Tag Archives: turkey

Researchers in Turkey uncover what may be the world’s first mosaic

Archeologists working in central Turkey have uncovered what may be the “ancestor” of all Mediterranean mosaics. This piece dates back over three and a half centuries, hailing from the Bronze Age. While impressive in and of itself, researchers hope that its discovery can help us better understand the history of the quite mysterious Hittite people.

The mosaic. Image via Phys.org.

The mosaic was unearthed at a site some three hours’ driving distance from Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, according to local news outlets. This site is known as Uşaklı Höyük, and some 3,500 years ago, it was the site of a Hittite temple. On its grounds, archeologists have uncovered a mosaic consisting of over 3,000 unpainted stones, whose natural shades of beige, red, and black were used to create various curves and triangle shapes. This piece of art predates the oldest known mosaics — from ancient Greece — by around 700 years.

Researchers working at the site believe that this element was meant as a stepping stone of some sort and wasn’t necessarily put together with the intention of being a mosaic. However, given its age, this may very well be the “ancestor” of all mosaics, with the ideas used in its construction later replicated throughout the Mediterranean.

A true original

“It is the ancestor of the classical period of mosaics that are obviously more sophisticated. This is a sort of first attempt to do it,” says Anacleto D’Agostino, excavation director of Uşaklı Höyük.

“For the first time, people felt the necessity to produce some geometric patterns and to do something different from a simple pavement. Maybe we are dealing with a genius? Maybe not. It was maybe a man who said ‘build me a floor’ and he decided to do something weird?”

The site was first located in 2018, and teams of Turkish and Italian archaeologists have been working here ever since. The site sits in the shadow of the Kerkenes mountain on the grounds of an ancient temple which, the team explains, was very likely dedicated to Teshub. This was a storm god of the Hittites, roughly equivalent to Zeus in ancient Greek mythology.

D’Agostino says that while the exact use of this proto-mosaic is unknown, it is possible that it was made to resemble the Kerkenes mountain, likely to serve a ritual purpose. Ceramic fragments and the remains of a palace have also been found at the site, hinting at its original size, inhabitation levels, and overall importance.

Based on these, the team is quite confident that Uşaklı Höyük is the lost city Zippalanda, an important settlement and place of worship for Teshub, mentioned frequently in Hittite tablets. The Hittites employed cuneiform writing and left behind a relative wealth of texts on clay tablets.

“Researchers agree that Uşaklı Höyük is one of two most likely sites. With the discovery of the palace remains alongside the luxurious ceramics and glassware, the likelihood has increased,” D’Agostino says.

Still, until solid, verifiable proof is found — such as a tablet or inscription mentioning the site’s original name — this remains pure conjecture. Despite the extent of the ruins at Uşaklı Höyük, precious few artifacts have been uncovered at the site. 

By the way, these are not the same Hittites that most people are familiar with — those mentioned in the bible. The Hittites who made this mosaic lived during the late Bronze Age and were vying for supremacy in the region with other great civilizations of the era: the New Kingdom of Egypt, the Middle Assyrian Empire, and the Mittani Empire.

These Hittites were pretty advanced for their time, being some of the first to use, and perhaps even the inventors of, iron smelting from meteoric iron. Even so, like many other empires and states during the time, the Hittite empire crumbled during the Bronze Age collapse, and the Hittites broke into small kingdoms scattered through today’s Syria, Lebanon, and the Levant. What caused this collapse of virtually every major organized state at the end of the Bronze Age is still a matter of much debate and little evidence; among the leading theories is that either invading ‘sea peoples’ or shifts in climate caused widespread social unrest.

“I don’t know if we can find a connection between ancient Hittites and people living here now. Centuries and millennia have passed, and people moved from one place to another,” D’Agostino says. “But I would like to imagine that some sort of spiritual connection exists.”

In honor of this possible connection, the archeologists working at Uşaklı Höyük have also been recreating dishes from recipes found on clay tablets at the site, trying to stay as faithful to the techniques and materials used in antiquity. The team explains that they also reproduced Hittite ceramics using local clay for the purpose. So far, they’ve sampled baked dates and bread cooked using these dishes, says Valentina Orsi, co-director of the excavation, which were “very good”.

Derinkuyu: the ancient underground city, once home to 20,000 people

Illustration of the underground maze-like ancient city beneath Cappadocia.

In the 1960s, a Turkish man was doing some casual home decor when he made one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries in history. When he knocked down a wall in his basement he made more room than he bargained for, stumbling across a gallery that led to an extensive 18-story-deep underground city we now know as Derinkuyu.

An almost 3,000-year-old underground city

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Derinkuyu, found in the province of Cappadocia, about four hours away from the capital Ankara, was carved bit by bit into the volcanic rock and consists of numerous subterranean settlements connected by tunnels that run for miles, similar to a man-sized ant colony. Parts of the underground network run as deep as 75 meters (250 feet).

The rock into which Derinkuyu was carved is made of layers upon layers of compact volcanic ash, known as tuff. This soft rock is porous and fragile, which explains how ancient people were able to carve the underground city extensively using simple tools like a pick and shovel.

The entire Cappadocia region of Anatolia has a rich volcanic history and sits on a plateau around 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) high. The region is littered with numerous cone-shaped tuff formations that rise from the landscape like minarets — and the region is no less impressive below ground.

The Cappadocia landscape with its tuff towers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

According to archaeologists at the Turkish Department of Culture, the first gallery was carved at Derinkuyu during the 8th-7th century BCE by the Phrygians, an ancient Indo-European culture that founded the Anatolian kingdom (12th-7th century BCE). The Phrygians were among the foremost architects of the Iron Age and are known for engaging in complex mega construction projects. Other theories suggest that the underground city was founded by Persians or Hittites.

One of the first possible written accounts describing Derinkuyu is credited to 370 BCE, found in a text written by Xenophon of Athens who, writing in his Anabasis, mentions people in Anatolia had excavated their homes underground. He adds that these underground dwellings were large enough for a family, domestic animals, and supplies of stored food.

Derinkuyu seems to have reached its peak during the Byzantine period. By this time, it grew into an extensive multi-level complex consisting of a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers, covering an area of 445 km2 (172 miles2). It's believed that Derinkuyu's population was as large as 20,000 inhabitants.

Advanced subterranean features

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The underground city featured all the amenities available at the time to surface dwellers -- perhaps even more. The typical Derinkuyu home had living quarters consisting of bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and often a small shrine. It had air shafts and water channels that ensured ventilation and flowing water. During the torrid summer days in Anatolia, Derinkuyu residents likely lived more comfortably than typical city dwellers of the time thanks to the constant cave-like temperature, although the lack of sunlight may have been quite a nuisance.

Water was supplied from underground shafts, such as the 55-meter-deep (180-feet) well pictured below. This primary well likely supplied residents both underground and on the surface with water. The water supply was controlled from the bottom-up, with lower floors able to cut-off supply to the upper levels, which helped to prevent invaders from poisoning the well.

A 55-meter (180-ft) shaft used a primary well at Derinkuyu. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

There were likely some downsides to life underground, but they were mitigated by the enhanced security Derinkuyu offered. Early Christians flocked to the city to escape persecution by the Romans. Then, during the Arab-Byzantine wars from 780 and 1180, Derinkuyu was a safe haven for Muslim Arabs, which significantly expanded the city.

When danger loomed, residents retreated underground, blocked the access tunnels with round stone doors, and sealed themselves in with livestock and supplies until the threat passed. As a last resort, the inhabitants could use hidden escape routes to make it out alive.

Circular stones were used to seal access to passageways. Credit: Wikimedia Comons.

The miles of tunnels running through the Derinkuyu network were carved narrow on purpose, forcing would-be invaders to crawl through the passageway one at a time. These tunnels connected hundreds of cave-like shelters, which served as shelters and public areas like churches, markets, communal meeting areas, and schools. Illumination was done with torches.

Credit: Flickr/Patrick Barry.

Derinkuyu isn't alone. Cappadocia, a region of central Turkey, is home to over 250 subterranean cities carved in tuff, as well as many cave churches. In 2013, archaeologists discovered a new Cappadocian underground city under a Byzantine-era hilltop castle in Nevşehir, the provincial capital. The site is believed to rival Derinkuyu and perhaps might even eclipse it, with early measurements indicating it is larger by about a third.

In fact, Derinkuyu was connected to another nearby underground city called Kaymakli through a 5-km-long (3-mile) tunnel, although it is now blocked after some sections of the tunnel have collapsed.

Derinkuyu is now open to the public to visit, although only 10% of the city is accessible.

Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered a major, previously unknown kingdom

“We had no idea about this kingdom. In a flash, we had profound new information on the Iron Age Middle East,” said Prof. James Osborne of the Oriental Institute, an archaeologist who specializes in examining Iron Age cities. Osborne and colleagues have discovered what looks like a major political center in ancient Turkey from about 2700 years ago — and we knew nothing about it.

The half-submerged stone with inscriptions dating to the 8th century BC. Image credits: James Osborne.

It started in 2019, when a local farmer told the group that a nearby canal had a strange stone with some unknown writing on it. At that time, researchers were exploring a giant, ancient mound site in central Turkey called Türkmen-Karahöyük and went to investigate what the farmer had pointed out. They knew the area was riddled with archaeological finds, but they were shocked by what they found.

“We could see it still sticking out of the water, so we jumped right down into the canal – up to our waists wading around,” said archaeologist James Osborne from the University of Chicago in early 2020.

“Right away it was clear it was ancient, and we recognised the script it was written in: Luwian, the language used in the Bronze and Iron ages in the area.”

Osborne wasn’t an expert in Luwian, but he was fortunate enough to work just down the hall from two experts who translated it as being written by a king called Hartapu.

The upper mound of Türkmen-Karahöyük from the northwest. Photograph courtesy of KRASP.

The ancient stone block turned out to be a military boast. It noted that the local rulers had defeated the kingdom of Phrygia led by king Midas. Phrygia had been led by several kings named Midas, but dating suggests that it could be the legendary king Midas, who was said to be cursed by the gods to turn everything he touched into gold.

Phrygia was a local powerhouse and defeating it would have been quite the feat, so whoever wrote the plaque must have also represented a strong kingdom — but researchers had no idea about it before.

“We had no idea about this kingdom,” Osborne said. “In a flash, we had profound new information on the Iron Age Middle East.”

This fits in quite well with other recent findings. A few miles to the south, researchers had also found a block writing of King Hartapu, but no one knew who he was or what he ruled — until now.

Luwian inscriptions from a nearby dig. Image credits: Oriental Institute.

Researchers have their work cut out for them. Judging by the size of the Türkmen-Karahöyük mound, there’s plenty more left to be discovered — and who knows what they’ll find?

“Inside this mound are going to be palaces, monuments, houses,” Osborne said. “This stele was a marvellous, incredibly lucky find – but it’s just the beginning.”

The mound from above (Google Earth / via OI).
Navajo pottery.

Ancient pottery portrays perilous path for agriculture under climate change

Ancient communities said ‘nay’ to beef and ‘yay’ to mutton and chevon when faced with shifting climates.

Navajo pottery.

Navajo American Indian Pottery. Not related to this study — but pretty!
Image via Pixabay.

We’re not the first generation to struggle with climate change. While our current predicament is of our own making, ancient communities also had to struggle with natural climate shifts. New research explores how farmers 8,200 years ago adapted to such changes.

Food for dry days

“Changes in precipitation patterns in the past are traditionally obtained using ocean or lake sediment cores,” says Dr. Mélanie Roffet-Salque, lead author of the paper. “This is the first time that such information is derived from cooking pots.”

“We have used the signal carried by the hydrogen atoms from the animal fats trapped in the pottery vessels after cooking. This opens up a completely new avenue of investigation – the reconstruction of past climate at the very location where people lived using pottery.”

The study centers on the Neolithic (late stone age) and Chalcolithic (copper age) city of Çatalhöyük in southern Anatolia, Turkey. Çatalhöyük was one of the first cities (if not the first city) to pop up, being settled from approximately 7500 BC to 5700 BC.

Some 8,200 years ago, an event would force these ancient city folk to change their lifestyle. A lake in northern Canada spewed huge quantities of glacial runoff into the ocean, which impacted global water currents, leading to a sudden drop in average temperatures. Hoping to get a better understanding of how such changes impacted the lives of people living during the time, a team led by Dr. Roffet-Salque from the University of Bristol looked at what these people ate.

Animal bones excavated at the site revealed that the city’s inhabitants tried their hand at rearing sheep and goats instead of cattle, as these smaller animals are more resistant to drought. The bones also show an unusually high number of cut marks. The team reports that this is a sign of people trying to free every last scrap of meat from the bones — suggesting that food was likely scarce.

This food scarcity was brought on by changes in precipitation patterns in the Anatolian region during this time, the team reports.

Food for… climate research?

The people of Çatalhöyük didn’t leave any written records we could check — but they did have clay pots used for preparing food. The analysis first revealed the presence of ruminant fats on the pots, which were consistent with and reinforced the hypothesis that herders in Çatalhöyük began favoring sheep and goats in their flocks.

This study is the first time that animal fat residues recovered in an archaeological setting have been used to gauge climate evolution in the past. The team analyzed the isotopic ratios of hydrogen atoms (the deuterium to hydrogen ratio) from these fats. Since animals incorporate atoms from their food and drink, the team found a change in this isotope ratio over the period corresponding to the climate event.

The authors also examined the animal fats surviving in ancient cooking pots. They detected the presence of ruminant carcass fats, consistent with the animal bone assemblage discovered at Çatalhöyük. For the first time, compounds from animal fats detected in pottery were shown to carry evidence for the climate event in their isotopic composition.

“It is really significant that the climate models of the event are in complete agreement with the H signals we see in the animal fats preserved in the pots,” says co-author Richard Evershed.

“The models point to seasonal changes farmers would have had to adapt to — overall colder temperatures and drier summers — which would have had inevitable impacts on agriculture.”

The findings are important given our own climatic complications. We didn’t really know the implications of this event — known as the 8.2 ka event — or that of a similar but smaller one called the 9.2 ka event. They’re encouraging in the sense that the effects weren’t as dramatic as they could have been. There is “no evidence for a simultaneous and widespread collapse, large-scale site abandonment, or migration at the time of the events,” which was a real possibility given that early populations were at the mercy of the environment.

However, the study shows that climate change does indeed come with impacts on the food supply. Society today is much better equipped to mitigate the effect of precipitations on crops, and our food networks span the globe. Even so, we’re still dependent on the environment, and there are many more mouths to feed today. In this light, the findings raise a warning that we should look to our crops lest plates go empty in the near future.

The paper “Evidence for the impact of the 8.2-kyBP climate event on Near Eastern early farmers” has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Smiley jug.

World’s first smiley face found, painted 3,700 years ago on a jug in Turkey

Archaeologists have unearthed what’s likely the oldest smiley face humanity has ever produced — painted 3,700 years ago on the side of a portly pitcher in southeastern Turkey.

Smiley jug.

This is the most uplifting jug I’ve ever seen.

A team of Turkish and Italian archaeologists digging in the ancient city Hittite city of Karkemish, today at the Turkish-Syrian border, found the sort of item you don’t know you want but get really hyped over after finding it — the first smiley face humanity has ever produced. That we know of.

It is, in fact, a rather rotund off-white pitcher whose side is adorned with a cheery, black curved line topped by two dots.

“The smiling face is undoubtedly there [no other traces of paint were found on the flask] and has no parallels in ancient ceramic art of the area,” said Dr. Nicolo Marchetti from the Bologna University, who led the excavation works.

The pitcher was, at first, quite unremarkable. Found in a burial chamber, it features a short thin neck and small handle to go with its wide body. The team says it dates back to 1,700 BC and was used to hold a sweet, sherbet-like drink for the deceased to enjoy in the afterlife. The smiling face was discovered only after the pot was sent back to the lab for restoration, according to Turkish news agency Anadolou.

Karkemish has a long history. Established somewhere in the 6th millennium B.C., it was occupied up until the late Middle Ages. Its ruins were first discovered and excavated since the late 19th century, but as the pitcher goes to show, there are still things to be found here.

The joint Italian-Turkish team has been digging here every summer since 2011. The smiling pitcher is among their latest findings, but it’s by no means the only one. Their other trophies include 250 clay bullae, which were tokens pressed with seals and served to provide proof of authenticity to legal or commercial documents. Some feature the seals of some of the highest ranking Hittite elite of the city, most notably that of Taya or Tahe, prince and “charioteer of the goddess Kubaba.”

Clay bullae.

Some of the clay bullae unearthed at Karkemish.

The bullae were found in the late Bronze age layer, and likely date from the 13th century B.C., when Karkemish served as the seat of the Hittite Viceroy who controlled the region. Researchers hope that such a huge number of bullae will offer insight into how the people, trade and administrative systems of Karkemish all fit together during the city’s golden age.

Another exciting find is a large basalt relief showing two gryphons. This was likely carved in the latter part of the 10th century B.C. under the Neo-Hittite king Katuwa, known for his building projects. The relief was likely paired up with a similar sculpture of a winged bull, which was discovered during last year’s excavation. The remains of a massive fortress and a grain silo, both dating around 1100 B.C., were also discovered.

Gryphon stone.

Go house Gryffindo… stone! Gryffinstone!

Although currently in a pretty dangerous area, Karkemish will be opened to the public (for the first time) as the Karkemish Ancient City Archaeological Park on May 12th, 2018. The smiley jug will be put on display at the nearby Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology.

Hopefully, the team’s efforts will help towards preserving the incredibly rich historical legacy of this area, much of which has been destroyed by the Syrian conflict and radical groups such as ISIS.

The Hittites hailed from Anatolia and built an empire stretching from modern-day Greece, to Egypt, Turkey, and well into Syria. It eventually fragmented into smaller states during the Bronze Age and was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian empire around 1,178 BC. Apart from giving us the oldest smiley, they also traded with the people that gave us the oldest known song.

All image credits to the Turco-Italian Archaeological Expedition at Karkemish.

Schools in Turkey will stop teaching evolution

The new curriculum for primary and secondary schools in Turkey has brought a number of unwelcome changes, including the termination of all lessons about evolution.

There are some unfortunate similarities between Turkey and the US in this aspect. Image credits: Quinn Anne / Wiki Commons.

İsmet Yılmaz, the Minister of National Education in Turkey, is set to introduce a series of radical changes to the country’s education system. Religion courses had already been increased from 2 to 6 hours a week and Intelligent Design was taught alongside evolution. Now, it will be the only perspective taught to everyone until university. Of course, even at university level, only biology-related classes will discuss the topic — and this ensures that only a small minority of the country’s youth will learn about evolution.

Meanwhile, information on historic topics, such as the country’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (who pushed for secularism in the country) is reduced.

While Yilmaz said the draft is still open to feedback, he also cast his doubts about the scientific validity of evolution.

“Whether it is scientific, merely a hypothesis, or just theoretical, all these are debatable.”

Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, also said that evolution was debatable, and also that it is too difficult for students to understand.

“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmuş in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

What this set of measures is doing is ensuring that Turkey becomes more and more religious, something which Ataturk tried to avoid. Ironically, there are some strong similarities with the US — a country where religion is starting to play a more and more important role in governance, despite the intentions of the Founding Fathers. “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” John Adams, the country’s second president, is famously quoted as saying.

The move came following the pressure of conservative groups and fell on fertile grounds in the government. Mustafa Akyol, a senior fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College quotes Egitim Bir-Sen, one such group, as an important source of influence.

“Since the early 2000s, religious conservatives have had the upper hand in Turkey, and their distaste for the theory of evolution is well established,” Mr Akyol wrote. “Many of them see the theory as corrosive to religious faith and want to ‘protect’ young generations from such ‘harmful’ ideas.”

Middle-eastern countries have struggled to accept evolution and implement it in a largely religious society. Education is regarded as a particularly contentious avenue, as it would teach children to think more for themselves and challenge religious beliefs. We wouldn’t want the kids thinking for themselves, who knows what they’ll do next, right?

In Turkey, reactions to this have been mixed, highlighting a clear divide between the two sides of the country. The more educated Turks (often from the higher echelons of society) have spoken against it, with small-scale protests erupting around Turkey’s large cities. But for the religious, largely rural population of Turkey, this is a victory of piety.

The science, however, is pretty clear. Evolution is at the core of biological research, and while some of the nuts and bolts of the theory are still being analyzed and improved upon, evolutionary processes are unanimously accepted by biologists. It’s unfortunate to see religious beliefs interfering with scientific realities.

The final changes will be officially announced at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Among other changes, the overall academic difficulty will be significantly decreased — a measure frowned upon in education often used just to inflate numbers — and the failed coup attempt will be included in Social Studies courses starting from the 6th grade.

Intact, spectacular and unique Neolithic figurine unearthed in Turkey

Archaeologists have unearthed an intact female figure carved from marble, dating from up to 10,000 years ago.

Image via Daily Sabah.

The statue is unique in terms of quality and craftsmanship. It depicts a voluptuous female figure, possibly a fertility goddess. It’s made from a type of marble, measuring 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in length and weighing one kilogram (2.2 pounds). The team that found it, led by Professor Ian Hodder, an anthropologist at Stanford University in the U.S., believes it was part of a ritual.

It’s not yet clear how old the statue is, estimates putting it at 5500-8000 BC.

The statuette was found at Çatalhöyük, a very large Neolithic and Chalcolithic proto-city settlement in southern Anatolia, Turkey. The site was founded in approximately 7500 BC and abandoned in 5700 BC – one of the largest cities in the world at the time. The city was composed entirely of domestic buildings, with no obvious public buildings.

On-site restoration of a typical interior. Photo by Stipich Béla

On-site restoration of a typical interior. Photo by Stipich Béla

In this context, the figurine could be increasingly important. If it’s older than 7500 BC it may force us to rethink the evolution of Çatalhöyük, and if it was indeed part of a ritual then it could provide important insight into the cultural life of the city’s inhabitants. Did they perform rituals in homes, rather than in public places? What kind of ritual was it? Those are the kinds of questions archaeologists hope to answer in the future.

The city marks an important period in humanity’s history – the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration. Çatalhöyük has been studied for more than 50 years but new artefacts such as this one, are still brought to light.


Stunning church discovered in underground city in Turkey

A surprising finding could change the history of early orthodoxy. In the biggest underground city in the work, archaeologists have found a church with frescoes hidden from sight for centuries. They show Jesus rising into the sky and defeating evil.

The site itself is spectacular. Just imagine – it’s an underground city which has been inhabited since 5000 years ago. The city could have easily accommodated 20,000 people and had all the usual amenities found in other underground complexes, including wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, and, of course, chapels and churches. This 1,500 year old church is a great example.

The rock-carved underground church is located within a castle in the center of the Turkish city Nevşehir, an area known for subterranean structure. The archaeologists have studied only the top part of the church, because that’s how far they got with the excavations.

“Only a few of the paintings have been revealed,” said researcher Ali Aydin, who told the Hurriyet Daily News: “There are important paintings in the front part of the church showing the crucifixion of Jesus and his ascension to heaven. There are also frescoes showing the apostles, the saints and other prophets Moses and Elyesa.”

Ironically, the archaeological work was only being done because of a housing plan in the city – and now this could reveal a forgotten chapter in the history of Orthodoxy.

The frescoes they have uncovered already seem to be unique, depicting uncommon scenes, most notably that of Jesus the Christ rising into the sky and punishing bad souls. However, uncovering the paintings is no easy feat. The church was filled with soil and rubble, and it will take a lot of digging, cleaning and restoration before the paintings can be admired and studied properly. Ali Aydın, an archaeologist working at the site, emphasized that only the church roof is visible – so we don’t even know how tall it is.

“We have stopped work in order to protect the wall paintings and the church. When the weather gets warmer in the spring, we will wait for humidity to evaporate and then we will start removing the earth,” he said.

He expects even more spectacular paintings to be unearthed.

“Only a few of the paintings have been revealed. Others will emerge when the earth is removed. There are important paintings in the front part of the church showing the crucifixion of Jesus and his ascension to heaven. There are also frescoes showing the apostles, the saints and other prophets Moses and Elyesa,” he said, adding that they had also found the real entrance of the church used in the past but had yet to expose it.

The Byzantine Empire, sometimes referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire extended over much of today’s Turkey, including the area where the underground city is.

Just Stunning and Tranquil - Bafa Lake

3 Natural Turkish Lakes

Turkey is a beautiful country, whether visiting for a beach holiday under the sun, or a partying holiday in the cities, but for some, Turkey’s natural lakes make the perfect relaxing holiday. Camping, Trekking or visiting the local villages and experiencing their culture and cuisines are just a few of the attractions found at some of the most beautiful and ecologically sound lakes in the world.

Bafa Lake

Just Stunning and Tranquil - Bafa Lake

Just Stunning and Tranquil – Bafa Lake

Bafa Lake is situated southeast of the Buyuk Menderes Delta, 25 km from Soke from where you can access it. Once part of the Aegean Sea, the lake became a lake as result of geomorphologic development of Buyuk Menderes Delta. Its main sources are from Buyuk Menderes, plus the underground rivers flowing from the mountains. Plant life is rife, consisting of tamarisks, pine trees, and olive groves. Lake Bafa protects the ecosystem, and therefore provides a winter habitat for lots of species of birds, which would otherwise be in danger of extinction – approximately 300,000 birds take residence here. Pelicans, cormorants and sea eagles are just a few species. There are also over 700 kinds of plankton in the lake and a huge variety of plants, which feed many species of fish.

Bolu – Abant Lake

Bolu - Abant Lake

Bolu – Abant Lake – Amazing Clear and Peaceful Place

Abant Lake is 33km away from Bolu, in the west of the Black Sea area, halfway between Ankara and Istanbul. Abant lake can be reached by the E-5, the Ankara motorway, finally turning off at Omerler Madensuy. Bolu is connected by bus to other parts of the country. The lake is home to a wide variety of plants – 1150 hectares were designated by the status of Natural Park in 1988. Main species include Scotch pine, beech, larch, oak, poplar, ash, horn- beam, willow, juniper, forest rose, tamarisk, hazelnut, holly, dog-rose, bracken, blackberry, strawberry, mint, raspberry, ivy, nettle, mare’s tail, and a variety of pasture grasses and trees. Animal species include pig, deer, roe deer, bear, fox, jackal, and rabbit. You’ll also find birds of prey and singing birds – a real natural haven.

Lake Van

Lake - Van - Just Beautiful

Lake – Van – Just Beautiful

Lake Van is the biggest lake in Turkey and the largest soda water lake in the world. Lake Van lies on the high grounds of the Eastern Anatolian district near the border with Iran. Formed by a crater created by a volcanic explosion of Mt. Nemrud, its elevation from the sea level is over 1600 metres. The water is not very suitable for drinking or irrigation because of its high salinity content – sodium chloride and sodizm carbonate. There is a scenic lookout close to the unpaved road on the eastern slope of Mt. Nemrut, accessible by car/MTB/hike – perfect to make a day of endurance exercise.

Turkey has some truly stunning lakes and mountains you can get great Turkey breaks from Direct Line Holidays and get amongst this amazing environment. Such relaxing places and wonderful scenery if would be foolish to no explore this country.


Powerful 7.2 earthquake shakes Turkey, kills over 60 people

Another powerful seismic event has taken place, this time in Turkey; the 7.2 earthquake in case struck eastern Turkey on Sunday, killing at least 60 people and turning most buildings into big chunks of concrete and metal.

However, Turkish scientists grimly predict that the victim count could easily go above 1000, as housing conditions are especially low in eastern Turkey. The city of Ercis, a city of 75,000 in the mountainous province of Van close to the Iranian border was hit the hardest, and there is still no official report about the state of the city. The city lies on the Ercis fault, one of Turkey’s most seismic prone areas.

“There are so many dead. Several buildings have collapsed. There is too much destruction,” Ercis mayor Zulfikar Arapoglu told NTV television. “We need urgent aid. We need medics.”

Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active seismic regions, with numerous faults that cause massive earthquakes of over 7 (just so you can get an idea, a 7 degree earthquake is 10 times more powerful than one with the magnitude of 6). US scientists reported no less than eight replicas of the temblor, one of which was 5.6.