Peter Talloen and His Ancient Lycian Sites

Peter Talloen Kaş, Turkey Antique Theatre

Peter Talloen at the Antique Theatre, Kaş, Turkey

Peter Talloen was born in Asseborek, Belgium in 1974. He moved from Belgium and now lives just outside Kaş in Çukurbağ village. He has been married to Nurçin Alp since April, 2000 and they have a young daughter Piraye who was born in 2007. Peter has a Doctorate in Archaeology from the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium).

His professional and scientific career in Turkey started in 1998 with the Sagalassos-Project, an ancient city located near Burdur in modern Turkey where he has conducted most of his research and field work supervising excavations mainly in and around Sagalassos.

Sagalassos Map West Turkey

Sagalassos Map location in West Turkey

His current position is as an Honorary Research Fellow attached to the Centre for Late Antique Archaeology at the University of Kent (England) under the direction of Dr. Luke Lavan. Peter is also the Beale-Osborn post-doctoral fellow of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. The purpose of this fellowship is to publish research done in the course of doctoral level study regarding ancient Religious Practices in Pisidia.

At the Catholic University of Louvain he earned a Licentiate in Archaeology, a Master of Arts in Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology, and in 2003 he graduated with a Doctorate in Archaeology. He also has a Diploma of Turkish Basic Knowledge from the Centre for Languages, Catholic University of Louvain. He speaks great Turkish and English, and his academic experience is deep and extensive for such a young man.

(See below for more about Sagalassos and Peter’s accomplishments)

Early Life and Influences:
Peter’s mother was a secretary at the Belgian Ministry of Roads and Bridges and his father was an engineer for Clark Automotive, mainly known for their forklifts. Peter thinks that his sister had an early influence on his choice of profession. While a student she visited Greece, Peter saw her photos which prompted him to read the Iliad. He believes this was when his interest in ancient history took form.

He credits his early schooling for another early influence. Many extra-curricular activities were required in his school where they visited many museums and even some archaeological sites. This led him to further interest in the field.

Peter and crew Apollo Klarios 2005

Peter and crew Apollo Klarios 2005

Peter took his first trip to Turkey in 1995. He came as an undergraduate student to participate in the excavations at Sagalassos. He was immediately impressed with the size and the monumentality of the site. He also took some time off to visit other places. This was also his first exposure to a multi-disciplinary and multi-national project. There were archaeologists, historians, architects, engineers, archaeozoologists, palaeobotanists, anthropologists, geologists, cartographers, geomorphologists, conservation specialists and others from Europe, the United States, as well as Turkey.

Peter returned to Sagalassos again in 1996, missed a year and returned in 1998 where he met his Turkish wife Nurçin. She was a Licentiate student from Istanbul University who had just finished her undergraduate study in archaeology. She threw some stones at him to get his attention (although she blames a local workman for this) and they started their relationship soon after. Later that year she came to Belgium to meet his family and in 1999 she moved to Belgium where they stayed until 2006. During that time she worked as a translator for academics who were writing about archaeological projects in Turkey. When they did return to Turkey it was to manage the Medusa Hotel where they worked together for four years. Peter continued in that position until 2010 when he was offered new research and field work opportunities.

About Turkey; Culture and Lifestyle:

Nurçin and Peter

Nurçin and Peter

Peter thinks there are few, if any, cultural differences in their marriage. Nurçin is a thoroughly modern Turkish woman, well educated and they both like living in Turkey because of the friendliness of the people and the climate.

He likes the close family ties of extended families in Turkey and believes people are more open to others here than in Western Europe and he likes the curiosity of Turkish people. Turkey also has a very diverse population who come together on a regular basis.

Peter remembers an incident when he was waiting at a dolmuş stop. A Turkish man came along and saw he might be waiting for a while and handed Peter a bag of apples! The man then went on his way, a complete stranger.

He also likes the easy availability of craftsmen (“ustas” in Turkish). He likes the way that ustas find immediate and practical solutions to a problem and he finds their “just in time” approach to fixing something both interesting yet, at times, frustrating. In Belgium he said you have to make an appointment weeks in advance to have a plumber come to your house but not in Turkey.

Peter Talloen at Patara Gate, Patara, Turkey

Peter Talloen at Patara Gate

Because there are more ancient sites in Turkey than in all of Western Europe, he has experienced many opportunities as a working archaeologist to meet a wide variety of professionals from diverse backgrounds. “Some of the best-preserved Greek and Roman ruins are scattered throughout south-western Turkey—indeed, there are more in Turkey than in Italy or Greece—and visitors can wander through their ancient theatres, stadiums, temples, and streets, as the Romans had had a presence in Asian minor, or modern-day Turkey, for close on 1500 years.” (Source: History and Archaeology at

Peter says there are at least 800 or more ancient cities in Anatolia, and it seems there are at least that many on this list!

Q: We asked Peter to make a generalised recommendation to anyone who visits Turkey and who is interested in Turkey as to where they should go and what they should not miss seeing?

A: “Turkey has it all; long and varied coastal areas, as well as mountains where there is deep snow and skiing is a sport. It has large cities and tiny villages and diverse landscapes leading to equally different cultures.” He recommends that a first time visitor take a few weeks to really tour the many different parts of the country and then return to spend more time in the areas that most caught their interest on their first visit.

Q: We asked Peter to recommend to a visitor/tourist who is interested in ancient historical sites, what top 10 would he recommend not to miss? Why does he believe they would be of interest to a tourist instead of an Archaeologist?

Ancient Anatolia in what is now modern day Turkey

Ancient Anatolia

Peter’s top ten classical sites in Turkey:

(1) Istanbul: the capital of the Byzantine empire, founded by Constantine in 330 at the site of the city of Byzantion, which remained the centre of the Byzantine world until it was captured by the Turkish sultan Mehmet the Conqueror in 1453. A must see.
(2) Ephesus: city in Ionia that became the capital of the Roman province of Asia and home to one of the ancient wonders of the world, the temple of Artemis; the well-preserved remains give a good impression of what an ancient city looked like in Asia Minor in the Roman imperial and early Byzantine period.
(3) Pergamon: city in Mysia, capital of the Attalid kingdom during the Hellenistic period, a nice example of Hellenistic city planning and one of the health centres of antiquity.
(4) Aphrodisias: city in Caria with a famous sculpture centre (with a fantastic museum on site) and home to a sanctuary of the goddess Aphrodite.
(5) Hierapolis: city in Phrygia built near the spectacular basins of Pamukkale formed by hot water sources, with one of the largest ancient necropoleis of Turkey.
(6) Perge: city in Pamphylia, an important harbour since the Bronze age with well preserved Hellenistic fortifications and Roman imperial monuments such as an impressive colonnaded street.
(7) Sagalassos: small provincial town in the mountains of Pisidia but remarkable for its well preserved buildings which are the object of anastylosis projects, the restoring of life to the ancient ruins.
(8) Xanthos: city in Lycia, regional capital with monuments (such as excellent examples of Lycian funerary architecture) spanning more than 1500 years. – Xanthos is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
(9) Zeugma: city in Commagene, site of a legionary camp and trading post on the Euphrates, with numerous villas on its river banks; now unfortunately largely under water as a result of the construction of a dam, but several of its mosaics can be admired at the museum of Gaziantep.
(10) Antioch: City in (the Roman province of) Syria, Antioch was the 3rd largest city in the Roman imperial and early Byzantine world with a population estimated between 250,000 and 450,000. The ancient city lies buried beneath present-day Antakya but an impression of the wealth of remains can be gathered from the mosaics kept in the local museum, one of the finest collections in the world.

Bouleuterion Nurçin at work

Nurçin working at the Bouleuterion

Q: Finally we asked him what are his plans for the future?
A: He told us that he hopes the publishing of the book he is writing will enhance his CV sufficiently so he may apply to a Turkish university as a full time faculty member. If this does not happen he is considering archaeological guiding for archaeology students and teachers as well as more generalised tours for the public.

For such a young man, Peter Talloen has accomplished a lot. We believe he is a real talent and a serious contributor to Ancient Anatolian Archeology and the opening of its history to the rest of us. Thank you.

Sagalassos Information:

Peter Talloen’s research and field work is mainly in and around the ancient city of Sagalassos, Ağlasun (Burdur-Turkey), directed by Prof. M. Waelkens of the Catholic University of Louvain, where he has participated in the excavations of the Agora Gate, the Lower Agora, the Roman Baths, the Upper Agora, the Bouleuterion, the North-East Gate, the Temple of Antoninus Pius, Alexander’s Hill, the Potters’ Quarter, the so-called Gymnasium and the Sanctuary of Apollo Klarios. Other research included the mapping of two early Christian basilicas and the study of terracotta figurines and early Christian objects.

Visiting/How To Visit Sagalassos tells all about this site, what visitors can see and what there is to see.

(in)sitephotography “is the first photobook about the archaeological site Sagalassos. Since 2003 Bruno Vandermeulen, an official faculty photographer and Danny Veys are photographing the finds and structures of the city. Being a photographer, they approach the site with another perspective than the archaeologists. This book is a photographic impression of the dig with all her monuments and quarters.”

The site is also to be found on the Sagalassos Facebook website.

Peter and crew Macellum 2005

Peter and crew Macellum 2005

Peter Talloen’s Accomplishments

PhD Dissertation: Cult in Pisidia. Religious Practice in Southwestern Asia Minor from the Hellenistic until the Early Byzantine Period.

From 1998 until 2003 Peter was a Research Assistant for the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders (FWO) and from 2003 through 2006 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Fund at the Sagalassos-Project under the direction of Prof. Marc Waelkens of the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium).

During the off season from the Medusa Hotel, Peter was a collaborator of the Icrates-Project under the direction of Prof. Jeroen Poblome of the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium). “The Inventory of Crafts and Trade in the Roman East (ICRATES) Platform of Dr. Jeroen Poblome (Catholic University of Leuven) has been assembling a nearly exhaustive database of all pottery, including tablewares, from the Roman East.”