Assorted Theatre Excavations in Turkey

A useful little post from Hurriyet:

During the destruction of expropriated shanty houses in the outskirts of İzmir’s Kadifekale neighborhood, the stage and some walls of an ancient Roman theater have been unearthed, Doğan News Agency has reported.

The İzmir Metropolitan Municipality has so far spent 11 million Turkish Liras for the expropriation of buildings around to unearth the ancient theater. Dozens of parcels have been expropriated to unearth the theater, which were stuck among the shanty houses.

While deconstruction continues on an area of 12,000 square meters where the theater is located, Roman artifacts have become clearer as debris is removed.

Among the artifacts are the stage and walls of an ancient theater and stones used in the construction. When the destruction is completely finished, excavations will start in 2015, according to officials.

The most comprehensive information about the ancient theater in Kadifekale can be obtained in the studies of Austrian architects and archaeologists Otto Berg and Otto Walter, who conducted studies in the region in 1917 and 1918, from their plans and drawings.

The remains of the theater, which is thought to have held a capacity of 16,000 people, has characteristics of the Roman era according to many researchers, the study reports.

Ancient resources claim Saint Polycarp from İzmir was killed in this theater during the early ages of Christianity, namely the paganism period of the Roman era, suggesting the theater has witnessed some tragic events in history.

When completed, shows and concerts will be organized in the theater just like in the Ancient Theater of Ephesus.

Ancient theater serves as graveyard

Another Roman theater in the northern province of Bartın’s district Amasra is being used as a graveyard. In the district it is possible to see many artifacts from the Hellenistic, Archaic, Byzantine, Roman, Genoese, Seljuk and Ottoman times. The ancient theater in the neighborhood of Kum began to be used as a graveyard after the 19th century.

During the Amasra-Bartın highway construction between 1970 and 1980, the walls of the ancient theater were damaged and its stones were used in pavement. The graveyard would have to be moved for the ancient theater to be explored.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the Amasra Museum Director Baran Aydın said they thought some parts of the ancient theater had been covered during the highway construction. A large part of the theater could be revealed if excavations are carried out in the area, he said.

“We don’t exactly know how many parts of the theater have been protected. The best protected side of the theater is its tunnel called ‘Vomitorum.’ Unfortunately, since the area is used as a graveyard, we cannot carry out archaeological excavations at the moment. If it is moved, we can start excavations. But this is a complicated process for both the municipality and the relatives of the deceased,” the director said.

Capacity of 15,000

Aydın said the ancient theater in Amasra was as large as the ancient city of Teos in İzmir’s Seferihisar.

“It was a theater that possibly held the capacity of 15,000 people in a 250-300 meter diameter. We should drill there and find the walls on the right and left, which we call ‘Analemna.’ Then we can speak about the theater,” he said, adding that excavations should be conducted in five-six points in the area.

For some previous coverage on the Izmir theatre:

Tantalizing Tunnels From Niksar

Another rather annoying item from Hurriyet:

Two secret tunnels have been discovered under Turkey’s second largest castle, in the northern province of Tokat’s Niksar district. The tunnels date back to the Roman period, and it has been claimed that one of the tunnels was used by a Roman king’s daughters in order to go to the bath in the Çanakçi stream area.

The excavations are being carried out by the municipality in the 6.2 kilometer-wide Niksar Castle, which is Turkey’s second largest castle after Diyarbakır Castle. The tunnels are located in the southern and northern facades of the castle and are approximately 100 meters long.

The earth masses in the tunnels have been removed, but work was subsequently halted as permission for the excavations expired and the number of staff was insufficient.

The 100 meter tunnel in the northern façade is said to have been used by the king’s daughters to reach the Roman bath near the castle. Niksar Mayor Duran Yadigar, who has inspected both tunnels, said works in the castle unearthed the entrance of the tunnels. “One tunnel goes to the stream below the castle. We have also excavated a parallel tunnel used by the king’s daughters. When the works are completed, the two tunnels in the south and north of the Niksar Castle will be completely unearthed. The artistic features of the castle will be revealed,” Yadigar said.

Yadigar added that once these structures are completely revealed, the castle will make a great contribution to cultural tourism in the region. “We expect the Culture and Tourism Ministry to be interested in the Niksar Castle.

A quarter of the castle’s western section has been restored. Once it is completely restored, this place could be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and we could present the value of the Black Sea region to the world. I ask the relevant officials to show an interest in these tunnels,” Yadigar said.
Halis Şahin of the Tokat Museum, who provided information about the excavations, said works to reveal the Roman era tunnels would continue throughout the year.

Of course, the “Roman king’s daughters” thing is a bunch of hooey … in Roman times, Niksar was called Neocaesarea and it’s one of those cities that changed ownership several times over several millennia. I’m not sure if the photo accompanying the original article is of one or the other of the tunnels in question, but I see nothing that identifies it as Roman. Curious to know why this is identified as Roman, other than the story makes for good tourist fodder …

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‘Service Corridors’ from Metropolis

From Hurriyet:

Archaeological excavations in the ancient city of Metropolis, situated in İzmir, revealed a 40-meter corridor, giving clues about life 2,000 years ago.

According to a statement by Sabancı Foundation, which supports the project together with Torbalı Municipality and the Association of Metropolis Lovers (MESEDER), a 40-meter corridor was unearthed during the excavations that have been continuing in the bathing and sports sections of the site.

The brick-vaulted corridors, which had been built parallel to the northern, western and southern walls, were discovered in a well-preserved state, revealing aspects of social life 2,000 years ago.

Archaeologists believe that these kinds of structures were used as service corridors by servants working in Roman baths. Excavations also revealed furnaces built in the same parallel with the pools of the bath.

Associate Professor Serdar Aybek, head of the excavations and the archaeology department of Celal Bayar University, said the finding unearthed from the 6,000 square-meter excavation area was a “surprise.” “It is very exciting that the structures survived to this day in such good condition,” he said.

He said it would be possible to understand all architectural structures of this structure in future excavations, adding they encountered the footprints of a man and a goat in the same excavation area. “When we saw these footprints, we imagined the days when the bath was built or restored. We think the footprints belong to a goat that entered the areas before the structure’s soil mixture dried, and a man ran after it.”

‘Value for Turkey’

The Sabancı Foundation General Director Zerrin Koyunsağan said the historic richness in Metropolis was a significant value for Turkey. She said that every year, they have been surprised with new findings and discoveries in the ancient city of Metropolis, and every finding gave answers about social life 2,000 years ago.

In the meantime, the Metropolis site efforts, which started in 2012, are continuing in parallel with the excavations. A 16,000 square-meter area was surrounded by a fence and the projects for visitor welcome center, view terraces, walking routes and the environmental reorganizations have been finished.

The ancient city of Metropolis is located 40 kilometers away from İzmir and 45 kilometers away from the world-renowned ancient city of Ephesus. The site, which bears traces of the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods, has been under excavation for 23 years as a part of a project jointly carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

… similar corridors found at Hadrian’s villa were in the news this past summer: Hadrian’s Tunnels at Tivoli

Latest from Zeugma

From Hurriyet … as often, lacking some detail:

Researchers working on the ancient city of Zeugma in the southeastern province of Gaziantep have discovered new Roman-era houses, the head of the excavations has said on the occasion of the end of this year’s digging season.

“We see an architectural layer between sixth century B.C. and the second century A.D. We have reached new data about the architecture of the late ancient period,” said Hüseyin Yaman.

Yaman said works started on July 2 this year with a team of 40 people from various universities. “This year we particularly focused on conservation and restoration works,” he added.

Yaman said that Zeugma was very important to Turkey for its rich mosaic findings and that archaeological excavations also contributed to tourism, as well as scientific research.

“Zeugma contributes to tourism thanks to the findings there. Mosaics found here are being displayed at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum [in the center of Gaziantep] and have drawn a significant number of tourists. Also, the mosaics and frescoes in the excavation area are very important for boosting tourism,” he said.

Excavations on the site began in 1987.

via: Digging season ends at Zeugma (Hurriyet)

Massive Corinthian Capital from Kyzikos

Whether it’s the “world’s biggest” as touted in the Hurriyet headline is doubtful, but:

During excavations at the Temple of Kyzikos Hadrian in the northwestern province of Balıkesir’s Erdek district, the world’s biggest Corinthian-style column head was unearthed. The column head dates back to the Roman period.

The head of the excavations and Atatürk University Archaeology Department Associate Professor Nurettin Koçhan said this year’s excavations in the temple had started on Aug. 15 and would end on Oct. 8. He said the excavations were joined by a team of 30 workers as well as university members and students, adding that they were working in the western part of the temple.

He said besides architecturally decorated pieces, the excavations had unearthed the broken piece of human figures, the claw of a very big eagle and the head of a bull in temple friezes (a long narrow band of sculpture that runs along the architrave of temples).

“The Temple of Hadrian, which is equal to Didim’s Apollo and the Ephesus Artemis temples in terms of size, is different from the others with the use of gilt in women figures and red and blue colors in its decoration. Also, the column heads have so far been unearthed in pieces, but this year a column head was found in one piece. The Temple of Hadrian is 116.2 meters long. The other temples are almost the same size but in Hadrian, decorations are red and blue and the hair of the women figures are decorated with gilt.”

Koçhan said what they found this year was different and significant for the world of archaeology. “This is the Corinth column head, which is nearly 20 meters high and one of the three column heads in the temples,” he said.

Biggest temple column

“The world’s biggest temple column head was found in Balıkesir,” Koçhan added, continuing, “With 1.9 calibers and 2.50 meter height, this is biggest and the most elegant Corinth column head made within the borders of the Roman Empire. There is no other one in the Corinth style. When we compare it to the Baalbek Temple of Jupiter in Lebanon, which is regarded as the world’s biggest and the most magnificent Corinth style temple, the Temple of Kyzikos Hadrian comes ahead. This historic column head will make a great contribution to the country’s tourism.”

As often, much seems to be lost in translation with this Hurriyet piece. Here’s a photo of the capital:

DHA photo via Hurriyet

Here’s a closer view from Al Arabiya:

Sekhmet from the Red Basilica ‘Restored’

From Hurriyet:

An almost nine-meter long lion-headed Egyptian goddess Sekhmet has been revived in the Red Basilica (Kızıl Avlu) in the largest structure of the ancient city of Pergamon in İzmir’s Bergama district, and opened to visits on Sept. 26. The statue has already drawn great interest from tourists in the area.

German Excavation Institute Chairman Ferix Pilson said it would contribute to Bergama’s inclusion in the UNESO Cultural Heritage list in June next year.

The Egyptian statue pieces found during the excavations since 1930 in the Red Basilica are among the most important statues from the Roman Empire. Among them, the lion-headed goddess statue was reconstructed thanks to the support of the Studiosus Foundation. The statue was raised last year for trial purposes and with further works, and it reached an impressive height of 8.5 meters.

… the original article includes a photo, which I have to include here because this is among the worst ‘restorations’ of any statue I’ve ever seen:

DHA photo via Hurriyet

… looks more like an Australian rules goal judge than a Romanized Egyptian goddess …

Head of Aphrodite from Antiochia ad Cragnum

From a UN-L press release:

Shoveling and sweeping to expose still-hidden portions of a 1,600-square-foot marble mosaic that dates to Roman times, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln archeological team this past summer unearthed a new treasure in southern Turkey.

Lying face down in more than a millennium of soil was a life-size marble head, the remnant of a sculpture of the goddess Aphrodite – still beautiful, though scarred by chips on its nose and face.

The sculpture’s body was missing, likely incinerated in a lime kiln many centuries ago.

By somehow escaping destruction, Aphrodite’s head provides yet another telling detail about how profoundly the region was affected by Greek and Roman culture during the first and second centuries, said project director Michael Hoff, Hixson-Lied professor of art history at UNL. Hoff returned to Nebraska in late August after spending nearly three months in Turkey.

The head, Hoff said, is the only piece of monumental sculpture recovered so far in an eight-year archeological dig at the site of Antiochia ad Cragnum (Antioch on the cliffs), an ancient Mediterranean city that once numbered perhaps 8,000 people.

Last year, Hoff’s team discovered a mosaic thought to be the largest of its type in the region. Archeologists believe it adorned an open-air plaza outside a soaring, 60-foot-high Roman bath house.

Aphrodite’s head was a highlight of a 2013 excavation that also uncovered the vestiges of what appears to be a temple, with a second marble mosaic covering its interior floor.

It is unusual to find a mosaic floor in a temple, Hoff said. His next step is to research other examples to learn more about how mosaics relate to temple architecture.

With assistance from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and Ataturk University in Turkey, the project has excavated sites in a 200-square kilometer area where Antiochia was located. The project’s co-directors are Rhys Townsend, an art history professor at Clark University; Ece Erdogmus, a native of Turkey who is an architectural engineering professor at NU’s Peter Kiewit Institute in Omaha; and Birol Can, an associate professor of archeology at Ataturk University.

One of Erdogmus’ roles is to help reassemble the stones of another temple located not far from the site of the bathhouse.

The new discoveries add evidence that early residents of Antiochia – which was established at about the time of Emperor Nero in the middle of the first century and flourished during the height of the Roman Empire – adopted many of the trappings of Roman civilization, though they lived in relative isolation a thousand miles from Rome. In the past, scholars believed the region’s culture had been too insular to be heavily impacted by Rome.

Yet Hoff and his team have found many signs that contradict that belief.

“We have niches where statues once were. We just didn’t have any statues,” Hoff said. “Finally, we have the head of a statue. It suggests something of how mainstream these people were who were living here, how much they were a part of the overall Greek and Roman traditions.”

Before the city was founded, the region had been a haven for pirates, including the Cilician pirates who kidnapped Julius Caesar in about 75 B.C. Francis Beaufort, an officer in the British Royal Navy, identified Antiochia’s location in the early 19th century using a guide written by the ancient Roman geographer Ptolemy.

Time, and probably Christian vandals, erased much of the evidence of Antiochia. The bath’s vaulted ceilings may have collapsed in an earthquake. By the third century, Rome’s influence was disrupted by insurrections and rampaging armies. By the fourth century, the area was a key site in the development of Christianity – and Hoff suspects that radical Christians destroyed many of the marble statues and reliefs in an effort to eliminate pagan idolatry.

The archeological team has found evidence of lime kilns near the site, leading Hoff to believe many statues and marble panels were burned to make slaked lime used in concrete. It also appears that at about the same time, the sturdy floor created by the plaza mosaic was used as the base for a glass-blowing furnace.

The glass furnace dates to the late Roman period, which began in the middle of the fourth century, Hoff said. He is now convinced that the bath and temple and their mosaics date to the late second or early third century.

Only about half the plaza mosaic was excavated in 2012. The archeologists returned to the site this summer to excavate the its west half. Their efforts included clearing out a 50-foot long, marble-lined swimming pool in the center of the plaza. They found two stairways leading into the oval pool, as well as built-in benches along its inner sides.

The team turned its shovels toward a mound just south of the plaza, where toppled columns lay half-buried. Telltale signs in the layout make the archeologists believe the building had been a Roman temple, though that has yet to be confirmed.

“Everything about it is telling us it’s a temple, but we don’t have much in the way of to whom it was dedicated,” he said. “We’re still analyzing the finds. But the architecture suggests heavily that it was a temple.”

While the larger bath plaza mosaic features large patterned areas, the temple mosaic uses smaller tesserae to compose geometric designs, as well as images of fruit and floral images amidst a chain guilloche of interlocking circles. The temple mosaic measures about 600 square feet.

Though both mosaics are “spectacular,” the temple mosaic is definitely different from the much larger plaza mosaic, Hoff said.

“I don’t think they are connected,” he said.

The two mosaics likely were designed by different artists, with wealthy patrons of the region hiring itinerant contractors to construct the buildings for public use.

Conservators followed the archeological team to protect the mosaics from additional damage and to repair damaged areas with special mortar. Though the mosaics eventually will be prepared for public display, they now are covered with a conservation blanket and a thick layer of sand.

The rubble of the bath’s collapsed ceilings will be cleared during a future excavation season. Parts of the stone substructure of the bath’s walls have remained standing, their marble veneer long missing. Local lore was that treasure was buried at the site.

Hoff said the excavations have, indeed, yielded treasures – though perhaps not those anticipated by legend.

Some nice photos accompany the original article. There’s also this nice little video:

For some previous coverage of this dig:

Graecomuse also had a nice post this past June just prior to the digging, chock full of background and bibliography: