Riches Unearthed in Turkey’s ‘Land of the Blind’

Riches Unearthed in Turkey’s ‘Land of the Blind’

Riches Unearthed in Turkey’s ‘Land of the Blind’

Archaeological excavations at an Istanbul train station revealed the rich past of the ancient city khalkedon (Kadıköy), also called “the land of the blind,” and discovered a wealth of historical sites including tombs, artifacts and bathes.

Excavations for subway construction uncovered historical remains around the historical Haydarpaşa station, which is situated on the Asian side of Istanbul. In 2018 digs began by Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and Istanbul Archeological Museums.

The immense excavation site in the area known as the Land of the Blind.

In the last two years, digs were carried out with the utmost attention.

Digs revealing historical structures from The Ottoman, Byzantine, Hellenistic and Classical architectural systems show the deep origins of Turkey, a cradle of civilization.

Remains were located in 350,000 square metres, including nearby subway stations and Ibrahimaga, near Haydarpaşa by a team of 430 people including archaeologists and museum experts.

The remains give significant indicators of the ancient land of the Blind, Khalkedon from about 2,500 years ago.

The area reportedly got its name around 667 B.C. when Byzas from Megara established a colony on the European peninsula of the Golden Horn, opposite Khalkedon on the Asian side. The people of Khalkedon must have been blind not to have settled on the perfect spot, the peninsula just across the water, he reasoned. (The Byzantine Empire, which ruled Istanbul until 1453, when it was conquered by Ottoman forces, was named after Byzas.)

The fruits of these digs include architectural remains, tombs, artifacts, a bath and around 10,000 gold coins belonging to Khalkedon.

The excavations revealed the remains of a possible fifth-century palace and a T-shaped structure thought to be a castle.

A fifth-century church built in the name of Saint Bassa was also found. Work with tiny brushes and precision tools unearthed the skeletons of 28 people from that era.

Remains from different areas are categorized by experts according to the location and depth where they were found.

The excavation has unearthed a T-shaped structure believed to be a castle.

The remains are cleaned with small brushes and separated and sometimes combined, if possible.

After restoration, the remains are recorded, photographed, and then sent to the Istanbul Archeological Museum to eventually be exhibited.

Coskun Yılmaz, Istanbul’s top culture and tourism official, told Anadolu Agency that some of the remains unearthed during subway construction date back to the year 5 B.C.

The human remains and artifacts were collected from many archaeological layers which demonstrate different eras.

Yılmaz said the excavations are being done in an area at least 2,500 years old, and that the area known as Haydarpaşa Port in modern Kadıköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, was named Khalkedon by the Romans.

“The remains indicate that Khalkedon was a lively port city,” he explained. “In a period ranging from 5 B.C. to the Republic of Turkey, one can see various remains from different centuries. Remains from the Roman, Ottoman and Turkish Republican eras are found here. We also see that there was a planned structure of the settlement area.

“This is one of the most important excavations for Istanbul’s history. It is very important to Istanbul in terms of trade and urban history. Gold coins and other remains indicate that there was a dynamic structure and a society here.”

Yılmaz added that 10,000 gold coins dating from around 5 B.C. to the modern day were found, all from various eras. Their presence show that there was continuous and active trade in this city, he argued.

“The excavation found the remains of a bath,” he said. “We also assume that there are remains of a palace, which is under investigation. The St. Bassa Church, one of the first churches in Istanbul dating back to the fifth century, is one of the important remains in the Haydarpaşa excavations for both Christian history and the religious life in Istanbul.”

The 28 skeletons unearthed at the site, he said, give us an idea of funerary culture, he said, adding: “When we look at the skeletons, we see that the dead were buried with gifts. For example, a perfume bottle was found in the knee ligament of a skeleton.”

Systematic archaeological work is underway and it includes “great care, time, finesse, and patience.”

Yılmaz said Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry of Turkey views archeological excavations as having vital importance. He added that they use advanced technology to excavate and that the ministry does year-round excavations, rather than seasonal ones.

“Archeological excavation is a very delicate business,” he explained.

“Our archeologists use devices used in dental work, paying a great deal of attention to cleaning the objects, to do no harm.”

As “archeological work takes great care, time, finesse, and patience,” no date can be given for when the artifacts will go on exhibit, said Yılmaz.

With a team of more than 400 people at work, he said, “We would like to finish it as soon as possible, revealing the rich cultural heritage that we have here, and sharing it with the public. When we finish the excavations, we will create exhibition areas here for the immovable remains as well.”

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