Text and photos by Glenn Maffia
From high expectations, my dreams fell upon that bleak reality that archaeology does not always deliver the promises formulated within the imagination. I guess that is just the ground we are working on, where disappointments are required to savour that sweetness that comes with an exhilarating find. And to be fair, here in Didim the archaeologists have been unearthing those exciting finds in abundance over the past decade. Snippets of information can also be gleaned from an anti-climax, which adds breadth to the reconstruction which is being attempted.
Much of the same
To everyone’s chagrin, the trench excavated alongside the second temple, behind the mosque, revealed merely that which it did last year; when a well or a bothros, a pit for votive offering to the gods, was discovered.
Another smaller well or bothros was uncovered next to the one which we all knew about, but it was rather like watching a fond old movie once too many times. It felt flat, uninspiring and rather laborious to view.
If there was an upgrade to the history, then it was solely to confirm that these were indeed conduits to allow access to the groundwater and not votive offering pits. Furthermore, it slowly became apparent that they were not contemporary to the foundations of the second temple (I never believed they were), being sunk long after that sophisticated structure.
Threat to the Temple
It was rather an aquatic-themed itinerary which the archaeologists set themselves this year, for their other main task was to locate the source of the water which inundates the southeast corner of Apollo’s Temple.
Two trenches were opened along the road which passes the Temple. I spoke to the archaeologist in charge of this task at one of the trenches, a most affable and charming person. She was under the impression that this water leak had only caused a problem in the last year, though it had been occurring since 2016 when the archaeologists did not receive permission to work here.
Nonetheless, this water seeps through the ground, from whatever source, and emerges low down along the deep slope which descends to the foot of the southeast corner of the Temple. It is a veritable quagmire.
Though I am aware that the Temple is built of sturdy construction, moving water is, after all, the greatest threat to any terrain, human-made or natural, with its ability to erode everything in its path.
I cannot imagine that anyone would wish that to happen. For if this corner were to subside there would be a significant threat that the single column may well follow the slump into the earth. Admittedly, that is neither imminent nor plausible with the amount of liquid we are speaking of here, though I would be better pleased if the reason for this sudden appearance of a swamp could be found and alleviated.
The latest I have unveiled is that this source of the inundation has still to be unearthed. The pipes beneath the road appear to be in an adequate condition, and the long-standing wells dug into the hill above the Temple have not been found to be the causation. Samples of the water have been sent for chemical analysis in the hope that this may pinpoint the source. Thus, we can but wait.
One of my concerns is that there were some well-holes sunk a couple of years ago on the permission of Aydin Council, I believe. I wonder if these may, now that they lie dormant of use after an outcry from local people, be to blame. Some groundwater may have been released and, as water does what it does, has found the easiest route of eroding escape.
Another scenario which is equally as viable, and yet again human-made, could be the increasing number of new houses being built, or "reconstructed" if one prefers to maintain the dominant ideology, in the surrounding 'Protected Area.'
Water does not start flowing for any reason, and I am quite certain that the archaeologists shall ascertain the source of the problem.