Thursday, February 23, 2017

BATHONEA PORT RUINS

Küçükçekmece - İstanbul - Turkey

GPS : 41°02'05.8"N 28°44'03.1"E / 41.034944, 28.734194

Bathonea Port Ruins / Kucukcekmece - Istanbul photo bathonea_kcekmece101.jpg

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Hidden for a millennium, it took a 21st-century drought to reveal the ruins of a long-lost port city. Five years after archaeologists discovered its four-kilometer-long seawall on a polluted lake 20 km from Istanbul, they continue to unearth Bathonea, which is yielding a wealth of rare artifacts and architecture spanning a thousand years of the Byzantine era. Excavations this year have essentially doubled Bathonea's known size, bolstering the idea that it was a well-connected, wealthy, fully outfitted harbor city that thrived from the fourth to 11th century, when a massive earthquake leveled much of it.

Bathonea is a rare and important find because little remains in Byzantium proper (now the modern city of Istanbul) of the first few centuries of the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman, Empire. The ancient urban center has been built over too many times in its 1,600-year history to leave much behind. Located on a long-farmed peninsula on Lake Küçükçekmece, once an inlet on the Marmara Sea, Bathonea reappeared in 2007 after a drought lowered the lake's water table, exposing portions of the seawall.

It turned out to be almost half the length of the wall that once surrounded Constantinople (as Byzantium had been renamed for Constantine the Great). The wall's substantial size suggested Bathonea was a significant safe harbor for ships on their way to Constantinople beginning in the fourth century, just as the city became the seat of power for the Eastern Roman Empire.

In previous years archaeologists have unearthed some of the seawall, a multistory villa or palace, an enormous cistern, the round foundations of a Greek temple, and the toppled remains of a Byzantine church and cemetery. Nearby, stone roads crisscross each other and 1,500 years of history.

This year they discovered a large multistory building and a series of smaller rooms adjacent to the villa that artifacts indicate was a monastery with workshops for making metal, jewelry and glass that began production in the fourth century. The jewelry molds they discovered may be the first archaeological evidence for jewelry production in Constantinople, a tradition known from historical sources.

Another key find is the exceptionally preserved, two-part network of underground water channels hundreds of meters long that kept Bathonea's cistern and buildings supplied with freshwater. They also found a Hellenistic building hiding in plain sight among 19th-century structures and a road connecting it to a second-century B.C. harbor, providing more evidence of Bathonea's earliest days.

A massive earthquake in the 11th century seems to have largely destroyed Bathonea. Archaeologists continue to find toppled walls (including one that killed the three men found beneath the rubble) from all the buildings. Yet judging from the pottery found, some residents eked out a life at Bathonea as late as the 12th century.

To try to answer these questions, Aydingün and her team will focus next year's dig on the seaward tip of the peninsula, where ground-penetrating radar has detected underground anomalies that may be structures. They also hope to restart underwater exploration. In 2008 they discovered an edifice that may have been a lighthouse. Local lore holds that it is a magical minaret that rises in warning whenever nearby villagers sin too much.

Hundreds of bricks stamped Konstans, made in Constantinople starting in the fifth century, were found at Bathonea. The find is Bathonea, a substantial harbor town dating from the second century B.C. Discovered in 2007 after a drought lowered the lake’s water table, it has been yielding a trove of relics from the fourth to the sixth centuries A.D., a period that parallels Istanbul’s founding and its rise as Constantinople, a seat of power in the Eastern Roman / Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
   
While there are some historical records of this early period, precious few physical artifacts exist. The slim offerings in the Istanbul section of the Archaeological Museums here reflect that, paling in comparison with the riches on display from Anatolia, Mesopotamia and Lebanon. So Bathonea has the potential to become a “library of Constantinople,” says the archaeologist who made the initial discovery.

After the drought exposed parts of a well-preserved sea wall nearly two and a half miles long, archaeologist team soon saw that the harbor had been equipped with docks, buildings and a jetty, probably dating to the fourth century. Other discoveries rapidly followed. In the last dig season alone, the archaeologists uncovered port walls, elaborate buildings, an enormous cistern, a Byzantine church and stone roads spanning more than 1,000 years of occupation.
   
Since then, Dr. Aydingun’s team and researchers from eight foreign universities have found a second, older port on the peninsula’s eastern side, its Greek influences suggesting that it dated to about the second century B.C.

Spelunkers explored hundreds of feet of a two-part water channel system that archaeologists discovered. The channels directed freshwater to the cistern and buildings throughout Bathonea. They showed us that such an infrastructure can only be constructed for a very big and important settlement.
       
Nearby, atop the round foundations of a Greek temple, they found the remains of a fifth- or sixth-century Byzantine church and cemetery with 20 burials, and a large stone relief of a Byzantine cross. Coins, pottery and other artifacts indicate that the church suffered damage in the devastating earthquake of 557 but was in use until 1037, when a tremor leveled it -  crushing three men whose bodies were found beneath a collapsed wall, along with a coin bearing the image of a minor emperor who ruled during the year of the quake.
   
After bushwhacking through nettle-choked underbrush a mile and a half north of the harbor, the researchers excavated a 360-by-90-foot open-air cistern or pool, as well as walls and foundations from several multistory buildings that may have been part of a villa or palace altered over many centuries.
   
Because the archaeologists are at the beginning of a multiyear dig at a site not known from historical sources, they are hesitant to draw many conclusions. Even the name Bathonea is a placeholder, inspired by two ancient references: the first-century historian Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History,” which refers to the river feeding the lake as Bathynias; and a work by a ninth-century Byzantine monk, Theophanes, who called the region Bathyasos.

The archaeologists know this much: The site was large. It sprawled across at least three square miles, and its sea wall is nearly half the length of the one that surrounded Constantinople itself. It was moderately wealthy; the region was a country retreat for the urban elite, drawn by its fertile hunting grounds and Lake Küçükçekmece itself, the freshwater body closest to the city. They built villas and palaces all around the region.

As seen in this stitched-together image, the pipes poking through the cistern wall look almost modern and just as ready to pour fresh springwater as they were 1,650 years ago.  At least 80 meters long, the cistern was entirely constructed from bricks stamped with the name of Constantine or his sons Constantine II and Konstans, which have mostly been discovered at imperial sites like Hagia Sophia.

Roman glass and high-end pottery dating as late as the 14th century were found throughout the site. Marble, including a gorgeous milky-blue variety, lined the walls and floors of the church and at least one of the buildings.
     
Also discovered were hundreds of bricks stamped “Konstans,” which were produced in Constantinople beginning in the fifth century and had mostly been discovered at imperial sites like Hagia Sophia, the sixth-century architectural marvel and primary cathedral of the Byzantine Empire for almost 900 years, and nearby Rhegion, a fifth-century compound on a hill across the lake from Bathonea, overlooking the Marmara Sea.
   
Bathonea was also well connected. Some pottery was made as far away as Palestine and Syria, typical of places with access to foreign goods. It had wide stone roads, the earliest dating to the Roman era. But its relationship to Constantinople is still unclear. “I like the idea of Bathonea as a satellite port of a major city,” said Bradley A. Ault, a classical archaeologist with the University at Buffalo who has studied ancient port cities in Greece and Cyprus. “It falls in line with Athens and Piraeus, Rome and Ostia.”
   
If that is the case, the port may have served as a safe harbor on protected waters outside the city walls for both commercial ships and the imperial naval fleet. “In the fifth century, they had a major fleet around Constantinople,” said Robert Ousterhout, a Byzantine scholar at the University of Pennsylvania. “They had ports around the Golden Horn and the Marmara.” Now 13 to 65 feet deep, Lake Küçükçekmece would have been a deep bay navigable by ships of all sizes, Dr. Aydıngün said. Sonar has revealed what may be six Byzantine iron anchors buried in the sand just offshore, and nails commonly used in shipbuilding were unearthed at the site.
       
In recent years, Istanbul has been the scene of several stunning discoveries during salvage archaeology digs, most notably at the Yenikapı transit project, which unearthed a remarkable array of shipwrecks. No shipwrecks have been found at Bathonea; nor are they likely to be anytime soon, said Mr. Oniz, the underwater archaeologist. The lake is so polluted by industrial runoff that diving in it is dangerous, he said. A new water-treatment facility may make exploration possible within a few years.
     
The Bathonea archaeologists also hope to uncover more artifacts dating to the earliest days of civilization. In 2007, Dr. Aydıngün and Emre Güldoğan of Istanbul University found 9,000-year-old flint tools at the site that could be evidence of the earliest pre-pottery farming settlement in Europe. Bathonea’s role - and its real name - can be determined only through further study, Dr. Aydıngün said.
   
Ground-penetrating radar has indicated that extensive structures remain beneath the soil. And as all of their efforts have been focused on the waterfront, the archaeologists have yet to investigate the patches of trees and brush farther inland that farmers have long avoided because their plows cannot cut through them.
   
It doesn't look like much, but archaeologists were excited to find this plaster-coated building hiding in plain sight because it provides more evidence of Bathonea's beginnings. Adjoined to crumbling late-Ottoman buildings, obscured by trees and brush, its walls had been slathered in a deceptive layer of plaster. This summer the plaster was chipped away to reveal wide, rectangular blocks that are typical of Hellenistic buildings from the second century B.C.

It's located on a newly unearthed road that leads to the harbor of the same era. They also found Hellenistic pottery shards in the rubble near the wall. The team speculates it may have been a warehouse. Adjacent to the palace archaeologists unearthed one large building and a series of smaller ones that appear to be parts of a complex dating back to the fourth century, which included the palace, a monastery and a series of workshops for making metal, glass and jewelry.
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The finds include smelting waste and rare jewelry molds. "From written sources it's known that Constantinopolis had jewelry workshops since the Roman and Byzantine times," archaeologists says. "Our findings may be the first-ever proof. But it is too early to claim it with some confidence. We are still checking with metalwork historians."

The remains of a well-appointed villa continue to yield evidence of its residents' wealth. The nine-meter walls held statue nooks and ornate wall mosaics; thousands of dirt-encrusted tesserae were found this year. Milky blue marble lined the floors and an extensive water system channeled freshwater throughout. The small graves likely once held children.

This aerial shows about a third of the excavated site - a section archaeologists call the "little harbor" after the second-century B.C. pier shown at left. At right are newly uncovered crisscrossing roads spanning 1,500 years, the round foundations of a Greek temple, a fifth-century Byzantine church and cemetery as well as an Ottoman-era building. Hidden by trees is a newly spotted Hellenistic edifice, positioned just up the road from the harbor.

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