Trish Yerges
The La Grande Observer

Clara Gambill spent the month of July at an archeological dig site at Antiochia ad Cragum near Gazipasa in south-central Turkey as part of a 13-member archeology team.

Gambill, the daughter of Chuck and Natalie Gambill, graduated from La Grande High School in 2016 and is currently a junior at St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota, working toward a double major in archeology and history.

Gambill said she has loved American history as long as she could remember, and during the summer of her junior year at LHS joined a friend and traveled to see the Pompeii ruins in Italy. After that experience, her interest switched to ancient history.

This summer, she took her ancient history passion to new depths when she received a scholarship to join St. Olaf College Professor Timothy Howe’s archeology team on the southern coast of Turkey.

“The professor who took us goes there every summer to dig,” she said.

The site where Gambill was digging is an ancient Hellenistic city on Mount Cragus overlooking the Mediterranean coast in the region of Cilicia in Anatolia. The city was founded in 170 B.C. Today, the site is encompassed in the village of Guneykov of the district of Gazipasa in the Antalya Province in Turkey.

The ruins of the city will be the excavation project for archeologists and students for the next 10 years, she said, and it includes a watchtower, public baths, a temple with a baptistry, a bishop’s house, a necropolis, a bouleuterion and a theater, among other structures.

“There was a team of anthropologists there who were going through all the bones from the necropolis,” Gambill said.

Artifacts unearthed at the site have revealed cultures of Hellenistic, Roman, Armenian, Byzantine and Medieval periods. Gambill was digging a site active in the Byzantine period (330-1453 A.D.) or what Gambill described as the early Christian period.

“We were doing a Byzantine work on top of an ancient Roman city,” Gambill said. “Pirates were very active in the
Roman Republic in the area, too. Their ships sometimes were in a cove nearby where they could hide and then come out and attack other ships.”

Every Friday during leisure time, Gambill and the other students in her team swam in that same cove.

“It’s very beautiful (there),” she said. “The water is so pretty, sort of aqua (colored), and it gets darker the deeper it goes out. Our team was working right on the cliff edge, so we looked at a beach every day. It was so hot and we would just stare at it.”

In the Byzantine watchtower where Gambill was excavating, pottery was discovered, which helps to date the building. Every day, Gambill and the other students washed the pottery pieces with a brush and made drawings of them. In a nearby depot building on site, Turkish students in the restoration team put the pottery pieces back together and the pieces were analyzed by a woman who would date and identify the pottery.

See more in Wednesday's edition of The Observer.