Category Archives: TURKEY

Hundreds of Skeletons Unearthed at World’s Oldest City Show How Violence and Disease Ravaged Civilization

Hundreds of Skeletons Unearthed at World’s Oldest City Show How Violence and Disease Ravaged Civilization

Around 9,000 years ago, a Neolithic settlement in central Turkey was starting to grow. The people living at Çatalhöyük had transitioned from foraging to farming, and the population of what would become one of the world’s first cities was increasing.

In a study published in the journal PNAS, scientists have now looked at how this shift impacted the people living there—and how ultimately the move toward urban lifestyles led to increased violence and disease.

Çatalhöyük, in Anatolia, was founded around 7100 B.C. Archaeologists discovered the site in the 1950s and quickly realized it was a cultural centre during the Neolithic period. Since then it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing important evidence about how people went from living in small villages to larger urban environments.

The site was occupied for over 1,000 years, with the population peaking between 3,500 and 8,000 people living there around 6,500 B.C. However, after a rapid decline, it was abandoned just over 500 years later, in 5950 B.C.

To understand the social changes that took place at Çatalhöyük, researchers looked at the remains of 749 individuals.

The team, led by Clark Spencer Larsen of The Ohio State University, notes that this sample encompasses the entire demographic—from the neonatal to the elderly. Bodies were normally buried under houses in burial pits, suggesting a sense of community.

By looking at changes to the skeletons over the period of occupation, the team was able to deduce certain changes that took place. “Çatalhöyük was one of the first proto-urban communities in the world and the residents experienced what happens when you put many people together in a small area for an extended time,” Larsen said in a statement.

The team discovered the population expanded rapidly during the Middle Period (6700−6500 B.C). Analysis of the mud houses shows that at its population peak, residents were experiencing extreme overcrowding.

Residential dwellings were built like apartments and they could only be accessed by the roof, via ladders. The walls of the houses were found to have traces of animal and human faecal matter: “They are living in very crowded conditions, with trash pits and animal pens right next to some of their homes. So there is a whole host of sanitation issues that could contribute to the spread of infectious diseases,” Larsen said.

The headless skeleton of a young woman and her unborn child from Çatalhöyük.

Residents kept sheep and goats—the former of which is host to several human parasites. Living in close quarters in extremely cramped conditions could have contributed to public health problems—about a third of residents were living with infections in their bones, the analysis revealed.

The team also found an increase in interpersonal violence. Of 93 skulls in the sample, over a quarter were found to have suffered from fractures.

The shape of the injury suggests people were hit over the head with hard round objects—potentially clay balls that were also discovered at the site. Over half of the victims were women and many of the blows appear to have been inflicted when the victims were facing away from their attacker.

Researchers believe the increase in violence coincides with the changes to the population size: “An argument can be made for elevated stress and conflict within the community,” they wrote.

“This finding matches those from a number of settings today and in the archaeological past, confirming the association between violence and demographic pressure.”

Analysis of the bones revealed the diet of the residents was heavy in wheat, barley and rye. This may have caused tooth decay—findings revealed that between 10 and 13 per cent of the population suffered from cavities.

Over the period of occupation, residents were found to have walked significantly more toward the end of the occupation compared with the start.

This indicates that the people were having to travel further to find and farm fertile land—suggesting environmental degradation had taken place at the site. This, coupled with the climate becoming drier, could have contributed to the city’s demise, researchers say.

Larsen believes understanding what happened at Çatalhöyük could help with the challenges we face today, as the population increases and our cities get even more overcrowded.

“We can learn about the immediate origins of our lives today, how we are organized into communities. Many of the challenges we have today are the same ones they had in Çatalhöyük—only magnified,” he said.

Hundreds of Skeletons Unearthed at World's Oldest City Show How Violence and Disease Ravaged Civilization
View of Çatalhöyük, the neolithic archaeological site in Turkey.

Over 40 ancient shipwrecks discovered in the Black Sea

Over 40 ancient shipwrecks discovered in the Black Sea

Marco Polo himself may have recognised this medieval trading ship. It’s one of the 40 or so shipwrecks newly discovered on the bed of the Black Sea north of Turkey. Some of these vessels sank when the Byzantine Empire was in its heyday 1000 years ago, and some during more recent Ottoman times.

Others sank in the 13th century when Marco Polo was plying his trade across the globe. Most other wrecks from these time periods have been found in much shallower waters, where they have been eaten away down to just their hulls.

But the new haul was preserved for centuries on the seabed thanks to low-oxygen conditions that prevent the decay of timber. As a result, the architecture of the upper deck appears in unprecedented detail, allowing historians to see how well the features match up to historical accounts.

New images show finely carved rudders, masts, tillers, and even ropes that are almost perfectly preserved.

They were rediscovered by submersibles scouring the seabed as part of a project to piece together how and when sea levels rose again in the Black Sea following the last ice age, which peaked 20,000 years ago.

Over 40 ancient shipwrecks discovered in the Black Sea

The Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project has uncovered 41 wrecks this year so far, revealing them in all their glory thanks to a state-of-the-art imagery method called 3D photogrammetry.

“We took thousands of high-quality stills and video around the whole of each wreck,” explains Jon Adams at the University of Southampton, UK, and principal investigator on the project. “Software calculates the positions of millions of points in 3D space, generating accurate, detailed 3D images of each wreck.”

Well-preserved

Adams says that the medieval ships have never been seen in such a well-preserved state. “We’ve never seen them this complete,” he says. “Normally, it’s just bits of the lower hull, but here we have much upper-deck material.”

One of the medieval ships – found 1100 metres down – was probably an Italian trading craft from around the 1300s, of a type that Marco Polo would recognise. Although its iron-fastened hull planks have fallen to the seabed, it retains the stern platform with its rudders intact.

“The mast is also still standing, with the yardarms lying on the deck,” he says. “We can still see rigging and pots on board.”

It also has features of more ancient ship technology, such as “quarter rudders” on each flank at the ship’s rear for steering, rather than the single centre-line stern rudder that became the norm in around 1400 and beyond.

Other wrecks were also beautifully preserved. An Ottoman trading ship from a few centuries later retained many deck features, including masts. In addition, images show a beautifully carved tiller with coils of rope hanging from the timbers at the ship’s rear.

Because they all sank far out at sea, Adams believes that these were trading ships rather than ships sunk in battle. “They’re all a long way offshore, so they were probably overwhelmed by rough weather,” he says.

2,800-Year-Old Urartu Jars Uncovered In Eastern Turkey

2,800-Year-Old Urartu Jars Uncovered In Eastern Turkey

At this time, using the common hand tool trowel, some researchers are looking into the secrets of an ancient kingdom. Historians believe they have discovered ruins that are estimated to be over 2,800 years old in the eastern Van region, Turkey.

The pithos burial chambers, which are like large ceramic jars, are thought to be from the Kingdom of Urartu, which ruled the country from the mid-ninth century BC until its defeat by the Medes.

Vans was the capital of the Urartian Kingdom until it fell early in the sixth century BC. 

2,800-Year-Old Urartu Jars Uncovered In Eastern Turkey
Painstaking: Archaeologists believe these 2,800-year-old pithos tombs from the Kingdom of Urartu

Every summer a team of around 50 archaeologists take part in an annual excavation at Van Fortress in a bid to uncover treasures that have been buried for thousands of years.

With permission from the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism university teams have been working together.

They are currently working at the top of the fortress, where a palace was located, and the northern quarter.

‘Our work is aimed at repairing and further protecting Old Van City,’ Dr Erkan Konyar from Istanbul University said according to Todays Zaman.

‘We are carrying out work to protect the areas that we have worked on in previous years. ‘

Just 38km from Van excavation work is also taking place at Urartu Castle. This year they discovered part of the walls.

Head of Excavation Doç. Dr Mehmet Işıklı, told Hurriyet Daily News: ‘This made us very excited, as even though these walls witnessed great earthquakes, their architecture remained quite robust and unchanged.

The pithos tombs, which are like large ceramic jars. Pictured: An archaeologist working to uncover the resting place
The ancient site where the pithos tombs were discovered thought to be from the Kingdom of Urartu, which ruled from the country from the mid-ninth century BC

Turkey: 1,550-year-old church’s Marble Floor meticulously restored

Turkey: 1,550-year-old church’s Marble Floor meticulously restored

The Anadolu Agency reports that an ancient floor surface made up of at least four different colors of marble has been uncovered at the site of the ancient city of Stratonikeia in southwestern Turkey. 

The latest project on a 1,550-year-old Byzantine church and its marble floors stand out as one of the most eye-catching restoration projects in the ancient city recently.

The Byzantine church at the ancient site, which is on the UNESCO Tentative World Heritage List, historically used to serve religious people with an enchantingly colorful marble floor. The excavation and restoration project at the site will restore the marble structure back to its original, glorious state.

Professor Bilal Söğüt from Pamukkale University, head of excavations at Stratonikeia and Lagina sites, said that most of their archaeological work was focused on Western Street, where the church is also located. Söğüt said the church was built after an earthquake hit the city in 365 A.D. and stood until the seventh century.

“The region of the church, built on the colonnaded street, was turned into a graveyard in the later period. Today, we are unearthing both the graveyard and the church. Currently, we are working on restoring the church’s flooring,” Söğüt told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Söğüt stated that Stratonikeia was one of the largest marble ancient cities in the world and was home to many civilizations during its history, which helped retain its importance in Hellenistic, Roman, Ottoman, and Republic periods.

He explained that materials retrieved from the excavation site, which were ruined during the Byzantine era when the church was turned into a graveyard, are carefully reconstructed staying true to their original state, and are repaired in a place that could be described as a “stone hospital,” and then they are meticulously placed on the floor of the church.

Söğüt pointed out that given the church’s age, it had traces from many eras. “So, here we display the base and flooring of the Byzantine church but also samples of the Byzantine graves which were built on top of the church as well,” he said.

The professor said that the marble plates of the church floor had unique geometric patterns and they are collected by the archaeological team to restore. “The floor of the church is made of colorful marbles. This is the first time we have seen such a work in the city.

We reconstruct and refloor the church floor with marbles that we unearth during our excavations and give visitors a chance to see the ancient times.” Noting that they have so far discovered 62 graves at the church site, he added that they will display the most preserved of these alongside the church’s architecture.

Söğüt stated that the structures that the archaeological team discovered were also being worked on by an illustration team to transfer the ancient works into a digital 3D space. He said that these 3D drawings would be made available for viewing to visitors in the workshop area of the site.

City of historic remains

Stratonikeia was an ancient city built upon the remains of a Carian settlement, known as Idrias, which is thought to be the first settlement to be funded by the Lycians, another ancient Anatolian civilization.

According to Strabo, a Greek philosopher, and historian, the ancient city was founded in the Seleucid Empire during the reign of King Antiochus I Soter (281–261 B.C.), who named it after his wife, Stratonice, although that is contested amongst historians.

Selecuid Empire was a Hellenistic state in western Anatolia which existed between 312 BC to 63 B.C. Stratonikeia was founded as a confederation of several settlements surrounding the Carian settlement of Idrias with Anatolian and Macedonian settlers.

Although Stratonikeia’s later fell into ruin, its existence was never a secret. Richard Pococke, an English churchman and travel writer, even published a book called “A Description of the East, and Some Other Countries,” in which he described in great detail the city’s theater, bouleuterion (council house), and one of the city gates.

The city’s many historical remains include a gymnasium, a training facility for competitors in public games, which was built in second century B.C. and is the largest known gymnasium from the ancient period, a bouleuterion, which is located at the center of the city, and a theater, built on a natural slope in the southern part of the city. The Greco-Roman type theater, dated to the Hellenistic period, hosted approximately 12,000 people in its prime.

There is also the Augustus-Imperial Temple, which is situated on an upper terrace south of the theater and seems to be designed together with the theater.

The temple, designed as a peripteros, a type of ancient Greek or Roman temple surrounded by columns, is thought to be from the Early Imperial Period. The city also houses a Roman bath, dating back to the second century A.D., which is one of the three baths in Stratonikeia that are indicated in inscriptions.

The remains of the ancient city of Stratonikeia, Muğla, southwestern Turkey, Feb. 9, 2021.

The northern City Gate acts as an important entrance but at the same time as a ritualistic place because it allows the sacred road of Lagina Hecate to enter the city. The gate has a monumental arched entrance on both sides, and there is also a monumental fountain in between the entrances, with semicircular pools decorated with columns and statues in Corinthian order.

Besides, rock carvings of mythological masks shine out among the significant archaeological findings of the city. These masks depict the characters in the plays performed at the theater, ancient gods and goddesses, as well as animal figures.

Painted Terracotta Figurines Discovered in Turkey

Painted Terracotta Figurines Discovered in Turkey

Dozens of terracotta figurines that are over 2,000 years old have been found by archaeologists, including ones that represent gods, goddesses, men, women, cavalry, and animals. In the ancient city of Myra, in what is now modern-day Demre in Turkey, some of the figurines still had drawings on them and some had inscriptions, and both opened a window into life.

Some of the figurines didn’t have bodies, suggesting there were other terracottas to be found in the area.

This collection of figurines, “gives us rich clues about what existed in the mysterious Myra under a thick silt layer in the first and second centuries B.C.,” said Nevzat Çevik, a professor of archaeology at Akdeniz University in Turkey who led the excavation.

Myra is “one of the most important ancient settlements in Lycia,” an important maritime region along the Mediterranean Sea.

Myra’s port was once one of the largest harbors in the ancient Mediterranean; it is famous for its rock-cut tombs jutting from the hills, the church of Saint Nicholas, who was Myra’s bishop in the fourth century, and its 11,000-seat Roman-era theater.

Çevik and his team were excavating parts of this theater between June and October 2020 when they unearthed a second, smaller theater below the Roman remains.

The older structure dates back to the Hellenistic period, from 323 B.C. when Alexander the Great died to the beginning of the Roman Empire in 30 B.C.  They expected to find the Hellenistic theater, but the terracotta figurines scattered in it were “an unexpected big surprise,” Çevik told Live Science.

“It is as if the people of ancient Myra were resurrected and ran through the time tunnel all together and came to our day,” Çevik remembers telling his team when they found the figurines. 

The figurines were discovered in a Hellenistic theater buried beneath the famous ancient Myra theatre in southwestern Turkey.
Painted Terracotta Figurines Discovered in Turkey

The figurines, which are 2,100 to 2,200 years old included mortal men and women as well as divine figures such as Artemis, Heracles, Aphrodite, Leto, and Apollo; they also included figurines depicting a woman and a child, a boy with a fruit, a horseman and a woman carrying hydria (an ancient Greek water vessel).

Because of the “collective coexistence” of the figurines and the fact that the collection included divine figurines, votive plates, and incense containers, the researchers think that the figurines may have been brought in from a cult area and thrown here.

The collection gives “important clues about the Hellenistic period of Myra and Lycia,” he said.

Some of the statues had partially preserved paint on them. Red, blue and pink were used “intensely in different shades” in the clothes of the figurines, he said.

The inscriptions on the backs of some of the figurines could be the name of a master or workshop. The fact that the team discovered more than 50 terracotta heads that are missing their bodies suggests there are more figurines in the area to be found. 

The team also discovered a variety of ceramic, bronze, lead, and silver objects around the terracottas. They plan to continue excavating the area this year.

In the meantime, the excavation team is working to preserve, repair, and assemble the hundreds of small pieces that make up the terracotta collection. They plan to publish their findings and display the terracottas at the Andriake Lycian Civilizations Museum in Antalya, Turkey.

The excavations were led on behalf of Akdeniz University and Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. 

Inside the Mysterious Underground City, That’s 5,000 Years Old

Inside the Mysterious Underground City, That’s 5,000 Years Old

Underground city partly submerged underwater and estimated to be around 5,000 years old was discovered by municipality crews trying to determine the cause of flooding in several houses in the Avanos district of Turkey’s central Nevşehir province, located at the heart of the historic Cappadocia region.

Inside the Mysterious Underground City, That's 5,000 Years Old
Researchers discovered these ruins from an underground city in Turkey’s Central Anatolian region

Owners of some 15 houses in the Çalış township of Avanos, which is inhabited by 2,200 people, informed the local municipality that their houses were filling up with water and they could not figure out why or where the water was coming from.

Municipality crews started discharging water from the homes while searching for the cause of the flooding, using heavy-duty machines to open the entrances of a tunnel closed for safety decades ago and long forgotten by locals.

A view of the underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevsehir, Turkey
A view of the underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevsehir, Turkey
A view of the underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevsehir, Turkey

After making more way into the tunnel, crews and locals found an underground city partially covered in clear water, which had caused the flooding, and saw that the houses were situated right on top of the flooded city’s rooms and tunnels.

Initial examinations revealed that the underground city had three floors and comprised of homes, tunnels and places of worship stretching for five kilometres, in addition to a small human figurine believed to be an icon.

The parts of the underground city closer to the surface was being used by locals as an animal shelter until the beginning of the 20th century but later abandoned by them. Alaaddin Sarıtaş, a local from Çalış, told Demirören News Agency that the underground city was actually rediscovered 25 years ago when a child fell inside the tunnel but its entrances were later covered with soil to prevent further accidents.

Local tales referred to the underground city as Gir-Gör, which translates into English as “Enter and See.”

The underground city is located some 80 kilometres away from Cappadocia’s famous underground cities Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı.

The mayor of Çalış Kazım Yılmaz told Anadolu Agency that the underground city covers some 1.2 million square meters. “Those who had been there in the past say it is some 600 meters by 2 kilometres in size,” he said, adding that technical analysis by archaeologists is needed to reveal its origins and exact dimensions.

A view of the underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevsehir, Turkey

It is impossible to clear the rubble and empty the water through municipality means, Yılmaz said, adding that they will apply to the cultural property protection board for the site to be registered as a historical site and ask for the Ministry of Culture’s help to open the underground city to tourism.

The mayor noted that the ground level of the underground city was full of soil that came through the main entrance, and about two meters in length.

Yılmaz added that there were two other sites near the township, which are believed to be large underground cities.

Sarıtaş said that there were foreigners who had arrived in the township with maps trying to find the lost underground city, mentioning a source of “healing water” and “Ceasar’s bath.”

Ahmet Yılmaz, a local, also said that he used to crawl through the tunnels as a child and reach an area containing rooms.

The core of the historic Cappadocia region, currently falling under Ürgüp, Göreme and Avanos districts of Nevşehir and the Güzelyurt district of Aksaray, is located in the middle of a once-active volcanic area in central Anatolia. In addition to its iconic fairy chimneys and other natural rock formations over the course of millions of years, the soft volcanic rocks in the area enabled humans to carve out homes, places of worship, commercial buildings and even cities, thus making the region one of the earliest continuously inhabited sites in the world.

The region, famous for its wineries in its semi-arid climate and on volcanic soil, had lured the greatest states of the time, including the Hittites, Phrygians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans. It was also one of the earliest regions to adopt Christianity and survive from prosecution by building underground cities and settlements.

Despite existing historic settlements and continuous archaeological interest in the region, Cappadocia is believed to contain countless historical sites and artefacts yet to be discovered.

The region is a tourism hotspot with boutique hotels and hot air balloon tours and has seen a significant rise in the number of tourists in recent years, especially from Japan and China.

Sultan’s Grave Discovered in Eastern Turkey

Sultan’s Grave Discovered in Eastern Turkey

The graves of the SeljukThe Anadolu Agency reports that the grave of Kilij Arslan I, a Seljuk sultan who reigned from A.D. 1092 to 1107, was discovered during investigations ahead of construction work in eastern Turkey by a team of researchers from Dicle University.

The team members also found the grave of the sultan’s daughter, Saide Hatun.

Sultan of Rum Kılıç Arslan I and his daughter Saide Hatun were uncovered in southeastern Diyarbakır province following a nine-day excavation.

The archaeological site of the graves of Seljuk Sultan of Rum Kılıç Arslan I and his daughter Saide Hatun in Diyarbakır, southeastern Turkey.

After conducting archival research, Dicle University (DÜ) established a commission to find Kılıç Arslan I’s grave in Diyarbakır. Headed by the vice-rector of DÜ, professor Ahmet Tanyıldız, the commission included professor Irfan Yıldız, associate professor Oktay Bozan, associate professor Aytaç Çoşkun and academic Salih Erpolat.

Taking into consideration all graveyards in the Silvan district of Diyarbakır, the commission focused its work on two gravesites in Orta Çeşme Park in line with the data obtained from their research. After nine days of work, the team uncovered the Seljuk sultan’s final resting place on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, DÜ Rector Mehmet Karakoç said they had been unable to pinpoint the exact location of the grave in the past but knew it was somewhere in the Silvan district.

“The discovery of the grave will bring a different perspective to historical events in terms of both Silvan and Diyarbakır’s history,” Karakoç said.

Coşkun noted that the team dug 2 meters deep (6.6 feet) across a 35-square-meter (42-square-yard) area during their work to find the grave.

“The area on which we work featured the grave of the most important ruler of the Sultanate of Rum. Therefore, we studiously sustained our work day and night,” he added.

Kılıç Arslan I succeeded Suleiman ibn Qutulmish, who founded the sultanate in 1092. As the second Anatolian Seljuk sultan, he was also the first Muslim commander to fight against the Crusaders. He defeated the Crusaders in three battles during the Crusade of 1101 and went on to conquer much of eastern Anatolia from the Danishmends.

Temple Dated to Fifth Century B.C. Found in Turkey

Temple Dated to Fifth Century B.C. Found in Turkey

According to a Hurriyet Daily News report, a team of researchers led by Elif Koparal of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University identified the sites of hundreds of Neolithic settlements and a 2,500-year-old temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite during a survey of the Urla-Çeşme peninsula, which is located on Turkey’s western coastline.

A team of Turkish scientists and archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 2,500-year-old Aphrodite Temple in the Urla-Çeşme peninsula in Turkey’s west.

During the middle of the Neolithic Era, 35 villages, of which 16 belong to the Late Neolithic period, have been discovered during the studies of an area of around 1600 square kilometers, bearing traces of the Ionian civilization.

In the region, about 460 settlements and landscape elements have been uncovered, including sacred areas, tumuli, roads, terraces, villages, and farms used in ancient times. During the study, information was also gathered about the economic and social ties of the people living in the area, whose history dates back to 6,000 B.C.

Speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Koparal said that the surveys in the area started in 2006. Stating that it is known that the peninsula is a Neolithic period settlement, Koparal said that thanks to this study, an important social and economic network emerged in the whole region.

Explaining that in the findings they obtained, they noticed that people settled at a certain distance from each other at that time, Koparal said, “During our surveys, we found the Temple of Aphrodite belonging to the fifth century B.C.”

Noting that the temple is an exciting find and that its ruins are very impressive, Koparal said: “It is a rural temple. Aphrodite was a very common cult at that time.

The finds that we have indicate that there is the Temple of Aphrodite in this region. It is not common to find a temple during a surface survey. The area was not within reach by car. It can be reached with a one-and-a-half-hour walk from the alley.”

“We found a statue piece of a woman on the floor, and then a terracotta female head figure. From the findings, we understood that there must have been a cult area in the region. As we scanned the epigraphic publications, we understood that it was most likely the Temple of Aphrodite.

There is also an inscription around the temple. It sets the border with the statement, ‘This is the sacred area,’” Koparal said, adding that they also revealed the temple plan by scanning through the soil.

Stating that they came across the first find about the temple in 2016, Koparal said that they announced this to the world with an article.

Stating that the figurine got damaged due to erosion and rain, Koparal said, “But what it tells us is very important.”

Pointing out that the surveys are quite arduous, Koparal said that it was very exciting to get findings and information from the past.

Koparal said they also obtained important information about tumuli where the graves of notable people of the society were located, and caves, which were almost entirely used as sacred areas.

He also emphasized that the biggest threats to historical sites were from treasure hunters and urbanization.

Efforts are being made with the local people to preserve the historical artifacts, Koparal said, adding that they also have guards to protect the artifacts against the treasure hunters in the region.