TAN team has just returned home after more than 4 weeks on the road. The main goal of our expedition was to reach the northernmost region of Turkey and visit numerous archaeological and historical sights on the way there and back.
During 29 days of the expedition, we travelled around the country, covering the distance of more than 6,000 kilometres. We made 14,000 photos and visited around 50 archaeological sites, historical towns and stand alone structures.
You can follow our approximate route and read the very brief descriptions of the most important places visited. Some of these sites have already been described on TAN portal and you can find the links to the relevant articles below this text. More detailed articles about the remaining sites will be prepared soon so follow Turkish Archaeological News here and on Facebook!
Historical places visited this time:
- Selimiye Mosque
- Üç Şerefeli Mosque
- Saray-ı Cedid-i Amire - the Ottoman palace
- Restored Grand Synagogue
- Arasta Bazaar
- Ali Paşa Bazaar
- Complex of Sultan Bayezid II
- Eski Cami (Old Mosque)
- Adrianopolis excavation area
We visited all the major sights in the area of the Hittite capital. The highlights of the tour were:
- walking through the temple district
- climbing a great staircase of Yerkapi
- finding the famous Hieroglyph Chamber
Şapinuwa was the second capital of the Hittites or the royal residence of the rulers of this country. Unfortunatelly, only a very small part of this huge archaeological site is currently open to visitors.
This was our second visit to lovely Amasya on the banks of the Green River.
There were two stopovers in Samsun. First, we visited Amisos Tepesi, with numerous tumuli, dated between 300 and 30 BCE. Next, we paid a visit to the replica of SS Bandırma, the ship which carried Atatürk from Istanbul and arrived in Samsun on May 19, 1919. The date traditionally marks the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence.
Ünye Castle dates back to the Pontus era. The Greeks, the Romans and the Ottomans all used the castle.
7. Jason Church
Jason Church stands on Cape Jason, in Perşembe district. Its name is derived from the Mythological leader Jason of the Argonauts. The church was erected in the 19th century on the spot where the temple of Jason had earlier stood at the edge of the Black Sea, protecting the sailors.
Giresun was known to the ancient Greeks as Choerades or more prominently as Kerasous or Cerasus. We visited Giresun Castle, overlooking the city and the Black Sea coast. It is presumed to be build upon the order of the Pontus King of Pharnakes I. This castle was one of the last border castles of the Trabzon Pontus Empire against Turks in 1300s.
The visit to Trabzon had just one goal: checking the state of preservation and visibility of the wonderful frescoes from Hagia Sophia church, recently turned into a mosque.
Rize is the capital of Turkish tea so we celebrated the visit drinking tea in a restaurant situated in Rize Castle. The castle consists of a citadel and the lower castle. It is believed that the citadel was built during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I and the lower castle dates back to the 13th century.
Şavşat Castle was built in the 9th or the 10th century, by the Georgians from the princedom of Shavsheti. Archaeological excavations have revealed a wine cellar, a pharmacy and an Ottoman hamam in its area.
The first castle in Ardahan was probably built during the 12th century during Seljuk rule. The present structure dates back to the reign of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, ie. the mid-16th century.
The places we visited in Kars are:
- The Castle of Kars
- The Church of the Holy Apostles, now converted into a mosque
- The Stone Bridge (Taşköprü)
- "Baltic style" mansions
- The Grand Mosque (Ulu Camii)
- The Mazlumaga Bath House (Mazlumağa Hamamı)
- Evliya Mosque
Between 961 and 1045, Ani was the capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom that covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey. It was called the "City of 1001 Churches". As this was our first visit in Ani, we spent a lot of time getting acquainted with this spectacular site.
15. Ishak Pasha Palace
The Ishak Pasha Palace is an Ottoman-period palace whose construction was started in 1685 by Colak Abdi Pasha, the bey of Beyazit province, continued by his son İshak Pasha and completed by his grandson Mehmet Pasha. It is a spectacular building, now heavily renovated. Inside the complex it is possible to visit a mosque, a library, two courts, dungeons, men's quarters and women's quarters.
Van Castle is a massive stone fortification built by the ancient Armenian kingdom of Urartu during the 9th to 7th centuries BC, and is the largest example of its kind.
17. Hoşap Castle
The visit to Hoşap Castle was the furthest we went to the south-east of Turkey. The local castle was built by the Ottoman governor Sarı Süleyman Bey in 1643.
In Muradiye we visited the famous waterfall and the spectacular Devil's Bridge but we failed to locate the St. Stepen's Church.
19. Amik Castle on the shores of Lake Van
We need more research to determine the history of this ruined castle on the eastern shore of Lake Van.
20. Çarpıran Bridge in Siirt Province
It was a chance discovery on the way from Van to Malatya. This historic bridge is situated in Baykan, Siirt Province.
21. Malabadi Bridge
This impressive bridge was built by the Artuqid dynasty in the mid-12th century over Batman River. It was restored in the 20th century. During our visit the weather was extremally hot so many local people were swimming in the river near the bridge.
22. Çayönü and Hilar Caves
This was our second visit to Hilar Caves - the rock tombs that were used for approximately 200 years from the first century BCE. However, this time we succeeded in locating Çayönü archaeological site as well. The significance and uniqueness of Çayönü results from the hypothesis that identifies it as the place where the pig was domesticated for the first time in human history. Additionally, it is thought that the regular cultivation of cereal also started near Çayönü and the genetically common ancestor of 68 contemporary types of cereal still grows as a wild plant in close vicinity to Çayönü.
This was the second time we visited Aslantepe, a famous archaeological site near Malatya. This time we had an impression that the place is slowly falling into disrepair.
The highlight of the visit to Malatya was sightseeing the Archaeological Museum. It houses the oldest known swords and daggers. They are composed of arsenic-copper alloy and three of the swords are beautifully inlaid with silver.
25. Yeni Kale (New Castle) in Kahta Province
The fortified complex was constructed on top of earlier foundations by Kara Sonkar,the Governor of Aleppo, in 1286. Apparently, we were very lucky as the castle was closed for renovation for many years and has been recently opened to visitors.
Arsameia was a royal seat of the kingdom of Commagene. It is best known for the Hierothesion of King Mithridates I Kallinikos, built for him by his son and heir Antiochos I. Apart from the Hierothesion which Antiochos himself built on Nemrut Dağı, and the second one on Karakuş which his son Mithridates II built for the female members of the royal house, a third is to be found in Arsameia, the burial site and the associated cultic area for Antiochus' father Mithridates.
27. Severan Bridge over Cendere River
The Severan Bridge (also known as Cendere Köprüsü) is possibly the second largest extant arch bridge by the Romans. The bridge was rebuilt by the Legio XVI Gallica, garrisoned in the ancient city of Samosata to begin a war with Parthia.
28. Karakuş Tumulus
According to some experts, Karakuş Tumulus is a small model of the Hierotheseion (last resting place) on the summit of Mt. Nemrut. It is the burial ground for the women of the Commagene Royal Family.
29. Mount Nemrut
This spectacular location does not need any advertising. It is assumed to be a royal tomb from the 1st century BCE. Notably, we did not stay for the sunset, and this is becoming a family tradition.
30. Perrhe necropolis
Perrhe was an ancient city in the kingdom of Commagene. Our visit to the extensive necropolis was unfortunately very brief as we hurried to the main attraction of this day's journey.
31. Dolmen in Gaziantep Province
Surprisingly, there are numerous dolmens in Gaziantep Province. This one is conveniently situated next to the main road and thus easily accessible.
32. Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep
This modern museum is a pearl beyond any price on the Turkish archaeological scene. It displays the finds from Zeugma, the Roman site partly flooded by the waters of the Birecik Dam. Its most famous possesion is the mosaic known as the "Gypsy Girl" but there are many more precious exhibits there, some of them well hidden from most of the visitors. Yes, we did manage to locate them!
This was our 4th visit to Tarsus. Despite this fact and the oppressive heat & humidity we managed to see two places previously not visited by the TAN team: Justinian Bridge and Donuktaş - a mysterious structure said to be a Roman temple.
34. Varda Viaduct
Although Varda Viaduct is not very ancient as it was erected in the end of the 19th century, it had been on our list of must-see places in Turkey for a long time. Why? As James Bonds fans we could not miss an opportunity to see the location known from Skyfall.
Avanos is one of the towns in Cappadocia that are overshadowed by famous Göreme. Nevertheless it remains our favorite location, not only because of the Red River and great camping grounds with a swimming pool but also because of one of the most fascinating of Turkey's small museums. Güray Museum is a private venue that displays pottery both historical and modern in a spectacular underground location.
There were two reasons why we visited Nevşehir. Firstly, to monitor the progress of archaeological work in the Cappadocia's largest underground city. Secondly, to visit a local museum. The results were utterly disappointing on both counts.
Acemhöyük site had been inhabited from the EBA to the Roman Period. Among others, the settlement of Assyrian Colony Period dating from the first quarter of the second millennium BC is particularly significant with its famous palaces and finds. We were lucky to locate this archaeological site not far from the main Cappadocia - Konya road.
38. Obruk Caravanserai
Obruk caravanserai is a Seljuk han near Konya with visible spolia from an earlier Christian building. It is picturesquely located near Obruk Lake.
39. Kubad Abad Palace
Kubad Abad Palace was a complex of summer residences built for sultan Kayqubad I (1220–1236), ruler of the Sultanate of Rum. The palace is located on the southwestern shores of Lake Beyşehir. It is extremally difficult to get there as the main access road is officialy closed for traffic. We managed to get there only to find out that taking photos is forbidden. Luckily, it was after we had taken a hundered of them.
Eğirdir lies between Lake Eğirdir and the Mount Sivri, and contains a castle said to have been built by Croesus, king of Lydia, although additions were built by the Romans, Byzantines, and Seljuks.
We had one excellent reason to visit Burdur - its Archaeological Museum with an impressive collection of finds from nearby Sagalassos.
We have to make a confession - instead of visiting the ancient city of Hierapolis we spent the best part of the day soaking in the travertines and diving in the so-called Ancient Pool. We did manage to make a tour of the necropolis in the afternoon, though.
43. Magnesia on the Maeander
Excavations are in progress in the area of this less-known Aegean archaeological site. The most spectacular structure visible is a stadium. We need to go back to check the progress of the works soon.
Everybody knows that there is a magnificent Temple of Apollo in Didyma. However, we had a privilege to see other archaeological locations as well - a stadium, the Sacred Road, another temple and more, all thanks to the guidance of Glenn Maffia.
Another site that is being excavated at the moment. The reason to go there are extremely well preserved mosaic and frescoes. Just several days after our visit, another archaeological discovery was announced from Antandros excavations - a 2,500-year-old sarcophagus with the remains of a woman and a man, as well as numerous artifacts.