Monday, January 12, 2009

IN THE HEART OF ISTANBUL -- NEOLITHIC FINDS

Archaeologists in Istanbul (Turkey) have discovered a grave that proves the city is 6,000 years older than they previously thought. The skeletons of two adults and two children lie curled-up, perhaps to save space. Alongside them are pots: gifts placed in the grave to use in the afterlife. The ancient family was unearthed at the site of a 21st Century rail project.

Ismail Karamut, head of the Istanbul Archaeology museum, the dig's leader, says:
"It all shows there was a Neolithic settlement here in the historic peninsula of Istanbul where people lived, farmed and fished." Historians had believed modern-day Istanbul was first settled around 700 BCE. The discovery of the skeletons has revealed far deeper roots.

Neolithic remains were discovered in two Istanbul suburbs in the 1950s and 1980s, but this is the first such find in the historic heart of the city that has created a stir the other sites never managed.

Experts believe the Yenikapi settlement dates from between 6400 BCE and 5800 BCE - long before the Bosphorus Strait had formed and in the days when the Marmara Sea was a small, inland lake. Istanbul's first inhabitants appear to have lived on both sides of a river that flowed through Yenikapi.

Scheduled to last six months, Yenikapi archaeological dig is still going strong four years later. Under pressure to complete their excavations and let-in the rail project construction workers, archaeologists have at times worked in shifts, digging 24 hours a day. The cost of the delay to construction has not been calculated. The Yenikapi dig has now reached bedrock, so archaeologists don't expect any more major discoveries. They're still working through piles of ancient swamp mud that has preserved some of the oldest wooden artifacts ever found.

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