I’m a freelance archaeological illustrator who works for a variety of archaeological projects, including the Çatalhöyük Research Project. I draw artifacts, infographics, and maps, as well as reconstruction scenes of past people, architecture, and landscapes. Becoming an archaeological illustrator was a long journey, I was an archaeologist first. I earned a B.A. in Anthropology and a M.A. in Archaeology, as well as spending over 7 years as a working archaeologist, before deciding I wanted art to play a bigger role in my life. I found archaeological illustration allowed me to combine my archaeological background with art to earn a living, at the same time as fulfilling my artistic cravings. To this end I earned a professional certificate in Science illustration from the California State University, Monterey Bay and I’ve been running my freelance business ever since. You can see the range of my work here.
I am currently on site at Çatalhöyük, a 9000-year-old Neolithic settlement on the Anatolian plain in Turkey. Dr. Ian Hodder runs the project through Stanford University. Çatalhöyük is known for it’s tightly packed mudbrick houses, wall paintings, and female figurines. You can find out more about the site here. This is my 11th season as site illustrator and the project’s 25th and final field season. As this year’s Day of Archaeology falls on a Friday, our one day off a week, I thought I would describe an average day of work here.
Our working day starts a 6 am and goes to 6:30 pm with a short breakfast break and a longer afternoon break when the heat peaks. I have a lot to get done this season as the project is preparing a final round of publications and this is my last chance to draw artifacts for the different specialist chapters (no artifacts can leave the country). Right now I am in the midst of drawing pottery sherds, groundstone tools, and some figurines. Each artifact is carefully measured and drawn to scale in pencil. At this stage I usually confer with the material specialist to make sure I have included all the details they are interested in, such as manufacturing marks or special views. I then ink the illustration by hand on drafting film and add finishing details such as scales and continuation lines digitally. I also work closely with the site photographer, Jason Quinlan, to make sure everything is documented properly. I sometimes even use his orthophoto models as a foundation to draw on for very complicated objects. Because there is so much to draw, I have 3 other illustrators helping me out this season: Caroline Hebron, Jennie Anderson, and Danica Mihailovic. A not insignificant portion of my time is going to management of the other illustrators, meeting with the material specialists to arrange what everyone is drawing, and archiving the finished illustrations. Below are some examples of different types of artifacts that I have drawn over the years at Çatalhöyük.
There are currently no ongoing excavations, the last digging stopped a couple weeks ago. When there is active excavation I am sometimes called up on site to record wall paintings or other complicated features. I use sheets of clear mylar to trace off the wall paintings and then scan and digitize them. Once they are in digital form I can use my knowledge of other wall paintings on site to try and reconstruct parts of them. While I haven’t recorded any wall painting this season, I am still working on digitizing and reconstructing older recordings. Below are and example of a wall painting recording and of a architectural feature recording.
Finally, in between drawing artifacts and reconstructing wall paintings, I have been working with the excavators and material specialists to collect information for future reconstructions. We have several publications coming up that will need reconstructions of people’s activities, architecture, and landscapes. Off site this year I will be working on a series of isometric drawings of buildings excavated since 2008. Before I leave site I need to make sure I have all the information necessary to do this, including excavation records, 3D models, building plans, and elevation drawings. I’ve also started conversations with different material specialists about possible reconstructions of different activities that took place on site. This is always a time consuming process, involving many conversations and drafts to get the details and archaeological evidence represented just right. Below are some examples of an isometric drawing and some reconstructions from past publications.
My average day here at Çatalhöyük often involves a mix of all these different tasks. I’m pretty tired by dinnertime at 6:30pm. After dinner I usually spend time at our makeshift bar with friends, escaping into a novel, or knitting to relax (I think I’ll get a sweater completed this summer!). One thing I’m not doing this summer in my downtime is taking care of my daughter. She’s been with me on site for the past 4 seasons, starting when she was 3 months old. This year my husband, who is also an archaeologist, did his field work early and has her at home.
While I’m sure I have many exciting archaeological illustration adventures ahead of me, I’m going to miss Çatalhöyük in the coming years. I’ve made life-long friends here, interacted with amazing archaeology, and had the time and space to develop my illustration skills. For that I’ll be forever grateful to the Çatalhöyük Research Project and Dr. Ian Hodder.