Building upon our digital reconstruction of the Doliche terrace basilica, which we constructed during a prior course in Germany using Cinema4D, we imported the file into Maya to improve on that project. The aim of this was to render some shots of the church for visualization purposes, and then convert the model into an exemplary 3D environment, which people could access using a virtual reality headset or a 3D app on their phones. After some early problems due to converting the project into a Maya file, we worked on texturing the building and detailed it further. We were even able to include light sources within the building to replicate the light emanated from candles and oil lamps. It was interesting to see how closely both Cinema 4D and Maya operated, and after some initially getting used to the program, I could transfer a lot of the skills I had used to create the Cinema4D model, to build upon that working with Maya. After finishing the model on the final day of the week, I returned to Baskent University during my final week in Ankara to import the model into a 3D environment using the free website kuula.co. Here we imported some 360° pictures we rendered in Maya and build a small walkthrough of the building as an example of how these models can be used for a 3D experience.[1] While working with Dr. Değim Flannagan, she gave me invaluable tips and tricks to operate these types of 3D programs more fluently and efficiently.

After the first week, however, I settled into a rhythm which was to repeat for the following five weeks. We established a schedule for my work, which effectively split my time between the Baskent and Bilim Universities. Prof. Atik Korkmaz was kind enough to set up a desk within her own office, from which I could work on during that time. Most of my time at Bilim University went into the preparation of the open lecture Anadolu Kültür Tarihi, a lecture about Anatolian cultural history. Together with Prof. Atik Korkmaz, I created the syllabus of the course as well as a bibliography with the necessary material for the students. We talked about the strategy and ideal composition of the lecture as well as the individual sessions, and what was needed for it to be structured with a certain pedagogical goal in mind. In the end, the course represented a walk through the cultural development of Anatolia, beginning with the earliest cultural remains like cave paintings and neolithic architecture and ending with the architectural developments in late antiquity. As the course was an open course, the students who enrolled for the course were from totally different institutes. The challenge was, therefore, to present the material in a way easy to understand for people who are not working within the fields of architecture and archaeology. We tried to make the lectures engaging by involving the class using several types of pedagogical exercises. Thanks to the kindness of Prof. Atik Korkmaz, I was allowed to present not only the 1st session together with her, but completely hold the following two sessions on Landscape and Topography as well as on the neolithic period on my own. This was the first time I had to prepare and hold a course for a full class of students, and I would lie, if I would say that I wasn’t a bit nervous. However, the experience of teaching a course was invaluable and, in the end, also fun, as I could teach the students something about architecture and archaeology while they allowed me to experience how to interact and teach in an engaging way. While it was difficult to get the students to collaborate with me and answer questions in the beginning, for the most part because I held the course in English, and I think they were a bit shy about their language skills – unnecessarily so – they were very kind and opened up after the initial session.

During the weekends I took the time to visit the different sites, that Ankara had to offer. Next to the obvious sites of the temple of Augustus or the ancient kale – the ancient and mediaeval castle – I also visited Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who holds a special place in the heart of the people of Turkey even today. I also visited a couple of museums, where specifically the smaller Erimtam Museum was in my opinion absolutely gorgeous. It had a small collection of ancient artefacts which were stunning in their own right, however, the way they were displayed was wonderful as well. At the halfway point, I even had the chance to visit Gordion, the ancient capital of the Phrygian people, which is located about a 50-minute drive outside of Ankara, and which was made possible by a colleague of mine, who took the time to drive there with me.

Finally, the team of the UNESCO Chair organized a small excursion during my last weekend, where we visited the city of Fethiye in the south-west of Turkey. While we were in the region, we visited the ancient site of Patara where we met Prof. Havva İşkan Işık and Prof. Fahri Işık, who kindly gave us a tour around the site and a detailed explanation of one of the most important cities of the Lycian league and its surrounds along with it. Next to Patara we also took the time to visit the ancient site of Xanthos. It impressed me with the numerous tombs constructed in a specific archaic type, which was in use in the Lydian surrounds much longer than in mainland Greece. Especially the tomb of the Harpy impressed me due to its sheer size and matriculate ornaments. Even if the originals are nowadays stored within the British Museum in London. On the last day before we headed back to Ankara, we took the time to visit Letoon, an ancient Lydian sanctuary close to Xanthos, where Prof. Atik Korkmaz had been active as an archaeologist in previous years. She showed us around the sanctuary and explained the different temples and the stone garden with its numerous pieces of ancient architecture. While the weekend was extremely stressful due to a car ride of about 18 hours within three days, and just a lot of input during this time, it was very entertaining, not least because of the team of the UNESCO Chair, and a genuinely nice dinner at the old fish-market of Fethiye. Furthermore, it gave me the opportunity to visit three important ancient cities, which is always valuable experience as an archaeologist.

All in all, I must say, that I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ankara. Especially because of all the lovely people whom I met and worked with. Now that I am back in Münster, I am looking forward to meeting them again, the next time we excavate in Doliche this summer.

Written by Fynn Riepe


[1] You can experience the 3D tour yourself via this link: http://kuula.co/post/NXzhv/collection/7qZDv If possible open the link via your mobile phone, as then you will be able to look around the structure by moving your phone in different directions.

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