Category Archives: TURKEY

Traces of Medieval Madrassa Uncovered in Turkey

Traces of Medieval Madrassa Uncovered in Turkey

The ruins of a 12th-century madrassa (Islamic school) have been discovered in Turkey’s southeast, one of the world’s oldest settlements on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, said the archaeologist leading the dig.

Excavation work has been going on for eight years in the Harran settlement in the Sanliurfa province, Mehmet Onal, head of the Archeology Department at Harran University, told Anadolu Agency.

Harran, a onetime Assyrian and Umayyad capital located 44 kilometres (27 miles) southeast of the city of Sanliurfa near the Syrian border, was an important Mesopotamian trade centre on a road running south to Nineveh in modern Iraq and has been continuously inhabited since 6,000 B.C.

Saying that Harran is frequently mentioned in history books because it is one of the world’s oldest settlements, Onal added that during 2021 excavations, they found important remains such as a street, a monumental gate, and a madrassa.

Monumental find

“During the excavations, a madrassa was found, which we have determined with archaeological evidence that it belongs to the Zengid era,” said Onal.

“Previously, it was known that Harran had five madrassas. This was the first time we came across one of these known madrassas of Harran.”

He said they have determined the structure had 24 rooms above ground, and have now completely exposed the monumental door of the madrassa with five rooms, and the portico partially, adding that there is also a kitchen next to those rooms with large stoves and a brick and clay oven.

“Another feature of the kitchen is there are many bones of sheep and goats inside the hearths and ovens. This shows us that food was prepared here and people here left the city in a rush, leaving the food on the stove without being eaten as if thoroughly convinced that Mongols would take over the city.”

Onal said that they determined that the madrasa belongs to the 12th century and that they will learn more after excavations in the region are completed.

World’s first university

Cihat Koc, a local official in Harran, said the history of education in Harran dates back to 3,000 B.C., adding that studies were carried out in such fields as astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and theology.

Harran is a place that pioneered the science and scientific education, Koc said, adding: “With our work this year, we have unearthed the first of the five big madrassas, five big university campuses.

“The world’s first university is at Harran. We are seriously working to uncover all the ruins of this university,” he underlined.

The first excavations in Harran began in 1950.

The site has been on UNESCO’s tentative list since 2000.

READ ALSO: ARCHAEOLOGISTS IDENTIFY THE OLDEST MUSLIM GRAVES EVER FOUND IN EUROPE

Harran is an important ancient city where trade routes from Iskenderun to Antakya (ancient Antioch) and Kargam were located, according to UNESCO’s website.

“The city is mentioned in the Holy Bible,” says the website.

“It is important not only for hosting early civilizations but it is the place where the first Islamic university was founded. The traditional civil architecture, mudbrick houses with conic roofs, are unique.”

Origins of Japanese and Turkish language families traced back 9000 years

Origins of Japanese and Turkish language family traced back 9000 years

A study combining linguistic, genetic and archaeological evidence has traced the origins of the family of languages including modern Japanese, Korean, Turkish and Mongolian and the people who speak them to millet farmers who inhabited a region in northeastern China about 9,000 years ago.

The findings detailed on Wednesday document a shared genetic ancestry for the hundreds of millions of people who speak what the researchers call Transeurasian languages across an area stretching more than 8,000 km.

The findings illustrate how humankind’s embrace of agriculture following the Ice Age powered the dispersal of some of the world’s major language families. Millet was an important early crop as hunter-gatherers transitioned to an agricultural lifestyle.

Origins of Japanese and Turkish language family traced back 9000 years
A woman carrying millet, a crop whose cultivation prompted the spread of the proto-Transeurasian language

There are 98 Transeurasian languages. Among these are Korean and Japanese as well as: various Turkic languages including Turkish in parts of Europe, Anatolia, Central Asia and Siberia; various Mongolic languages including Mongolian in Central and Northeast Asia; and various Tungusic languages in Manchuria and Siberia.

This language family’s beginnings were traced to Neolithic millet farmers in the Liao River valley, an area encompassing parts of the Chinese provinces of Liaoning and Jilin and the region of Inner Mongolia.

As these farmers moved across northeastern Asia, the descendant languages spread north and west into Siberia and the steppes and east into the Korean peninsula and over the sea to the Japanese archipelago over thousands of years. The research underscored the complex beginnings for modern populations and cultures.

“Accepting that the roots of one’s language, culture or people lie beyond the present national boundaries is a kind of surrender of identity, which some people are not yet prepared to make,” said comparative linguist Martine Robbeets, leader of the Archaeolinguistic Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

“Powerful nations such as Japan, Korea and China are often pictured as representing one language, one culture and one genetic profile. But a truth that makes people with nationalist agendas uncomfortable is that all languages, cultures and humans, including those in Asia, are mixed,” Robbeets added.

The researchers devised a dataset of vocabulary concepts for the 98 languages, identified a core of inherited words related to agriculture and fashioned a language family tree.

Archaeologist and study co-author Mark Hudson of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History said the researchers examined data from 255 archaeological sites in China, Japan, the Korean peninsula and the Russian Far East, assessing similarities in artefacts including pottery, stone tools and plant and animal remains. They also factored in the dates of 269 ancient crop remains from various sites.

The researchers determined that farmers in northeastern China eventually supplemented millet with rice and wheat, an agricultural package that was transmitted when these populations spread to the Korean peninsula by about 1300 BC and from there to Japan after about 1000 BC.

The researchers performed genomic analyses on the ancient remains of 23 people and examined existing data on others who lived in North and East Asia as long as 9,500 years ago. For example, a woman’s remains found in Yokchido in South Korea had 95% ancestry from Japan’s ancient Jomon people, indicating her recent ancestors had migrated over the sea.

“It is surprising to see that ancient Koreans reflect Jomon ancestry, which so far had only been detected in Japan,” Robbeets said. The origins of modern Chinese languages arose independently, though in a similar fashion with millet also involved.

While the progenitors of the Transeurasian languages grew broomcorn millet in the Liao River valley, the originators of the Sino-Tibetan language family farmed foxtail millet at roughly the same time in China’s Yellow River region, paving the way for a separate language dispersal, Robbeets said.

Hittite Prince’s Seal and Cuneiform Tablet Uncovered in Turkey

Hittite Prince’s Seal and Cuneiform Tablet Uncovered in Turkey

A 3,250-year-old seal belonging to a Hittite prince and an ancient cuneiform tablet dating back 3,400 years were discovered in Turkey’s southern Hatay province.

Hittite Prince’s Seal and Cuneiform Tablet Uncovered in Turkey

The excavations in Accana Hoyuk of the Reyhanli district in Hatay on behalf of the Culture and Tourism Ministry with the support of the Turkish Historical Society, have been underway for six months.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Murat Akar, the head of the excavation team and Mustafa Kemal University’s Protohistory and Near East Archeology Department chair, said they have had some “thrilling” findings.

An ancient tablet they have unearthed has Akkadian cuneiform texts, Akar noted, saying: “The tablet, around 3,400 years old, and the accompanying cylinder seals give us information about the administration and administrative practices of the region, especially during a period when the region was under the rule of the Mitanni Empire.”

He said they had found a 3,250-year-old seal during the latest excavation, adding that the item is one of the most important discoveries of this year, helping us understand “what happened during the period after the region came under the Hittite control” as well as “define its administrative and political dynamics.”

Akar further noted that the findings provide information about the administrative and archival practices in the Alalakh ancient city, the capital of the Mukish Kingdom in the Middle and Late Bronze Age.

“The written documents we found are extremely exciting,” he said.

The impressions on the cylinder seals show the existence of a ruling class in the region, Akar said, adding: “This last one, with Luwian hieroglyphic inscription on it, gives us the name of a Hittite prince whose name is not included in other written documents in Alalakh and appears for the first time.”

He did not reveal the name of the Hittite prince but said a Hittitology academic at Istanbul University Faculty of Letters, Hasan Peker, will share the name of the prince with the scientific community once the research is completed.

8,000 years of history to resurface at Turkey’s Tavşanlı Mound

8,000 years of history to resurface at Turkey’s Tavşanlı Mound

Excavations set to start at a mound in the central Turkish province of Kütahya in September are expected to shed light on 8,000 years of history, archaeologists said.

An aerial view of the Tavşanlı Mound, Kütahya, central Turkey.

Dubbed the “Heart of Kütahya” over its shape detected through aerial footage, the “Tavşanlı Mound” located in the namesake district will be unearthed through the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Bilecik Şeyh Edebali University (BŞEU), along with the support of the Tavşanlı Municipality.

Academics from Ankara University, Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, Hacettepe University, Istanbul University, Zonguldak Bülent Ecevit University and Uşak University will also take part in the excavations, to be headed by Erkan Fidan, a faculty member at the archaeology department of the BŞEU.

8,000 years of history to resurface at Turkey's Tavşanlı Mound
An aerial view from the Tavşanlı Mound, Kütahya, central Turkey.

The excavations were launched through a presidential decree and are expected to last some 30 years.

Sezer Seçer Fidan, a Hittitologist who is also in charge of the Tavşanlı Mound site, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the mound was once one of the largest settlements in western Anatolia.

“While previous settlements here were a conglomeration of a couple of villages, as the swamps were filled and drained, it becomes a site that could serve as the basis for urbanization and turn into a capital city.

This corresponds roughly to (a period) four to 5,000 years earlier. Urbanization at this site of course does not consist of a single-phase, but a formation that continues to expand over time,” Fidan said.

Archaeologists work on the Tavşanlı Mound, Kütahya, central Turkey.

She explained that the goal for excavations during this year is to uncover city walls dating back to the Hittites and modern ages, which would prove the importance and scale of the Tavşanlı Mound.

Fidan noted that the mound might contain information, documents and findings on those who have lived in western Anatolia for the last 8,000 years.

“The settlement here lasted until the end of the Bronze Age; therefore, we can see a number of ages stratigraphically. Here, we both want to monitor transitions between civilizations and the exact importance of such a large mound spanning a hectare (in size). … If we can detect buildings related to the Hittite period, then we can find written documents or findings.

It would be a very important finding for western Anatolia since written documents are very rare in this region,” she noted.

Bone workshop and oil lamp shop unearthed in Aizanoi ancient city in western Turkey

Bone workshop and oil lamp shop unearthed in Aizanoi ancient city in western Turkey

Bone workshop and oil lamp shop unearthed in Aizanoi ancient city in western Turkey

A bone workshop and an oil lamp shop have been unearthed in the ancient city of Aizanoi, located in the western province of Kütahya.

The excavations in Aizanoi, which is home to the best-preserved Zeus Temple in Anatolia and is also called the “Second Ephesus,” have been carried out by the Kütahya Museum Directorate.

Gökhan Coşkun, the excavation coordinator and head of the Kütahya Dumlupinar University’s Archaeology Department, told the state-run Anadolu Agency that they were working in areas that were never excavated before.

Coşkun said they carried out work in two different wings of the agora (a public open space used for assemblies and markets in ancient Greece) and reached important findings that would shed light on the trade and social life of the ancient city.

Stating that they were able to identify two of the uncovered shops, he said, “During the excavations, thousands of bone fragments were found inside one of the stores.

Most of them were bones of cattle. It is understood that some of these pieces were used as raw materials, and they were never processed, while some of them began to be processed, but they are half-worked and unfinished. Some pieces that were processed were turned into artworks.

As far as we understand, there was a local bone workshop in Aizanoi during the Roman period and was located in the agora. It served as both a workshop and a sales shop.

Among the processed bone artefacts were mostly women’s hairpins and spoons.”

He noted the second shop was selling oil and oil lamps, adding, “During the excavation of the other shop, we found many intact and broken oil lamps used as the lighting tools in the ancient period. We can see that most of these oil lamps were used.

READ ALSO: DIG IN TURKEY FINDS THEATRE COMMODE IN THE ANCIENT CITY OF SMYRNA

This shows us that not only oil lamps were sold here, but also oil was poured into oil lamps and burned at that time.

Findings from both shops show us that local products were manufactured in Aizanoi. It is an important finding for us that important production activities were carried out in Aizanoi during the Roman era.”

The excavations at the Aizanoi site, known as the “Second Ephesus” and home to the best-preserved Zeus Temple in Anatolia.

With a history dating back to 5,000 years and situated 50 kilometres from the Kütahya city centre, Aizanoi was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2012.

Turkish workers discover animal skeletons belonging to unknown species

Turkish workers discover animal skeleton belonging to unknown species

Digging in the yard of an old spinning factory in the eastern province of Iğdır last week, some workers discovered an animal skeleton of an unknown species.

Turkish workers discover animal skeleton belonging to unknown species
A photo of ​the animal skeleton, Iğdır, eastern Turkey.

The skeleton, which remained intact under the garden, is about 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall and has the teeth of a predator.

After the workers noticed that some of the tissue attached to the skeleton had yet not deteriorated, they reported their discovery to the academics at Iğdır University’s Biodiversity Application and Research Center.

The academics came to the area where the excavation was made and took the skeleton to the university. They will conduct research to determine the species of the animal skeleton at the university.

Belkıs Muca Yiğit, a lecturer at Iğdır University, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they will try to find out the species of the animal after the examination.

“Then we will ensure that this skeleton is preserved in a museum,” Yiğit added.

Yusuf Kıtay, the operating officer of the excavation, said the workers found the animal skeleton while they were working in an area that has not been used for the last 30-40 years.

READ ALSO: CRYPTIC 2,700-YEAR-OLD PIG SKELETON FOUND IN JERUSALEM’S CITY OF DAVID

The shape of the skeleton caught the workers’ attention and they reported the situation to the authorities, Kıtay said, adding: “We especially noticed that its hindlimbs are long.

We informed the authorities that it may be an interesting species as its feet do not have hooves but claws, and it also has sharp teeth.”

“The research will be conducted, we are also curious. I hope something interesting will come out and be useful to science,” he added.

Textiles discovered in a Stone Age community explain the history of clothing production.

Textiles discovered in a Stone Age community explain the history of clothing production.

Cities from the Stone Age sound like an oxymoron. However, 8000-9000 years ago in Turkey, 10,000 people lived at atalhöyük. It’s the largest village from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras, according to experts.

Çatalhöyük is one of the most famous archaeological sites,” says Lise Bender Jørgensen.

She is an archaeologist and professor emerita from NTNU’s Department of Historical and Classical Studies and has helped to confirm what people in the ancient city wove their clothes from. Bender Jørgensen is a specialist in archaeological textiles, so it comes as no surprise that she has been involved in this work.

Textiles discovered in a Stone Age community explain the history of clothing production.
This piece of cloth is from the Stone Age. For 60 years, academics have debated whether it is made of wool or linen. So what is it really made of? The answer will surprise you.

Under discussion for almost 60 years

Experts have been discussing what kind of clothes people wore in Çatalhöyük since 1962 when they found the first pieces of cloth here. Some specialists believed that people made their clothes from wool. Others thought they made them out of linen instead. So who’s right? After almost 60 years, we now know the answer.

“Neither,” Bender Jørgensen and her colleagues say.

Now they have presented their findings in Antiquity, an archaeological journal.

Çatalhöyük is a superstar

You may not have heard of Çatalhöyük, but the city is considered a superstar in archaeological circles.

Professor Ian Hodder shows Antoinette Rast-Eicher around the excavation site.

“When Çatalhöyük was excavated from the late 1950s onwards, it was considered one of the oldest cities ever. Even though new discoveries show that this is no longer true, the place still has a high celebrity factor,” says Jørgensen.

Archaeologist James Mellaart led the earliest excavations. Turkish authorities later expelled him from the country, as he was allegedly involved in the black market sale of archaeological artefacts.

Çatalhöyük the city is genuine, however. People were already living here more than 9000 years ago, and 18 layers of settlements have been identified. People called the city home until about 7950 years ago.

Unearthed textiles from the Stone Age

One of the world’s leading archaeologists, Professor Ian Hodder at Stanford University, undertook new excavations between 1993 and 2017. They yielded large amounts of new data and have provided us with a whole new understanding of the site. The finds made by Hodder and colleagues unearthed several pieces of cloth that later turned out to be between 8500 and 8700 years old.

“When Hodder’s excavations began to reveal textiles, they invited me to examine them with my Swiss colleague Antoinette Rast-Eicher,” Bender Jørgensen says.

Rast-Eicher, who is affiliated with the University of Bern, specializes in identifying fabric fibres. She has experience with some of the oldest European textiles found in Alpine lakes. The two researchers have collaborated on several projects in recent years, including under the auspices of NTNU.

In August 2017, they travelled together to Çatalhöyük and examined the textiles that the archaeologists in Hodder’s group had found. They also collaborated with postdoctoral fellow and archaeobotanist Sabine Karg from the Free University of Berlin. This group of specialists found clear answers.

This is what bast fibre looks like.

A neglected old material

“In the past, researchers largely neglected the possibility that the fabric fibres could be anything other than wool or linen, but lately another material has received more attention,” Bender Jørgensen says.

People in Çatalhöyük used assorted varieties of exactly this material.

“Bast fibres were used for thousands of years to make rope, thread, and in turn also yarn and cloth,” says Bender Jørgensen. A fibre sample from a basket turned out to be made of grass, but several of the textiles are clearly made of bast fibre from oak trees. They are also the oldest preserved woven fabrics in the world.

Bast fibre is found between the bark and the wood in trees such as willow, oak or linden. The people from Catalhöyük used oak bark, and thus fashioned their clothes from the bark of trees that they found in their surroundings. They also used oak timber as a building material for their homes, and people undoubtedly harvested the bast fibres when trees were felled.

READ ALSO: SCIENTISTS DECODE HOW ROPES WERE MADE 40,000 YEARS AGO

Didn’t grow flax

The experts’ conclusions also align with another striking point: No large quantities of flaxseed have been found in the region. People in Çatalhöyük do not seem to have cultivated flax.

Bender Jørgensen notes that a lot of people often overlook bast fibre as an early material. “Linen tends to dominate the discussion about the types of fabric fibres people used,” she says.

As it turns out, people in this area did not import linen from elsewhere, as many researchers have previously thought, but used the resources they had plentiful access to.

Dig in Turkey finds theatre commode in the ancient city of Smyrna

Dig in Turkey finds theater commode in ancient city of Smyrna

An ancient latrine unearthed in western Turkey WHEN? would have let more than a dozen people drop trou and ‘socialize’ and they did their business. The remains of the convivial commode were discovered in the ruins of a 2,000-year-old theatre in the ancient city of Smyrna, now located inside Izmir, Turkey’s third most populous city.

‘It is a toilet with a U-shaped seating arrangement… that 12-13 people can use together,’ Akin Ersoy, an archaeologist at Izmir’s Katip Çelebi University and leader of the excavation, said in a statement.  

‘The use of this toilet space by a large number of people also brought socialization.’ 

Such social bathroom arrangements were fairly common in ancient Anatolia, which overlaps with much of modern-day Turkey, but this is the first seemingly reserved for performers in a theatre.

‘We think it was used only by artists working in the stage building and performing in the theatre, as the stage building is closed to the audience,’ Ersoy said.

‘Since it is located in a closed area, it is possible to consider it an ‘artist toilet,’ he added, calling the find ‘a first among theatres in the Mediterranean region.’

Dig in Turkey finds theater commode in ancient city of Smyrna
A 1,600-year-old latrine was uncovered in the ruins of an ancient Roman theatre in western Turkey. Because the building would have been closed off to the public, archaeologists believe the toilet was reserved for actors. The performers would have sat on a U-shaped bench that could accommodate up to 13-people at once

‘There are latrines that serve the audience near the theatres we know, but it is a first for such a place to be used as a toilet in the stage building of the theatre,’ Ersoy said.

When nature called, the performers would have sat on a wooden U-shaped bench, which only rose about 16 inches off the ground and had holes spaced out about two feet apart, Daily Sabah reported, allowing them to sit side-by-side.

In front of the seating is a four-inch trough that would have had clean water flowing through it.

If you were using the latrine you would then dip a sponge on a stick into the trough to clean your backside.

The archaeologists constructed a replica of the wooden bench to confirm their theory about the structure’s use.

The theatre, which had a 20,000-spectator capacity, was built in the 2nd century B.C. when Smyrna and Anatolia would have been under Roman authority.

The latrines, though, were added during a major renovation about 400 years later. Both were in use until about the 5th century A.D. when the Roman empire evolved in the east into the Christianized Byzantine Empire.

The 20,000-seat theatre was built in the ancient city of Smyrna in the 2nd century BC
The theatre and latrine were unearthed at the site of the ancient city of Smyrna in modern-day Izmir, Turkey

Founded more than 2,400 years ago, Smyrna has been the site of numerous archaeological discoveries in recent years.

Ersoy’s team has been excavating the site for five years with support from the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality. In March, they reported finding a stone quarry used in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, according to the Municipality. 

Block stones and columns were transported to Smyrna from the ancient quarry, named Tırazlı-Kesikkaya, Ersoy said.

The roughly processed blocks were launched by sledges on stream beds and transported by sea to the Smyrna’s port, Ersoy said, at great cost and with great difficulty.