Thursday, 4 July 2013

Byzantium Booty in Sakarya

In recent weeks pre-excavations have begun in Turkey's Kaynarca District, near the village of Uzunalan where a 2000 year old Roman statue was discovered. This lovely find of a sculpted torso – with no head or legs and missing one arm – was most likely carved in the image of a Roman aristocrat or a Roman person of some import.

During the time of the sculptures creation this province of Turkey, Sakarya Province (Anatolia) was part of the Byzantine Empire. Located on the Black Sea coastline, and criss crossed by the Sakarya River and its many estuaries, the province is also the home of the remains of the Sangarius Bridge (also known as the Justinian Bridge) which was built during the reign of the Emperor Justinian in 553BC.
The bridge was put in this place over the Sakarya River to service the routes between Constantinople and Emperor Justinian's Eastern Provinces.

While large parts of the bridge have not survived, many of its details have survived in writings, including an inscription that had once graced the limestone. The epigram by Agathia lives on today in the writings of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus:

“Thou too, along with proud Hesperia and the Median peoples and all barbarian hordes, Sangarios, whose tempestuous course is broken by these arches, thus by the sovereign's hand hast been enslaved. Once impassable by ships, once untamed, dost thou now lie in shackles of unbending stone”

While the recent discovery of a Roman sculpture is not connected to the Sangarius Bridge and is in fact about 50 kilometres away from the bridge remains, it does give an example to those unfamiliar with the Sakarya Province, of how rich in Roman footprint this area of the former Byzantine Empire is.

At the location of the find, experts from the Sakarya Museum and the Kaynarca Province have begun their pre excavations and are convinced that the sculpture is a sign that an important ancient settlement must be located somewhere in the vicinity of the village Uzunalan.

The Director of the Sakarya Museum has said in a statement that “We are conducting pre studies because we think that the sculpture cannot be alone, we are looking for a settled area. This is not an archaeological excavation yet. After the studies, we are going to make a decision.”

As these are early days in the discovery and pre-excavations are only beginning to take place, information is limited. I hope they find a site to match the grandness of that sculpture.

- MM

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