The Istanbul Rescue Archaeological Survey, co-directed by Dr Ken Dark (The
University of Reading) and Dr Ferudun Özgümüs (Istanbul
University), was established to record Byzantine and earlier material
at risk of damage or destruction in the western part of the area within
the fifth-century and later walls of Byzantine Constantinople (see
BBBS 25 1998, 26 1999, 28 2001, 29 2002, 30 2003).
The project was brought to an end in July 2004 with a final season examining
the districts of Deniz Ardal, Seyit Ömer, Eregli, Ibrahim Cavus,
Melek Hatun and Beyazit Aga, to the west of our 2003 area. Limited work
was also undertaken in Yedikule in the southwest of the Byzantine city.
The associated training programme was also completed in 2004. This has
produced a team of Turkish scholars familiar with the theory and methods
of urban rescue archaeology and it is hoped that the Turkish team trained
by the project will continue similar work in Istanbul in future years.
Material recorded in 2004
Work in 2004 recorded Byzantine material from across the area investigated.
The following summarises data from a few of the principal sites:
Sitti Hattin Mescidi
Construction of a new mosque porch revealed 15 Byzantine architectural
fragments and a monolithic well head. Although from a small area, the
architectural fragments include columns and their capitals, decorative
corbels, lintels and finely carved architraves. If associated in use,
these could comprise parts of a church or other major building. Judging
from the sculpture, this was probably constructed in the 5th century.
One of the corbels showing an angel was deliberately defaced in antiquity.
15 Özbek appartments
A large marble sarcophagus, bearing a sculpted relief of a mythological
head (probably depicting either the Medusa or Mercury) on its gable
end, was recorded in the back garden of a private house. The sarcophagus
is probably Roman in date, perhaps 3rd-century AD.
Ramazan Efendi Camii
Two Byzantine column capitals were found in the mosque gardens, and a
sculpted relief is built into the Ottoman mimber base inside the present
structure. Byzantine amphora and glazed Constantinopolitan White Ware
sherds were also found in the gardens, suggesting that Byzantine activity
took place on or near the site. This was confirmed by the identification
of a – previously unrecorded – Byzantine brick structure
at Hadim Ibrahim Pasa Türbe sk., immediately opposite the mosque
entrance. Still 12-courses high, the structure is partially covered
with modern plaster and incorporated into modern yard walls. Until
the 1970s it was part of an Ottoman fountain, obscuring its earlier
Bala Süleyman Aga Camii
This mosque complex includes an Ottoman cistern containing much re-used
Byzantine brick. Immediately to the north, adjacent to the cistern,
are the Bala Tekke market gardens: one of the largest remaining open
areas in the walled city. This enabled us to undertake the first systematic
fieldwalking in Istanbul, yielding a large quantity of Byzantine pottery
from a clearly defined area on the west of the market gardens. The
material recorded included Phocaean Red Slip Ware, amphora, glazed
and unglazed Constantinopolitan White Ware, and Fine Sgraffito Ware,
suggesting activity ranging from at least the 6th to 12th centuries.
15 Arka apartments, Ali Sir Nevai sk.
A small group of Byzantine architectural fragments were found built into
the back garden wall of 15 Arka apartments on Ali Sir Nevai sk. These
include a column capital and a large marble slab. Although these finds
give the appearance of a wall, it is probable that they have been re-used
in their present location in recent years. However, this is so close
to the presumed location of the famous 4th-century basilica of St Mocius
that it is possible that these fragments might derive from that building.
Alternatively, they might come from one of the several churches or
other buildings that once stood in the vicinity.
Church of the Dormition, Yapagi sk.
This small modern church seems to be wholly Post-Byzantine in date. However,
the churchyard contains Byzantine columns capitals and a fragmentary
marble inscription in Greek. An enigmatic structure comprising large
limestone ashlar blocks stands immediately south of the present church,
in a narrow space between this and the high modern churchyard wall.
The date and character of this structure are unknown, but the blocks
are unusual and close in appearance to ashlar re-used in the walls
of the Marble Tower.
Hasan Bey apartments, Alay Imam sk.
The basement of the modern apartment block is in a deep cut into the
surrounding land-surface. The back garden contains many marble blocks,
2 fragments of column shaft, and many sherds of 5th- or 6th-century
Byzantine amphora. Approximately half of the marble blocks and amphora
sherds were found in a 2m strip next to the basement, suggesting that
these derived from spoil from its construction, perhaps implying Byzantine
activity on the site.
Müsir Süleyman Pasa sk, Yedikule
As part of the 2004 season it was possible to undertake further observations
in the 1998 survey area. A large, previously unrecorded, vaulted brick
structure was found in Yedikule, behind Emek Apts and Koyalar Apts
on Müsir Süleyman Pasa sk.. This was partially covered with
modern walling and whitewash and partly destroyed, but the upper part
remains standing over 14m long and 1.30m high (the exact dimensions
obscured by soil and modern buildings) North of the street. Arched
recesses in a wall built of large red Byzantine bricks are set into
a steep terrace. Below, a natural spring flows from a similar recess
on another Byzantine brick terrace line (at present 2.15m high but
also partially destroyed and obscured) projecting 4.03m to the South
of the upper wall and extending at least 20m to its West behind the
modern apartments. Another (possibly later?) terrace line of smaller
Byzantine bricks lies above these feature up a steep and largely inaccessible
Together the two lower levels comprise an over 34m long Byzantine structure,
at least 3.45m high, associated with a very productive natural spring.
The function of the structure is unclear but considerable resources must
have been expended to construct such a large building on so steep a slope.
Control over a good water supply in a city with water supply difficulties
might also suggest a high-status complex. It is unlikely, although of
course possible, that such a large structure in this zone would have
escaped mention in textual sources.
One possibility is that this is the part of the Palace of the Helenianai,
or of the Baths of the Helenianai. Alternatively, the structure may have
been part of the Peribleptos monastery. These and other possibilities
are currently being investigated.
The authors would like to thank the Ministry of Culture and Tourism at
Ankara for permission to carry out the survey and the relevant authorities
for permission to visit their buildings and property. Thanks are also
due to our government representative for his support and enthusiasm,
and to the museums of Istanbul for their assistance. Further thanks
are due to the sponsoring bodies, especially the Late Antiquity Research
Group, The British Museum and Istanbul University and to Dr Chris Entwistle
at The British Museum and to the Istanbul Guild of Tourist Guides for
their continued support. Finally, Ken Dark would like to thank the
Turkish Embassy and Consulate in London for their special help in 2004.
Further information and contact details
A more detailed preliminary account of the 2004 season is available for £8.00
(UK postage included) from Ken Dark (email: K.R.Dark@reading.ac.uk),
to whom any enquiries regarding the project may also be sent. A detailed
monograph reporting the results of the entire project is nearing completion.