World Bulletin/News Desk
An archeological dig at the ancient city of Bathonea has unearthed more than potsherds, spear tips and skeletons: Researchers have found a fault line that could explain why the area has been abandoned every 300 years.
The excavation started in 2009 in Avcılar district's Lake Küçükçekmece area under the auspices of the Cabinet. Dr. Şengül Aydıngün from Kocaeli University is leading the project, which brings together 65 scientists from countries like Germany and Holland, 25 students from nine Turkish universities and more than 60 workers.
Aydıngün told reporters that the ancient city was found during a surface research project in Yarımburgaz, the oldest settlement in the Küçükçekmece basin. Historic documents and geographers' texts written several centuries ago revealed the existence of the ancient port 20 kilometers from Byzantium (now İstanbul), he said.
Aydıngün said his team was at the start of a very long dig and that they had found the remains of two ports, a huge cistern, some streets and a square as well as huge complexes that could be part of a palace. That, and the fault line, which is believed to be one reason that İstanbul province's Avcılar district was hit so hard by a 1999 earthquake in the Marmara region. According to official figures, 18,000 died in the massive temblor, but some estimates put the death toll at 40,000.
The fault line was found very close to the surface and, according to the excavation team, could explain why the area was abandoned every 300 years by its residents.
Researchers surveying the site from the air found a grid system of roads, and expect to unearth a city built in a manner similar to the planned urban settlements at Ephesus and other ancient cities.
Geomorphologist Hakan Kaya said the area around the Küçükçekmece area is especially vulnerable to earthquakes along the North Anatolian Fault. The Küçükçekmece and Avcılar districts of İstanbul were the hardest-hit areas of the province in the 1999 quake, raising suspicions of undiscovered fault lines. Kaya said that the discovery of a fault line at the Bathonea excavation shed light on the damage Avcılar suffered in the Marmara earthquake, and that the fault line could have affected the lives of residents of the ancient city.
The Culture and Tourism Ministry's general director of monuments and museums, Orhan Düzgün, said Bathonea is one of 150 ancient cities currently under excavation, and that the lighthouse found there is one of the three most important ancient lighthouses.