"Cruising the Carian Coast" is our second cruise in Turkey since October 2019, On this occasion, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a kind of travel diary on our blog, following precedents from Greece, Ireland and Turkey. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that), every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
I am writing this in one of the finest anchorages on all of Peter Sommer Travels' gulet cruise itineraries. We are in what was once the commercial harbour of Knidos, certainly one of the most important ancient cities in the region. Sitting on the deck of our gulet, we see countless ancient walls, some standing columns, a theatre and much more.
The day started in a cove near Bodrum, then led us southwards to the Datça or Knidos peninsula and an idyllic cove, before we proceeded to where we are now.
Of course, we went ashore for our tour of Knidos. When we do this, we show our guests the site and its many wonders: the twin harbours, the agora and temple of Dionysos, the intriguing Stoa of Sostratos, the main harbour road, the complex of sanctuaries including the shrine of Apollo Karneios and its wonderful altar, the little theatre by the shore. We also tell them stories, from the Knidian's provocative innovativeness via the Aphrodite of Praxiteles, perhaps the first female nude in Greek art, to the touristic attention it commanded in antiquity.
Great stories for a great site. Even greater this time, because much reconstruction work that I saw in progress on previous visits is now complete. It is always great to see an archaeological site developing along with new discoveries and new reconstructions (as long as they are solidly based on evidence). A series of monuments in the agora area have been reconstructed, adding an element of glamour and new avenues of story-telling.
One of the things I love most about Knidos (and there are a great many) is that we always walk across vast quantities of ancient pottery. Pottery, as I never tire to say, is the type fossil of Mediterranean archaeology. Pottery is the plastics of antiquity: a cheap and versatile material, available nearly everywhere, that can be used and shaped to make containers for storage, transport, cooking, display, and that will break eventually, but never decay. Pottery fragments usually betray a lot of information: their origin due to fabric and shape, their age due to shape and decoration, their purpose due to shape and context. As some of our readers may know, I am trained to analyse ancient pottery, so I am always glad to scan the ground, pick up a piece and explain it - then to put it back right where it was found - we never take anything with us!
Todays' star find was an amphora toe. Amphoras are the omnipresent pointy-bottomed transport vessels of antiquity, used to hold liquids like wine and oil, but also loose solids like grain. The object we see in the image was spotted by one of our guests and it is the point of an amphora, what scholars call the toe. It is probably from a vessel holding Knidian wine - a major export product of the city. It is a great joy to spot and examine such an object on an archaeological site, and understanding it is the aim we share with our guests.
As an archaeologist, it is clear. Every stone we see, every wall, inscription, column or building needs to be observed and interpreted. So does every pottery fragment. As an archaeological guide, I have to explain that process. Today was a good start.
Tomorrow, we'll see one of the most important ancient fortifications in this area.