Rescue Archaeology in Istanbul, 1999
The rescue archaeology project reported in BBBS 25 (1999), 36-41, undertook a second season of work within the historic core of Istanbul. In 1999 the project concentrated on the north-west of the area inside the Byzantine walls, investigating sites in the districts of Ayvansaray and Balat. Further work was also undertaken in Yedikule and Koca Mustafa Pa a, in the south-west of the city.
The project, initiated and directed by Dr Ken Dark (University of Reading) and co-directed by Dr Ferudun Özgümüs (Istanbul University), aims to use methods of rescue survey (primarily site-watching and the systematic survey of surface remains) to record Byzantine and pre-Byzantine material in the course of destruction or at risk. Unpublished Byzantine and pre-Byzantine material is also recorded, if encountered. Every street in the designated areas is searched, sites of previous discoveries and surviving structures revisited, and local inhabitants consulted. All material located is described on standardised recording forms and photographed (with metric scale) in colour, more detailed records being made where logistically possible. This has resulted in hundreds of new discoveries, mostly of column capitals, architectural fragments and column shafts of Byzantine date, but also including Byzantine structures, ceramics, inscriptions and tombstones. Almost all of these would have been destroyed without record had it not been for this project.
In 1999 The British Museum in London offered their backing for the project and have ensured funding for five years of field recording, with supplementary funds coming from the projectís other British-based sponsoring organization, the Late Antiquity Research Group. The work takes place under permit from the Ministry of Culture at Ankara, to whom we are most grateful for this opportunity.
The summary here will concentrate on some of the principal discoveries in Ayvansaray and Balat, although new material was also found in the south west of the city.
Previously unpublished Byzantine evidence came from several churches. At St Demetrios Kananou, alongside other Byzantine material including an inscribed tombstone, a subterranean east-west apsed room was discovered beneath the north aisle. This room, which is constructed of Byzantine brick, contains an acrosolium in its north west and has a bench along its south wall.
At Panaghia Tis Sudas, the quantity of Byzantine material was even greater. This included an inscribed tombstone, architectural fragments and column capitals and four cisterns seemingly of Byzantine date.
A fine relief of an angel was discovered re-used in the church wall. At Surp Hrichdagabed there was a much-modified substructure perhaps of Byzantine date, and also a fine Middle Byzantine relief of St Artemios, identified by an inscription. Roman-period tombstones were found at both Panaghia Tis Sudas and Surp Hrichdagabed, although in general the areas investigated lack evidence of pre-Byzantine activity.
At Panaghia Salmatomruk two stretches of Byznatine brick wall either side of the modern church appear to represent parts of its Byzantine predecessor. At St Mary of Blachernae, one monolithic column was identified still seemingly in situ in its famous holy well, while others were found -- along with column capitals -- in the church grounds, and a large slab of worked marble was also found in the grounds, probably from a major building.
The Feruh Kethüda camii, next to the church of Surp Hrichdagabed, also produced a series of column capitals and shafts, along with a quantity of rubble from marble walls. This material extends beyond the mosque compound into nearby plots, suggesting that it was not brought to the site in the Ottoman period but derives from a Byzantine structure at or near Kethüda mosque. At Toklu Dede mescidi the lowest courses of the nave wall and substructure of the Byzantine church, often believed entirely destroyed, were found preserved in and below a modern house. Further south, a stretch of apparently previously unrecorded wall was identified immediately north of Kariye Museum. This comprises massive marble blocks which pre-date Ottoman features and appear cut by the present north wall of the Byzantine St. Saviour in Chora church, now Kariye Museum.
While working on the periphery of the 1999 area we encountered new structural evidence at two well-known Byzantine buildings: Kasim Aga camii and Odalar camii. The former produced several unrecorded column capitals and, more unexpectedly, a curvilinear foundation adjacent to the north wall of the published Byzantine building. This, surviving in a garden plot, seems hitherto unrecorded, as is a stretch of arched brick wall on a construction site immediately south west of Atelier camii, although the building itself has recently been published in detail.
Other finds during 1999 might relate to the Blachernae Palace. In and around the present mosque of Ivas Efendi and in the teashop garden adjacent was a large amount of Byzantine stonework, including a porphyry architectural fragment and monolithic columns in exotic marble. Given the proximity of the mosque to Byzantine features generally believed to be part of the Blachernae palace, it is likely that this body of material represents structures of the palace once located in (and adjacent to) the area of the teashop and Ivas Efendi mosque.
Further Byzantine evidence was found in the surrounding area. Across the paved terrace immediately north of the teashop are two cisterns of Byzantine date, and one room of a hypocausted structure. This room, which retains it hypocaust columns and stoke-hole, appears to be part of a small bath building constructed of Byzantine brick. It is most readily interpreted as a small private baths of Middle Byzantine date.
Another brick-built structure of Byzantine date has been exposed in the compound of Ebuzer Gifari mosque, immediately south of St Mary of Blachernae. This substructure comprises a number of features, indicating a two-storied structure at the foot of the terrace to its south, but the principal fragment visible today is a north-south apsed room. This also stands in a location which, on the basis of textual topographical information, might have been part of the Blachernae Palace. Local informants suggest substructures on the terrace summit above, and additional terraces -- one still with a single line of Byzantine brick wall at its foot -- are visible on the slopes below.
Between the complex of remains discovered north of Ivas Efendi and those at and found by earlier archaeologists below Emir Buhari Tekkesi, substructures can be seen exposed in the side of modern Derviszade Caddesi. These seem to continue the Emir Buhari Tekkesi substructures as far as the immediate north of the bathhouse. On wasteland south of these, close to Adilsah Kadin mosque, two substantial stretches of brick and limestone wall, one with an arched gateway, were identified.
Plans for 2000 and 2001
The project will not undertake fieldwork in 2000, so as to analyse and publish in greater detail data collected in 1998 and 1999. Fieldwork will resume, so long as permission is granted by the authorities, in 2001.
Copies of the 1998 and 1999 preliminary interim reports can be obtained at £5 each (post free) from Dr K.R.Dark, 324 Norbury Avenue, London, England, SW16 3RL.
The directors would like to thank the Ministry of Culture for granting a permit for the 1998 season, and the Government Representative Dr Gülseren Karakap for continual support, encouragement, interest and good humour throughout the survey.
Dr Dark would like to thank Ms A. Senyüz and Mr K. Ipek at the Turkish Embassy in London, and Mr H. Müftüoglu at the Turkish Consulate in London, for their help in obtaining visas and to Ms S. Müftüoglu of the University of Reading for her skilful translation. He also is grateful to Ms A. Harris at LARG and Mr D. Buckton, Dr C. Entwhistle and the Trustees at the British Museum in London for their efforts on his behalf. Thanks are also due to Philips Speech Processing for providing equipment for the project.
Our thanks are also due to all those who actually conducted the 1998 survey under our direction, particularly Mr H. Çetinkaya and Ms J. Spears (now Ms J. Chedzey). Thanks also are due to Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Hagia Sophia Museum, and the bodies that generously granted permission to visit their buildings and to Mr A. Altindag who provided exemplary help from a member of the local community.
We would also like to thank the Late Antiquity Research Group and British Museum in London for giving this project their academic backing and support. Last, but by no means least, we would like to thank Professors M. Özdogan and E. Özbayoglu of Istanbul University for their continuing -- and invaluable -- advice, support and enthusiasm.