The year 2022 saw many remarkable archaeological discoveries made in the area of Turkey, spanning the millennia and broadening our knowledge about the prehistory and history of that region. Excavations continued in many locations, including Ephesus, where the last quarter of the year brought the announcement about a groundbreaking find: the archaeologists working for the Austrian Academy of Sciences were able to uncover an early Byzantine business and gastronomy district in the heart of this ancient city.
Many discoveries concerned the prehistory of Anatolia, as the researchers worked in Çatalhöyük, one of the best-preserved Neolithic settlements where the remains of an 8500-year-old wooden ladder were found. The end of the year brought one of the most important discoveries of 2022: an 11,000-year-old wall relief, located near Şanlıurfa's Sayburç, depicting two humans, a bull, and two leopards. Moreover, 8,200-year-old stone cutting tools were excavated in the Yeşilova Mound in Izmir.
Also, knowledge of the Urartian civilization that once thrived in the area of what is now eastern Turkey, was vastly improved. In May, the water level of Lake Van fell, revealing a one-kilometer Urartian road connecting Çarpanak Island to the shore. Two months later, treasure hunters revealed a 2,700-year-old Urartian temple in Garibin Tepe in Alaköy. Moreover, at the ongoing excavations in the Gürpınar district of Van province, a chamber tomb carved into the bedrock and a water channel dating back to the Urartians were found.
The finds from the classical Graeco-Roman period of Asia Minor included a bronze military diploma dating back 2000 years discovered in Kastabala, an ancient city in Osmaniye Province. A statue depicting Apollo, a Greek god associated with light, was found during the excavations in the ancient city of Prusias ad Hypium in northwestern Düzce province. In the west of the country, a 1800-year-old statue head was found in Smyrna Theatre in Izmir, followed by the discovery of rare sculptures of ancient Greek gods in the city of Aizanoi in Kütahya Province, including the statues of Eros, Dionysus, and Hercules.
Tourists visiting Turkey's most famous historical sites were happy to learn about the final reopening of two historical locations in the heart of Istanbul: the Basilica Cistern and the Archaeological Museum. Moreover, eighty percent of the restoration work of the Imperial Harem section of Topkapı Palace in Istanbul was announced.
More restoration projects were carried out throughout the country, such as the ongoing excavation and restoration work underway in the Seljuk Meydan Cemetery in the Ahlat district of Bitlis province, where forty-one new graves were discovered. The restoration works carried out in December included ten historical Ottoman bridges in Bitlis Province. Perhaps even more impressive restoration project was finalized in the ancient city of Kibyra in Burdur Province of southwestern Turkey. There, the approximately 2,000-year-old monumental fountain will start flowing with fresh water again thanks to the restoration project.
The excellent news was also reported by the Turkish authorities. In 2022, some 1,120 cultural and historical artefacts were returned to the country thanks to the work carried out by teams from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the General Directorate of Museums, and the Anti-Smuggling Department.
On the other hand, none of the Turkish archaeological sites or ancient and historical cities located in the country were inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2022, and no new locations made it into the Tentative UNESCO List.
Turkish Archaeological News team travelled to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey last summer, where we were amazed by the progress made by the archaeologists excavating the ancient city of Side. The extent of work done within the famous Alanya fortress was also very impressive.
Moreover, in August we visited Berlin where the museums exhibit innumerable archaeological treasures found in Asia Minor, in such ancient cities as Pergamon, Miletus, Priene, and Troy.
Finally, let us take a look at the most important archaeological discoveries in monthly reviews for 2022. For more details, please check out the section 2022 in Turkish archaeology.
January 2022 brought some major archaeological discoveries in the area of Turkey. In the ancient city of Perre, located in the southeastern province of Adiyaman, archaeologists uncovered a bronze military diploma dating back 2000 years. In the ancient city of Kastabala, located in Turkey's southern province of Osmaniye, relief masks were unearthed on the architectural blocks of the theater. Moreover, historical graves were found during a foundation excavation at a construction site near the ancient city of Antandros, located in the Edremit district of Turkey's western Balıkesir province.
While February 2022 was a relatively quiet month in the context of archaeological discoveries made in the area of Turkey, several significant events took place in that month. Rare swords from the Byzantine Empire were discovered in a fortified city of Amorium, a military stronghold located between the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and the cities of Nicaea and Ancyra. Several 2,500-year-old fortifications were uncovered in the ancient city of Pergamon. Moreover, Roman remains dating back 1,800 years were found in a valley near the Balkayası village of Ağın district in the eastern province of Elazığ. Finally, new findings unearthed during excavations in the ancient city of Dara in the southeastern province of Mardin revealed that the historical site had been an important olive production and trade centre.
March 2022 brought the discovery of a Rhodes shipwreck from the 3rd century CE in the depths of the Gulf of Fethiye and a 2,500-year-old graffiti featuring 21 ships in the basement of the civil basilica of the Agora of Smyrna. Moreover, eighty percent of the restoration work of the Imperial Harem section of Topkapı Palace in Istanbul was announced and the new project of the restoration of the Serpent Column that stands on the Hippodrome of the Constantinople was initiated.
Possibly the most thrilling archaeological news from the area of Turkey in April 2022 was the discovery of a Hellenistic cremation tomb in Istanbul’s Haydarpaşa excavations. Moreover, the remains of an 8500-year-old wooden ladder were found in Çatalhöyük, one of the best-preserved Neolithic settlements in the world. Finally, the excavations revealed a huge underground city in southeastern Mardin province’s Midyat district.
May 2022 saw the discovery of a sarcophagus carrying the title of "Emperor’s protector" in the province of Kocaeli in western Turkey. Meanwhile, in the eastern part of the country, the water level of Lake Van fell, revealing a one-kilometer Urartian road connecting Çarpanak Island to the shore. Finally, archaeologists found an 1800-year-old sewer system during excavations in the ancient city of Mastaura, in the Nazilli district of Aydın province.
Among the archaeological discoveries made in June 2022 within the area of Turkey, it is worth mentioning a burial monument from the late Hellenistic period in the Haydarpaşa Train Station in Istanbul’s Kadıköy neighborhood and 8,200-year-old stone cutting tools from the Yeşilova Mound in Izmir. Moreover, during the excavations around the Red Basilica at Pergamon, an ancient city in western Turkey that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a geometric patterned floor mosaic was discovered. Finally, treasure hunters revealed a 2,700-year-old Urartian temple in Garibin Tepe in Alaköy, 28 kilometers northwest of Van city center.
The biggest news of July 2022 for the history and archaeology enthusiasts was the final reopening of two historical locations in the heart of Istanbul: the Basilica Cistern and the Archaeological Museum. Moreover, an Urartian fortress was discovered at an altitude of 3,300 meters in eastern Turkey, and a 1800-year-old statue head was found in Smyrna Theater in Izmir. Finally, the archaeological excavations were launched at historical Harput Castle at eastern Elazığ province and in Metropolis in the Aegean Turkey.
The archaeological discoveries made in August 2022 in the area of Turkey encompassed many prehistoric and historic periods. A clay statuette of a female figure dating back 7,800 years was unearthed during the Ulucak Mound excavation in Izmir. At the ongoing excavations in the Gürpınar district of Van province, a chamber tomb carved into the bedrock and a water channel dating back to the Urartians were found. The excavations at Porsuk-Zeyve Höyük of the Ulukışla district of Niğde uncovered the plaster walls of the Persian period. At the ongoing archaeological digs in the ancient city of Gordion, the capital of the Phrygians, an inscription bearing the name of the ancient city was unearthed. The remains of a 2,200-year-old Roman fountain were discovered in northwestern Turkey at the ancient site of Assos. A statue depicting Apollo, a Greek god associated with light, was found during the excavations in the ancient city of Prusias ad Hypium in northwestern Düzce province. Finally, forty-one new graves were discovered during the ongoing excavation and restoration work underway in the Seljuk Meydan Cemetery in the Ahlat district of Bitlis province.
September 2022 marked the 116th anniversary of the archaeological excavations in Hattusha, once the capital of the Hittite Empire. An 8,200-year-old temple structure was found during the 30th excavation season of the excavations at another major archaeological site in the area of Asia Minor, Çatalhöyük. Moreover, in the famous ancient city of Troy, the remains of a 3,700-year-old domed oven bearing the characteristics of Anatolian culture were discovered. Finally, during the excavations carried out in Bergama (ancient Pergamon), the tomb of the Priest Markos was unearthed.
Although October 20221 was a relatively quiet month when it comes to archaeological news from Turkey, the end of this month brought a sensational announcement from the archaeologists working for the Austrian Academy of Sciences. They were able to uncover an early Byzantine business and gastronomy district in the centre of ancient Ephesus. It is the most important discovery in the city since the now famous Terrace Houses were found half a century ago. The newly excavated area, located next to Domitian Square, was suddenly destroyed in 614/615 CE. All the household goods in the rooms were sealed by a thick burnt layer and thus preserved for posterity, making it possible to get unique snapshots of ancient life.
Among the archaeological discoveries announced for November 2022, the most impressive ones included a 3200-year-old trepanned skull, found in eastern Van province. This special find was made during the salvage excavation in the Early Iron Age necropolis. Moreover, a multi-layered legionary cemetery, carved into the bedrock in the Roman Empire castle, has been unearthed in the ancient city of Satala.
December 2022 saw some important discoveries made in the area of Turkey. Possibly, the most impressive one was an 11,000-year-old wall relief, located near Şanlıurfa's Sayburç, depicting two humans, a bull, and two leopards. It constitutes the earliest known depiction of a narrative scene and reflects the relationship between humans and the natural world that surrounded them during the transition to a sedentary lifestyle. Even older traces of human activity were found during the archaeological excavation carried out in the Gedikkaya Cave in Bilecik Province. There, a stone figurine was discovered in a 16500-year-old votive pit belonging to the Epipalaeolithic period, the transition phase from the Paleolithic Age to the Neolithic Age.