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The Carving in the Rock Pile

Courtesy Katie Regen

STONE AGES: The family—with Annie in the backpack—at Hieropolis.

By Katie Wilfert Regen

When our family of six moved to Ankara for my job as a foreign service officer with the State Department, we knew very little about Turkey's fascinating multilayered history—Hittite, Phrygian, Persian, Roman, Byzantium, Ottoman, to name a few. But my husband, Kelsey, and I figured we'd pile the girls (Catherine, now 12, Claiborne, 9, Charlotte, 6, and Annie, 3) in the car for history lessons and adventures. We turned to our large collection of guide books, and more than once I sighed and wondered aloud why I didn't take advantage of what I'm sure were wonderful ancient history and archeology courses at Stanford.

After almost three years, our daughters have become a bit ruin-weary. There was a moment last August, as we explored the Lycian Way, when Claiborne piped her displeasure from the back seat. "Why do we have to climb another pile of rocks and pose like broken statues in the hot sun?" she queried as I—the navigator—suggested yet another promising place to stop and trek. "Don't listen to her, Daddy. Keep going!" But I think Turkey's incredible history will resonate a bit more when the girls realize that things like our "old" house in Alexandria, Va., (built in 1929) are anything but, and that much can be learned from piles of ancient rocks.

One of our best adventures in Turkey was a visit to Çatalhöyük—a spectacular site of well-preserved Neolithic and Chalcolithic ruins dating from 7,500 to 5,700 B.C.E. Çatalhöyük appears as a slight mound on the plain from a distance, but turns out to be an impressive 20 meters high. During our visit, there were several active excavations and it was fascinating to see the teams (Turkish, British, Polish) at work in sock feet armed with trowels and sieves and tiny paintbrushes.

While the grown-ups took a tour with the site director, the kids got the fun of actually digging at a part of the mound initially excavated in the 1960s. Material dug out of the main site created a jumbled pile of detritus. Using professional tools, the kids worked with Turkish archeological assistants and bagged their finds to be examined later. Everyone found something, but Claiborne, then 6, made the find of the day, which the archeologist on site announced at lunch. She found a carved animal figurine—probably 12,000 years old!

Much to her dismay, the find had to remain on site to be catalogued and accounted for. Much to my delight, I discovered that the Çatalhöyük dig is overseen by a Stanford professor—anthropologist Ian Hodder. I look forward to reminding Claiborne of this adventure when she hopefully applies to Stanford and needs to write an application essay.

KATIE WILFERT REGEN, '89, is returning in July to a State Department assignment in Washington, D.C.

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