Edirne is a city that still holds many secrets concerning its past. The best proof of that is the recent archaeological discovery, made in the very heart of the city's historical centre, in front of world-famous Selimiye Mosque. Edirne Municipality prepared the project of a revitalisation of the Selimiye Mosque Square, including the creation of a tourist information office, a park, pools and fountains. However, it was opposed by Edirne Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board because of the remains of a historical building hidden below its ground. This institution initiated archaeological excavations that started in autumn of 2013, in three selected places of the square. It was just the beginning of groundbreaking discoveries, revealing the secret history of the city.
The existence of the ruins of Yemişkapanı Han in this location had been no secret. The han was erected from 1575 to 1588 to serve as a grocery bazaar for the inhabitants of Edirne, and it held more than 100 stalls. It collapsed in 1937 as the result of neglection and abandonment. In 1976, the ruins were covered with concrete. The foundations and fragments of walls remained underground until they were revealed in the recent excavations. A team of archaeologists unearthed the walls of the han, covering an area of 4,000 square meters. The works were conducted under the auspices of the Edirne Archaeological Museum, with the financial support from Edirne Municipality.
Much more exciting discoveries followed soon. In May 2016, it was reported that the excavations in the area of Yemişkapanı Han revealed a waterway constructed by none other but the most famous Ottoman-era architect - Mimar Sinan. He built this waterway to provide access to clean water for the inhabitants of Edirne. The water was brought from the area of Lalapaşa, about 30 kilometres from the city centre, and was distributed through underground channels. It reached Sinan's masterpiece - Selimiye Mosque - as well as other mosques and neighbourhoods. The central tank for water storage was hidden below Selimiye Square. The whole water distribution system was ready before Selimiye Mosque and Yemişkapanı Han were erected. Edirne Mayor Recep Gürkan, who reported on this discovery, said that there had been systems for heating water, and separate channels for clean and dirty water, under the han. The researchers were impressed with Sinan’s genius and claimed that the cistern and the whole water system had still been operational, even after 500 years after their completion.
It was still not the over of surprising finds in the area of Selimiye Square. Just one month after the information about Sinan's waterway, another fascinating report was published. This time, the archaeologists discovered a necropolis from the Roman period. In total, 40 human skeletons were found, of adults and children, in 25 graves. Preliminary dating placed them in the times of late Roman Empire and early Byzantine Empire, i.e. the 5th and the 6th centuries CE. Moreover, burial gifts were discovered in these graves. The researchers promised that after the completion of the examinations at Trakya University, the historical objects and skeletons would be put on display at Edirne City Museum.