After spending decades doing research and conducting archaeological digs in the Middle East, one former Duxbury resident says he still calls the South Shore town home.
Owen Doonan, director of the Sinop Regional Archaeo- logical project and Duxbury High School graduate, has spent more than 15 years directing an archaeological project in northern Turkey and is now reaching out to the Duxbury community. After living in Turkey for decades, Doonan said the community is very similar to Duxbury, with a rich history of shipbuilding and coastal trade, and he has become inspired to reach out to residents who would like to learn more.
Doonan has worked on over 200 sites near the Black Sea. Through his work he has discovered a history that he had never expected. As part of his work, he is studying how people lived from 4000 BC to the late 1800’s. This summer, the project will start an excavation at the heart of the earliest lonian Greek colony.
“We could find anything from a palace to pottery to evidence of pre-Greek cultures,” Doonan said. “It’s a very interesting way to look into history.”
Part of the reasoning for excavating the site is to take a look at Black Sea culture in the time period. In other similar areas, evidence of Ukrainian and Romanian culture, as well as European artifacts, has told a story of a wide trading system across the Black Sea, a story that was widely unknown until recently.
“It’s as dynamic as the history of the American colonies,” Doonan said. “It’s very similar to Duxbury or Plymouth, where the pilgrims would not have survived without the re- lationship they fostered with the natives.”
The trade system isn’t the only similarity Doonan has found between the coastal Turkish towns and Duxbury. Doonan has learned that the first American ship that was permitted to sail into the Black Sea was one of the great ships built by Ezra Weston, other- wise known in Duxbury as “King Caesar.” The ship was based out of Marshfield and built in the North River in about 1830.
“There are many parallels between the coastal communities of Duxbury and the sites we have been exploring,” Doonan said.
Doonan, whose parents still live on St. George Street, said that, despite having lived in Turkey for many years, he still calls Duxbury home and is glad to still have many connections to the town. He will be returning to America on April 7 to present his research to the New York Explorers Club. He will talk about his program and his hopes to invite undergraduate and graduate students from various colleges across the country to Turkey to help with the archaeology project.
When asked what he enjoys about his line of work, Doonan’s answer was three- fold. First, as a researcher, he believes the Black Sea was misunderstood and understudied for many years and has found the opportunity to learn more and teach others about the area very rewarding.
“When you think about world history, it was actually the spot where the three greatest civilizations came together,” he said. “It’s the center of the ancient and middle ages and it’s nice to be part of the first generation of modern scholars to develop the story of this place.”
Secondly, as a teacher, he feels Turkey is a country that Americans should “get to know and appreciate.” He said the people are welcoming and the culture is fascinating.
“The area is actually quite progressive,” he said. “I think it’s very important for Americans to get a sense of the Middle East as a place where there are a lot of progressive attitudes.”
Lastly, as a global citizen, Doonan said he believes there is more to be done to foster understanding between Turkish and American people.
“It’s a really great opportunity, given how appealing the place is,” he said. “It is a beautiful and compelling area and it’s a chance for us to build bridges between cultures.”