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Look Who was Here


"Looking at Boğsak Island from the shores of the bay, you might think that this rock is an empty place except for a few walls. Researchers who had  studied the island before me wrote about houses and churches but they had not realized that the settlement covered the entire surface of the island. In fact researchers who wrote on Boğsak Island never spent much time here. When we first set foot on the island on 7 July 2010 with Ender Varinlioğlu (my father), we were extremely worried. We told eachother “this place is so rugged, how on earth shall we work here?” However, this research project that have launched on Boğsak Island with a small but resilient team, persisted 11 years thanks to our determination, passion, hard work, and a lot of it. Despite all difficulties, it has gradually transformed into an international project that applies several novel methods across the Taşucu Gulf. The only thing that stayed constant was the difficulty to work in this region, and the deep connection and love I felt for the project and the area."

Günder Varinlioğlu,  architect-archaeologist
Going to Boğsak Island (2012)
A typical frame (2012). Keep following the flag.
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"When Dr. Günder Varinlioğlu wanted to continue her work in Cilicia on the islands located on an important pilgrimage route, we were sitting on the shore trying to discern the remains on Boğsak Island at a distance. Meanwhile, the locals that were by our side were telling us that there was not a single building on the island because they had transported the stones to the shore for other uses. In fact, we have found the remains of seven churches on this small island. With a bit of exaggeration, the island does not even an empty plot of land large enough for a flower pot.


The survey continued on Güvercin and Dana Islands in subsequent years. The stone quarries on Dana Island must have procured the building stones for settlements in the vicinity, such as Aphrodisias. On the other hand, the needs of the islanders must have been procured from the nearby land. For example, the inhabitants of Boğsak Island, which does not have any empty soil must have tapped into the resources of the fertile lands in modern--day Karabucak. In search for this, Boğsak Archaeological Survey continued its expedition also on land in conjunction with the research on the islands. For example, a large settlement (modern-day Gölcük), located in the hills behind Boğsak was recorded for the first time.

This year (2021), for the first time since the beginning of the project, the Boğsak Archaeological Survey Team has a facility with relatively good living and working conditions. I remember vividly our work ten years ago, when we would return to the island after lunch and siesta on modest plastic chairs in front of the Office of the Mukhtar of İmamuşağı. I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the contribution of the team spirit of those years to the archaeological survey."

Ender Varinlioğlu, epigraphist
Adil Yılmaz and Hatice Çınar, accompanied by the government representative Özgür Topbaş, resting in shade (2010)
Planning office work starts on the island (2012)
Adil Yılmaz, resting in a tomb on Boğsak Island (2013)
Mine Esmer and Ozan Sepetçi mapping in an area of Dana Island where quarries and tombs intertwine (2019)

"In the 2010 field season, when my bus from Istanbul entered the Silifke station and doors opened, my first thought was “should I go back?” Because, with doors wide open  a hot and muggy air also entered the bus. My Boğsak adventure that has thus started that day continued for five campaigns. I enjoyed very much discovering new things at evey moment, facing challenges specific to the island in addition to the climate. I believe that I owe my capability to carry out archaeological work in a different and difficult geography since 2015, to my field experience in the difficult conditions of Boğsak. There, I have learned a lot about stones, in particular."

Adil Yılmaz, archaeologist
Hatice Çınar prepares a one-person fashion show in the school yard (2012)
Ender Varinlioğlu working on his book with the help of Alim, aka the scholar cat (2018)
Team members enjoying the view on the roof of Church V on Boğsak Island (2013)
Günder Varinlioğlu, Adil Yılmaz, and Ender Varinlioğlu are ready to take air photographs over Boğsak Island with the blimp (2010)
Destination Dana Island (2016)
Ender Varinlioğlu, Burak Baran, Günder Varinlioğlu and Adil Yılmaz, preparing the blimp for air photography (2010)

“BOGA has provided me with the chance to get a deep understanding of rural Late Antique settlements. Although the project had more challenging conditions than other field projects, swe worked with a great and meticulous team. Upon my first encounter with the BOGA Project, at the very first sight of the Boğsak Bay and Boğsak Island, I feel like I've come home. It makes me think of the Little Prince's sketch of the snake that swallowed an elephant. It is the villagers, particularly backdoor neighbors, Çiko, the project's cat, her various feline relatives, our captains who greet us cheerfully even at five in the morning, and my dear "child" friend Muhammed Ali that provide this "home-like" feeling.

On our free days, we can drive in the Silifke district to discover archaeological sites and best-to-swim beaches. Aside from this, drinking "Tarsusi" (Turkish coffee served in a tea-glass) and chatting with Ender Varinlioğlu at our Silifke coffee-house is a great pleasure. In addition, künefe (a special Turkish desert popular in the south and southeast of the country) is a must. Not to mention Şifa Baharat (a store selling spices and other herbal products), where we get wonderful laurel soaps and centaury oil for cure-alls. BOGA is a pleasant experience full of good memories, where we have always worked productively. For this amazing experience, I would like to thank all the team members with whom I have worked so far, especially the head of the project, Günder Varinlioğlu.”

Mine Esmer, architect
Team members in preparation for photogrammetry (2013)
The method that Ahmet Çinici uses to be able to work under the sun (2014)
Ender Varinlioğlu, the conqueror of Boğsak Island (2010)
Time for office work (2013)
Hilal Küntüz drawing architectural sculpture in Church V on Boğsak Island (2015)

"Since 2015, BOGA has been a part of me, and Boğsak my second home."

Hilal Küntüz, art historian-archaeologist
Our captain Tekin Kırtıl, Günder Varinlioğlu and Hilal Küntüz (2017)
Nicholas Rauh helping the boat coast Dana Island (2016)
Goats on Dana Island (2016)
Günder Varinlioğlu, Hilal Küntüz, and Nur Erdemci taking a nap after fieldwork (2016)
On the way to Dana Island, like all the team members, Kıvanç Başak and Hilal Küntüz are having breakfast on the boat (2017)
The team has just finished the terrestrial LiDAR work on Boğsak Island (2016)

I was first invited to join the Bogsak Survey in 2016, and I find the area more and more interesting every year. The heat and mountainous terrain are a bit difficult in the summer, but it is one of the most interesting areas I have worked in Turkey, and certainly one of the most beautiful (especially the mountains across from Dana Island at dawn in the summer). Because the ancient remains are so well preserved on this coastline, you can see how the coastal settlements were linked to each other and to the mountainous areas inland. Many of these sites are small, but they are connected to the larger centers (such as Silifke/Seleucia ad-Calycadnum) and tell us a lot about how they functioned and depended on each other.

Günder and other colleagues I met on the project have worked in the region for many years and have taught me a great deal. I continue to be impressed by the energy and flexibility of Günder’s team: her undergraduate and graduate students deal with some very challenging conditions with excellent problem-solving skills and a lot of good humor. They have always given me and my students a warm welcome, and I have always had fun working with them. Many of my best memories of fieldwork are from this project, and every summer I look forward to coming back to Boğsak to make some new discoveries.

Michael Jones, archaeologist
November sunrise in the Boğsak Bay (2016)
Hilal Küntüz and Yasin Öztürk taking measurements for the plan drawing of the church complex in the south fort (2017)
Looking towards Church I from the interior of Church V on Boğsak Island (2016)
Nur Erdemci, Ozan Sepetçi and Ruveyda Ceylan resting after the final quarry photogrammetry work of the campaign (2019)
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"It was a pleasure to join such a professional team and to be welcomed so warmly. We met people on the mainland who talked about the way they farm and live in the landscape. This information is so precious. I have a memory of us hiding from the scanner behind the east wall of the church enthusiastically discussing phases of walls."

Mark Jackson, archaeologist
Cem Ardıl hiding from the laser beams of the LiDAR not to spoil the data collection (2016)
Nur Erdemci drawing pottery (2016)
Ruveyda Ceylan preparing for photogrammetry work on Dana Island (2019)
Mine Esmer and Nihan Arslan, after finishing the drawing and measurement of the most dashing cistern of Dana Island (2018)
Ozan Sepetci taking pictures for photogrammetric modeling on Dana Island (2019)
Kıvanç Başak and Günder Varinlioğlu wearing bee keeper clothing to escape from the swarm of yellowjackets (2017)

"A 'moment' when I was watching the sky through a collapsed dome and feeling like I was watching the earth from the space station, while being able to sail through an arched opening at the same time. Boğsak was definitively like that to me: a unique Byzantine settlement where I was caught in all sorts of illusions in the 'moment' and lived 'moments' to my heart's content. Boğsak Island is a huge, covered place. Oh old sport, I am happy for those who are able to experience it."

Cem Ardıl, art historian-archaeologist
Sunrise from Boğsak Island (2015)
Sunrise at Boğsak (2014)
Sunrise at Akdere (2016)

"I joined BOGA in 2016 thanks to my enthusiasm, and my persistence as well, and I have been a member of the team for six years. BOGA was the first archaeological project I participated in, and I can say that it was also the most difficult one due to the field conditions and the hot weather. For me, BOGA means friendship, team spirit, teamwork, working efficiently without giving up even in difficult conditions. I believe that BOGA has improved me a lot academically and taught me to be productive  despite the heat, insomnia, and fatigue.  All the technical things that I learned in archeology and fieldwork come from BOGA. Of course, this was possible with the attention and help of my professors and friends. I can't help but mention our cats. Even though Mersin is hot, and Boğsak and Dana Islands have tough working conditions, every time the Boğsak Archaeological Survey is mentioned, the good memories and friendships I have made over the years come to my mind."

Nur Erdemci, art historian
Enes Kahriman, Nur Erdemci, and Ozan Sepetci after finishing the mapping work in Aphrodisias (2018)
The team members evaluate the work on the top of Church V on Boğsak Island (2013)
The team on Güvercin Island (2019)
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"We used to go to the island by boat early in the morning and complete the drawings in the afternoon. In addition to all the experiences I have gained in the process, I have developed the concept of a new kind of office place: Working at a table under the tree barefoot while the wind is blowing, and spending time with the same people day and night in a routine and being productive. BOGA allowed me to experience a new practice of place and work process."

Cansu Saka, architect
Ofis work (2016)
Cleaning pottery (2016)
Landing Boğsak Island for laser scanning in November (2016)
Enes Kahriman preparing for photogrammetry (2019)
Enes Kahriman waiting on the shore for the boat's return trip (2019)

"When I look back, the first feeling that I still remember, as did all the other team members,  was the pleasure of discovery. I would like to clear those places from grass and bushes once again. The decisions I make today are affected by my experience in the BOGA project. I would like to thank Professor Günder Varinlioğlu and the whole team."

Serdar Çetin, architect
Kıvanç Başak teaching photogrammetry to the team members (2019)
On the way to Dana Island (2019)
Kıvanç the cat helping compile the list of archaeometry samples (2019)
Nicholas Rauh on the shore of Dana Island (2019)

"Besides the fact that working in places such as Boğsak and Dana Islands, where the terrain conditions are so difficult, increased my self-confidence, BOGA not only enabled me to go through with my dream of working in the field of archaeology, but also helped me to study historic preservation in archaeological sites in an academic framework. However, the land conditions were not the only challenge for me in this project. For the first time in my life, I had to live together with a large group of people other than my family, and in an environment where all responsibility is shared. Although it was difficult at first, thanks to the harmony and balance within the team, spending time in Boğsak has become such a good thing that I have longed to work in the field and to live in Boğsak, in the project I participated in as a workaholic in the first place. As a person who does not like cats at all, I became a cat lover thanks to my dear teammates, dear professors, and our beautiful cats. After waking up at night and waking the ladies up as well -although they didn't like it very much- the first thing I did was always feed my cats. I think I like the fact that BOGA made me love cats and the beautiful life in Boğsak more than its academic contributions."

Nihan Arslan, architect
Ozan Sepetçi preparing for SfM (2019)
Team members sleeping on the way back to Boğsak (2019)
Airborne LiDAR team, BOGA and Purdue University (2019)

"Boğsak has greatly contributed to my development in different subjects. I have to say that it has increased my resilience and awareness for life. Learning by experience the answers to questions such as what is the importance of shade in human life and what can be done to avoid the sun (sleeping in tombs for less exposure to the sun and for a little bit of cooling), what do enzymes do (keep away snakes and other harmful creatures), what are the effects of heat and lack of sleep on the brain (forgetting the passwords you use every day, even talking) was an important experience.  In an academic framework, what I learned in survey techniques, methods, art history, and other auxiliary fields exceeded my expectations. The work done is the best expression of this situation. I received this training not only from the project director, Günder Varinlioğlu but from everyone from the researchers to the students who participated in the project. For this reason, I can confidently say that it has contributed a lot to me in an academic framework. In addition, BOGA represents a team that has different colors, and each color is beautiful in its own way. The conversations and adventures I had with each of them added to the smilets that are engraved in my memory and that appear on my countenance as I think of them."

Ozan Sepetçi, art historian
Nur Erdemci taking pictures for SfM (2019)
Dr. Alex Turner, an expert in laser scanning, determining the reference points for terrestrial LiDAR (2016)
Climbing to Dana Island (2017)
Daffodils on Boğsak Island (2016)
At the end of the work day, the instruments brought to the summit of Boğsak Island should be carried back to land. Fatih Tımırlı is descending with the tripod used for the laser scanner on his back (2016)

"BOGA has helped me to acquire competencies in many fields such as professional surveying, technical drawing, and 3D modeling. At the same time, with its approach to art history and archeology from different perspectives, BOGA taught me to work in the field by predicting what these disciplines would turn into in the future.  Besides, we obtain information about living and surviving in the climatic and terrain conditions where we work. Taking into account every possibility, we have also obtained information about field injuries, bee stings, or poisonous snake bites. We learned that working in difficult climate and terrain conditions is a team job and we need to act together. We learned a sense of responsibility and patience of living together 24/7 for a long time. These acquired knowledge and behaviors are things that we can utilize not only in the project but also in our whole life."

Enes Kahriman, art historian
Team members in Boğsak (2018)
Günder Varinlioğlu and Nur Erdemci discussing smart phone applications used for geocoding (2018)
Nur Erdemci, taking pictures for SfM (2018)
Enes Kahriman, Erman Akyüz, and Nur Erdemci in the office at Boğsak (2018)
Landing on Dana Island (2019)
Jonathan, a member of the BOGA team (2017)
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"During my undergraduate education, I took courses on building survey from my professor Günder Varinlioğlu with an innovative perspective. We started to produce three-dimensional models with the Structure-from-Motion technique that we learned in class. I continued to do this with passion. I became acquainted with BOGA in September 2018 when I knocked on the door of my dear professor Günder Varinlioğlu, who had just returned from Mersin at that time. After that day, she said that "There are two Hilals in the project, we will call you JR.," and I accepted. Within the scope of the project, my modeling adventure that included first architectural sculpture, then extended to aerial photographs has started. I continue to create models with the data given by my teammates without going out to the field. Even though I haven't been in the region physically, thanks to what my friends narrated to me, sometimes even I forget that I've never been there. In addition to the technical skills that BOGA gave to me, teamwork and friendships are more prominent. I feel very lucky to be able to hold on to a job done with love and faith."

Hilal Kesikci, art historian
Analyzing the air photographs of Boğsak Island (2015)
Team members learning how to draw plans and measure with GNSS before getting into the field (2019)
When the drone is in the air, one must take a team selfie (2019)
Günder Varinlioğlu, Michael Jones, and Kıvanç Başak ethusiastic about starting fieldwork (2019)
On the way to Dana Island before daybreak (2019)

"Boğsak was the first archeology project that I participated and my first internship. The sense of family, cooperation, and teamwork in Boğsak impressed me so much that it inspired me for my future excavations and for the rest of my life. Despite being the 'rookie' of the team, I owe a lot to my teammates and especially to my professor Günder Varinlioğlu, who gladly taught me the work discipline and technique and made me feel comfortable in the field and my daily life. Hope to ride the boat back to Dana one day and have breakfast on the boat!"

Erman Akyüz, archaeologist
Team members filling pottery forms with Nicholas Rauh’s guidance on Boğsak Island (2015)
Hilal Küntüz and Nicholas Rauh working in Gürbüzler Restaurant where they finally found internet access (2015)
Günder Varinlioğlu and Hilal Küntüz, on their first trial of the RTI method in the Silifke Museum (2017)
Günder Varinlioğlu wearing bee keeper clothing (2017)
Günder Varinlioğlu, Hilal Küntüz, and Emin Baydağı using the RTI method in the field (2017)
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