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What is not an archaeological survey?

In Turkey, archaeology is still considered synonymous with “the science of excavation (kazıbilim in Turkish)” which is the reflection of an antiquated understanding of archaeology. In fact, an archaeological survey is not limited to inventorying cultural remains (e.g., inscriptions, rock monuments, settlements), nor is it just the precursor of an excavation.

So, what is an archaeological survey?

An archaeological survey is a sub-discipline of archaeology that is independent from excavations. It uses multiple methods that are often interdisciplinary.

Ruveyda Ceylan documenting a cistern on Dana Island using the photogrammetry technique known as Structure-from-Motion (2019)
Ozan Sepetçi and Nur Erdemci working at Church IV on Dana Island (2019)

An archaeological survey takes a holistic approach towards cultural landscape in such a way to study all the places that humans inhabited (e.g., city, village, farm), used, transformed (e.g. fields, agricultural terraces, water sources), and gave meaning to (e.g., hills, sinkholes).

Nihan Arslan and Ozan Sepetçi taking measurements to draw the plan of the buildings on Güvercin Island (2019)

An archaeological survey, unlike excavations, makes a minimal physical impact on the cultural remains. As such, it ensures the preservation of cultural heritage using sustainable field methods. Just like excavations, surveys are systematic, complex, and long-lived.

Nihan Arslan filling the data template for quarries (2019)
Mine Esmer and Ozan Sepetçi drawing and measuring a quarry and necropolis (2019)

An archaeological survey may comprise different types of fieldwork and field methods.

• An archaeological survey may aim to prepare the cultural inventory of a region or it may focus on a single type of cultural remain (e.g., inscriptions, tombs, shipwrecks).
• An archaeological survey may study individual settlements (e.g., a city, a village).
• An archaeological survey may aim to understand and interpret the changes in climate, in the environment, in agricultural and pastoral strategies.
• An archaeological survey may be an intensive pedestrian survey, an indispensable component of landscape archaeology, that collects surface finds (e.g., sherds, lithics, metals) diachronically and systematically using various sampling methods, and studies them in the context of environmental features such as topography, geology, and soil characteristics.


All these different types of field investigations may be carried out individually or in tandem.

Field methods are determined by research questions, as well as the archaeological and natural characteristics of the study area. 

Rebecca Ingram and Fatih Timirl studying the coastal features on Dana Island (2016)
Hilal Küntüz concentrating on a complicated area on Dana Island (2019)
Vegetation clearance and surface cleaning for photography at Church V on Dana Island (2019)
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