Turkey is an archaeologist's dream. Not only does it offer amazing Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, Byzantium, and Ottoman ruins, it also offers yet un-explored sites for those interested in archaeology.
From ancient Mesopotamian cities in the east of Turkey to Greek and Roman ruins in the west (and Ottoman mosques everywhere), Turkey is truly an archaeologist's dream. Most people have heard of places like Ephesus (near Izmir and the western Aegean Sea), the ruins of a Greek temple mentioned 2000 years ago in the New Testament when the Apostle Paul visited the site. Many others may have heard about the old castle port of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea where Paul sailed on his journey to Greece and Rome. Other people may have visited the amazing old mosques in eastern Turkey or statues reminiscent of civilization's dim beginnings. However, few people realize that there are many ancient sites yet unexplored in Turkey, just waiting for archaeologists to unearth, catalogue, and reassemble.
One such place is in Izmit, Kocaeli, not far from Istanbul. In 1999, the Marmaris earthquake devastated the area and killed 50,000 people. The earthquake also revealed the ancient city of Nicomedia, existing just below the modern city of Izmit. This city was first built by the Greeks in the Fourth Century B.C. and later rebuilt by the Romans. It is only partially excavated at this time. In the Fourth Century A.D., it had a palace for Roman Emperer Diocletian, temples to Roman gods, gardens, an outdoor ampitheater, and a two-kilometer underground tunnel that still remains intact. The emperor, who killed as many as 200,000 Christians in the ampitheater, used this tunnel when he needed a quick escape from the street crowds. In fact, many bones of Christians who were killed in the Fourth Century were uncovered. They had been looted as people removed gold and other jewelry from the bodies.
The Izmit museum, which has amazing displays of Roman and Greek statues, columns, and other artifacts, has only partially invested in the remoter site of Nicomedia. A small gallery displays photos and copies of busts found in the area, as well as a map that recreates the massive complexes of Nicomedia. Behind the modest gallery is the garden site where a stone inscription in Greek memorializes the Christians killed there. Next to the gallery is an open field that holds blocks, columns, and even frescoes taken from beneath the ground. Low on funds and personnel, this archaeological dig would provide many hours and even years of excavation opportunities for the interested archaeologist. In fact, the Izmit museum wants to draw visitors from around the world to remember the Christians killed at this spot in a gesture of international tolerance.
If you are interested in helping out with this amazing archaeology opportunity, contact me or the Izmit Museum.