From our correspondent Glenn Maffia residing in Didyma
As Turkish Archaeological News (TAN) readers know full well, I have been writing about the local archaeology for many years within ancient Didyma, and have recently begun to cover interesting events which have caught my notice in Miletus. It is something I find particularly fascinating and intriguing.
I am not an archaeologist, I am an art historian. Let me make that clear from the very outset. Though I cannot help but notice that my input, from a historical point of view, into the public domain has far outweighed anything the archaeologists have released in that arena.
The first time I encountered the archaeologists was in 2012, when a friend who used to have a restaurant in close proximity to the Temple of Apollo informed me of their work. Prior to this date, I was oblivious of any archaeology which happened to be being performed. Certainly, I had written a number of pieces about the Temple, but mainly upon an aesthetic level, as I had no recourse to observe an excavation in full swing.
It proved to be an eye-opener. I ascertained that the archaeologists arrived for their annual dig each August (which explained why I had always missed them, August I deemed too hot to be out in the sun). I was doubly fortunate as the archaeological team had just unearthed what looked to be, and eventually proved to be, a theatre just to the south of the temple.
This proved to be a momentous find as it confirmed, to me, the temple did not stand alone in isolation, as many a casual visitor perceived. I was truly hooked.
Temple of Artemis (2013-14)
One year on and there I was once again observing and chatting to the archaeologists. The focal point of their attention for this dig was the area immediately behind the present day Mosque and stretching over (or rather under) the wall which separates the, then active, school and playground.
Today’s Mosque was built in 1830, probably to replace an older one which once stood in the area close by, as a Church for the Christian inhabitants of the village which surrounds the Temple of Apollo. These Christians were exchanged for those Muslims whom were residing in Kavala, northern Greece, after the Turkish War of Independence in 1924. Notice the people exchanged, on both sides, were distinguished on religious persuasion not ethnicity.
The excavation of the site was barely into its first week when some interesting structure began to squint through the dry, dusty earth into view. Solid oblong stone precisely cut and aligned with precision to one another. This was something substantial and important, a building of immense value to its builders. The dig during the following year confirmed everyone’s expectations, the building that once stood upon these foundations was a temple and tentatively dedicated to Artemis.
Christian Chapel and Hellenistic Foundations (2015)
To my knowledge, it remains something of a mystery what the Hellenistic Foundations purpose entailed. Certainly the extensively solid foundations relate to a construction of considerable size, and one imagines, weight. Its position standing upon a hill overlooking the Temple precinct may, or may not, have a certain relevance, as possibly does its almost square dimensions, measuring 12 x 11 metres.
The Chapel atop of the foundations suggests that the pagan status of the original structure must have held some negative significance to the later Christians. Hence, they placed their holy sight directly on top of the foundations after ripping down whatever stood there previously.
It is understandable that the Director of Excavation must display a diligence and a degree of caution before making the information ascertained public. I, on the other hand, do not. Such luxury of freedoms certainly lends to me boldness where a professional archaeologist would fear to tread. Nonetheless, 6 years have passed since the most recent ‘big find’, personally I believe that to be enough time to draw a conclusion; and publish the results into the public domain. Didyma merely has two guide books which are now approaching their 30th birthday milestones (Ahmet Sinanoglu 1995 & Suzan Bayhan 1997).
This silence from the authorities prompted me to produce my own book which covers the precise locations of these hidden treasures, whilst also giving some explanation of each. I know this is something of a ‘book plug’, but the archaeologist’s silence, I feel, does not lend the gravity that this spectacular site deserves.
Available on Amazon; merely type in the title, Faint Whispers from the Oracle and/or my name and one should find it immediately.