Archaeologists excavate Amasra, an almost 5,000-year old ancient city by the Black Sea

amasra-5000-year-ancient-city-black-sea_3Remnant of some ancient structures at the site.

Amasra (derived from Greek Amastris) currently corresponds to an idyllic Black Sea port town in present-day Turkey’s Bartın Province. But hiding beneath this veneer of modernity, the city itself boasts a historical legacy that possibly goes back to the early Bronze Age of Anatolia. The archaeologists have likened it to a museum filled with a plethora of ancient artifacts still untouched by the rigors of time. And such an exciting scope has enticed them to mount an excavation project aimed at unraveling the layers of history over millennia, pertaining to various cultures who held sway over Amasra from ancient to modern times.

The collaborative effort between General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, Amasra Museum Directorate, and various local bodies will fuel the excavation endeavor. Some preliminarily found artifacts have already hinted at the 5,000-year legacy of the site, though not much is known about the initial phase of the settlement. To that end, the earliest known historical equivalent of (what is now) Amasra possibly pertained to the Phoenician colony of Sesamus from 12th century BC, on the northern Anatolian coast of Black Sea.

However, in spite of Sesamus being used as a trading town, the bevy of impressive structures from Amasra actually hails from the Hellenistic period, when the region (also known as Amastris) was ruled by the Kingdom of Pontus. This architectural scope translated to a large marketplace (bazaar), theaters, aqueducts, administrative buildings, religious sanctuaries and even fountains. Interestingly enough, the archaeologists hope to map many of these structural arrangements. Amasra Museum director Baran Aydın said –

We also started to survey the ancient Amasra city ruins to create a ‘master ancient city’ map in cooperation with Bartın’s landscape department. The project will continue for years and will contribute to the tourism in the district. In the end, our aim is to attract the attention of local and foreign tourists. We have many stationary structures, such as the ancient theater and acropolis. When we consider the things that are already visible, like the fortress of Amasra and others, we can only imagine the things that have yet to be unearthed.

Remnant of the wall (in modern Amasra) that was originally built by the Romans, and later reinforced during the medieval times. Image Source


Preliminary excavations have possibly already resulted in the unearthing of structures from the later Roman and Eastern Roman (Byzantine) period, including a store room, bathrooms, meeting halls and even traces of mosaic-bedecked residences. These structural elements are complemented by findings of objects like bronze coins, earthenware oil lamps, pottery and disparate fragments of ancient building materials. To that end, the archaeologists estimate that remnant of a substantially large Roman city is now hidden beneath a layer of a later-built non-residential section. As Aydın said –

We think, in the Roman Period, 20,000 or 25,000 people were living in this area in which 6,000 people live now. Therefore, this shows the settlement encompassed a large area. Even if modern buildings and apartment bases have covered parts of the ancient city, the rest of the area could still be intact. We aim to unearth this ancient city through archaeological excavations in the district where drilling is still ongoing.

And finally, Aydin also talked about the future prospect of the relatively less-known Amasra archaeological side –

Having had a ‘Geographic Information Systems’ data bank, knowledge and experience about the area is a great basis for future preservation. The excavation area will be open to local and foreign tourists for visitation. Therefore, tourists can experience this important site here. Sections of Amasra, along with the minor and major ports, could become an intellectual destination for cultural tourism.

amasra-5000-year-ancient-city-black-sea_3

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Daily Sabah

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