January 23, 2008

Yenikapi excavations

A belated update on a story that we'll be following for years to come:

For centuries the harbour of Ancient Constantinople, modern Istanbul, was the inlet of the Golden Horn . . .

A second, mainly commercial, harbour, in use from the 5th-10th centuries AD, has been found on the south shore of the peninsula, on the Sea of Marmara. Yenikapi was discovered four years ago during construction of a rail link between Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus: it had become filled in with silt and forgotten.

Now one of the largest archaeological investigations in Europe, Yenikapi has produced waterlogged finds ranging in date from 7,000 years ago to the Ottoman age. Two dozen or so Byzantine ships are among the most important, says James Delgado of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University.

"This is one of the greatest nautical archaeological sites of all time, a repository of forgotten Byzantine shipbuilding," he says. "After analysis, the work at Yenikapi should rewrite the book on Byzantine shipbuilding, and the role of maritime trade in the history of Constantinople". . .

Yenikapi has ushered in a new age of nautical archaeology, hitherto concentrated on shipwrecks and upstanding harbour works. "Dry excavations of silted harbours are poised to tell us more about naval technology and hull construction than we might ever learn from a single shipwreck", says Deborah Carlson of the INA..

From the Times of London. Note that "dry" is relative, as the sites are often below the water table -- but still, it's a lot easier than working offshore. I'm still waiting for excavations at silted-up naval battlefields, a prime example being near Miletus, where the Battle of Lade was fought in 494 BC:
The ruins of the once prosperous city-port of Miletus are now ten kilometres distant from the coast and the Island of Lade now forms part of a rich agricultural plain.
ADDENDUM: More detail on the Yenikapi story at Barista, along with pictures and further links.

Posted by David on January 23, 2008 4:28 PM


Good news to see this excavation still ongoing. Masallah! Maybe the archaeologists have a momentary influence over the backward leaning AK Party presently funding Islamist projects while continuing to deny non-Islamists monies and permission to rebuild their decaying places of worship while grabbing their properties under the guise of "Historical Buildings" and then charging them rent. eg.,the Catholic Brothers Church circa 1850 which was willed to the Assyriani Catholic community of Istanbul.

Posted by: Suzy on February 18, 2008 9:02 AM
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