From the Turkish Daily News:

Christine Bruns-Özgan, head of the archeology department at Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar Universitesi, knows the historical value of a Turkish stone all too well.

Having lived in the heart of Turkey, Konya, for 26 years and having attended dozens of excavations in her lifetime, Bruns-Özgan, a German native, told the Turkish Daily News that Turkey holds a new surprise for her and the country's cultural collective history every year.

Bruns-Özgan's path to Turkey in many ways started when she was still a school-girl attending an international school in Belgian capital Brussels, where her father, a lawyer, was working to organize legal details of the now European Union, she said.

There she learned to think outside the box of nations and understand that “we are all people.” It was this wide perspective that prepared her to make the leap to move to Turkey years later when as a student of archaeology she traveled to the region for excavations.

“As archaeologists we are traveling most of the time,” she said. “It wasn't uncommon for us back then to travel to Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey and North Africa,” often becoming pioneers not only into the realm of history, but by extension of their work of geographies.

As a result she arrived to Turkey in 1978 to participate in an excavation in Muğla province at a time when “it was still not a well-known country,” she said. “To travel was different at this time.”

On her first trip to Muğla she experienced something that in many ways became a theme to the rest of her career, not unlike other archaeologists trying to work in Turkey. There she saw how the quest for natural resources, in this case coal, conflicted with the preservation of history.

It was “The clash of history and progress,” she said. In her mind this clash is also evident in the choice of the government to create a ministry that houses both culture and tourism.

“Turkey is the only country that has tourism and culture together in the same ministry; it's a paradox,” she said. “It's wrong.” As an archaeologist, she said this is a conflict of interests.

“Culture is for everyone and it's necessary for the identity of a nation. But the people in tourism just want to make money. They just think of accommodation, restaurants and amusement,” she said.

Although these are also very necessary, she said, they should not work against and defy culture and the preservation of history. “We have so many examples of clashes like this and all archaeologists can tell you about them,” she said.

In the southern town of Patara, for example, on a long beach after the 1960s, pensions and hotels were built. But then the archaeologists came to draw tourism by revealing the ancient history of the town.

“We aren't working for ourselves. We're presenting our work to the community and people. The local community and hoteliers didn't see this and they wanted to stop it and even burned one of the houses where the archaeologists were holding their equipment,” she said.

Her own life project in Turkey has been excavations in Knidos that started in 1989 through the work of her husband and colleague a professor at Konya University.

Although they have been working at the same site every summer over 20 years with teams of professors and students usually for two-month stretches, she said that at the annual archaeological symposium held in Ankara every year she gets up in front of her colleagues and says: “yet another surprise!” she told the TDN.

Her book on Knidos, printed in 2004, is already outdated by all the “amazing finds” they've since unearthed. A new edition is on its way, she said.

A love for a place and its people

The archaeological duo met in Bonn, Germany in the 1970s where they both studied archeology. The two fell in love and soon Bruns-Özgan found both of her passions, archeology and man, leading her to Konya where her husband – and later she – landed a teaching position. “If I told you all of the events leading up to me moving there, it would be a film,” she said. When asked if she met any other German compatriots who made Konya their home in the quarter of a century she lived there, she thought for a few seconds, and said, “yes, one.”

Bruns-Özgan managed to convince her parents that Turkey was no more dangerous than neighboring Greece. “I was in love,” she said and explained that archaeologists more often than not marry foreigners, in countries where they spend significant time excavating. “I know some Turkish-German couples only in the field of archeology,” but, “I started the tradition of course,” she said jokingly. Bruns-Özgan credits her European education for her fearlessness to live in a foreign country at that time. “There weren't many flights between the two countries, but we managed it,” she said.

The many layers of Knidos

Excavations in Knidos offer the archaeological team from Konya a double reason to love the ancient site that is located on the very end of the Datça Peninsula because “you can work and have holidays,” said Bruns-Özgan. That is, if you are into hard work under the sun from dawn to dusk interrupted only by an afternoon cooling swim and lunch. “Excavations are not easy but you have the sea and it's a nice climate,” she said. “We are like pioneers and detectives,” she said.

Knidos hosted civilizations from as early as the 13th and 14th centuries B.C. and is the birthplace of Sostrates of Knidos, the architect of the lighthouse of Alexandria. The lighthouse 110 meters tall was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was built in the 4th century B.C. and survived well into the 14th century A.D. when it was destroyed by earthquakes.

When asked what is the most important find the Konya teams found in Knidos Bruns-Özgan had a difficult time answering, not for a lack of treasures. “Every year we find exiting things,” she said.

In the first years the team visited, the site seemed like a “virgin” one, she said. Excavations in Knidos were stopped in 1978 and the site had been unprotected for 10 years. Tourists who made their way to the site by boat or the rocky dirt road could practically pick up the artifacts, said Bruns-Özgan. “It was unprotected, undetected; a forgotten place,” she said of the site.

When the archaeological teams from Konya started coming in, the local authorities looked at them with much suspicion, said the archaeologist. The local authorities wanted to use the site as a tourist place and had established half a dozen restaurants that tourists would crowd to on boat tours. “We fought and still fight,” she said. “They want tourists and money, but not culture and history, and they don't understand that the tourists, they are interested in the ‘stones ,'” she said of the ancient ruins. Since then, of course much has changed. The site is now protected by the municipality and the excavations supported from the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

Bruns-Özgan showed the TDN photos of the ruins of Knidos where she and a team of other colleagues and students are once more gearing up to set up shop over two months this summer. Although Bruns-Özgan describes the process of getting to the point where as an archaeologist she can do her work as one of the important themes of working in Turkey, she said, the finds are not to be forgotten.

“Of course the finds are also important for us. For archaeologists in our work we're not searching for a hidden treasure,” she said. “We're looking for the remains of history. For us a small bone can be more important than a gold earring.”

Bruns-Özgan opens her book on Knidos and points to an image of a head of a statue that dates back to the 4th B.C.. “It was an amazing discovery for us,” she said of the marble head. “We weren't expecting such an early find.” The woman's head in the image belongs to classical antiquity rather than the Byzantine, Hellenistic, or Roman periods that left the majority of historical traces found in Knidos. Both the quality and time of the find made it exciting for Bruns-Özgan, “because we don't have many samples from that time.” The fact that the head was an original rather than a copy, made it even more valuable. A common practice in antiquity was to copy statues of great sculpture masters. “They were affected by Greek sculptures and made copies of famous originals,” she said. In 2004 another original sculpture turned up in Knidos the work of a sculptor who Bruns-Özgan and her team believe participated in the making of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, an important work of antiquity the remains of which are located in present day Bodrum.

On another digital photo on her computer, Bruns-Özgan shows the TDN the site the Konya team of professors and students has been focusing on for the last 10 years. It's a storehouse located by the sea 130 x 50 meters. “This was completely under the earth and it's exciting that such a long building came to life,” she said. “In one of its rooms we found inscriptions and statues,” she said. In a photo she shows a room exposed to the sun covered in blue marble.

In another photo she shows an inscription in Doric, a Greek dialect where each letter was inscribed on a different marble plaque. She tells the story of how all the letters were jumbled in a bag, and one morning up before the rest of the group she put all the pieces on the ground to try to make sense of what they were. “I like puzzles she said,” and that as she realized it meant something, she became more and more fascinated and surprised to find the letters spelling the name of god Apollo.

Bruns-Özgan now lives in Istanbul, where her husband, soon to retire will join her this summer. “It wasn't an easy decision to move here,” said Bruns-Özgan, but “it's been good for research.” And at the end of the day, from an archeologist's point of view, this is the city of culture after all.

In a country where so many civilizations met often concurrently, Bruns-Özgan said it is not uncommon to find in antiquity the traces of expatriates and bi-cultural individuals as one does today in Turkey. “We find this phenomenon even in antiquity and we excavate it,” she said. “Especially people in Anatolia felt like this, where the different cultures were intertwined,” she said.