Until recently it was believed that the history of Istanbul began in 667 BC, when according to legend people from the settlements of Megara, Argos, and Corinth in mainland Greece migrated to the area, an important intercontinental transition point. However, the results of the excavations of Yarımburgaz Cave, Fikirtepe, the Pendik settlements, and the Marmaray sites have revealed that agricultural communities emerged in the Istanbul area as long ago as 6500 BC (Neolithic Era). These results shed light on a previously hidden era of Istanbul history. Limited evidence about the Chalcolithic period (5500–3200 BC) has been found in Yarımburgaz Cave. Traces of an early Bronze Age settlement, dated 3200–200 BC, have appeared in the form of ceramics and stone tools; these were found on the surface around Küyükçekmece Lake and in the Silivri-Selimpaşa Mound, located on the European side of Istanbul. There is no archaeological evidence for a period of nearly 1,000 years (2000–1200/1180 BC), which includes the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. During this period some great civilizations and empires—including the Hittites, Hurrians, Arzawas, Achaean-Mycenaeans, Ashurs, and Egyptians—appeared in and around Anatolia and struggled to expand their power. This gap is surprising, given that this period witnessed the most extensive commercial activities and wars in the history of humankind. There is also no archaeological evidence for the end of the Late Bronze Age and the beginning of the Early Iron Age (1850 and 1200/1180 BC). However, the written sources tell us that the Thracians/Phrygians came into Anatolia through the Straits at that time. Although excavations in Troia have established that the Phrygians passed through the Dardanelles to Anatolia, there is no evidence of their passing via the Bosphorus.

Map 1- The map of archeological research areas in Istanbul

For the reasons mentioned above and in order to shed light on the early history of Istanbul, an array of projects have been launched with the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Kocaeli University. Following the Istanbul Prehistoric Archaeological Field Survey Project in 2007, excavations at Bathonea (Küçükçekmece Lake Basin) began in 2009. With the aim of filling the gaps in Istanbul’s history with archaeological evidence, both projects are still being carried out.


The field surveys unearthed new discoveries and provided additional information on previously known facts. They took place on the European side of Istanbul in the districts of Avcılar, Küçükçekmece, Silivri, Çatalca, Başakşehir, and Beylikdüzü (Map 1). These discoveries are described in the text that follows in chronological order.

1- Naviform shaped instrument

1- The earliest results were discovered in Firuzköy on the Avcılar coast of the Küçükçekmece Lake Basin. Separated from the sea by a thin sandbar, this basin has had less saline water since the earliest years of history and has always possessed the characteristics required for human settlement. Taking this into account, first with the field survey and then with the excavations, evidence was found for the existence of settlements in the Küçükçekmece Lake Basin since very early times. The first archaeological survey of the basin was carried out in Yarımburgaz Cave, situated to the north of the basin.1 The excavations established that Yarımburgaz was the earliest settlement in Istanbul, and in fact in all of Turkey and even Europe.2 In the light of this information, a field survey was begun on the Firuzköy Peninsula, located 1.5 km south of the cave, which is still an agricultural area. Within the area, axes, bifacial tools, microlites, sticks, and cores have been found. Some sharp objects in naviform shape made of flint, which were likely some of the first agricultural tools, were also discovered.

The significant discoveries of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B era (7500–6000 BC) are called naviform, which refers to the production technique; it is widely believed that agriculture expanded into Asia Minor thanks to this type of tool, before the production of pottery (Image 1).3 The discovery of tools in naviform shape for the first time in Europe, outside of Asia Minor, provides the earliest evidence of pre-pottery history in the European Neolithic period.4

2- Handmade, dark-colored ceramics belonging to the Pottery-Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods (6500–3500/3200 BC) were discovered in water wells that were accidentally drilled on the lakeshore in Firuzköy.5 These ceramic items demonstrate that after the first agricultural activities, the production of earthenware pottery also became a part of human life, and they resemble examples found in the Yarımburgaz excavations.6

2- Hand made early iron age ceramics – Barbarian ceramics

3- It is estimated that most of the settlements in Istanbul dating from the Early Bronze Age (3500/3200–2000 BC) remained below the rising sea level.7 Details about the Early Bronze Age are known from evidence discovered in Selimpaşa Mound, which is the last mound remaining west of Istanbul, in the coastal settlement of Silivri.8 In research carried out in 2008 and 2009, some ceramic items, a hand axe, and a piece of biconical whorl were found in the mound. Moreover, geophysical scanning carried out on the surface of the mound indicated that the top and the foot of the mound were designed in the form of a city.9

4- The most interesting data gleaned from the Istanbul Prehistoric Archaeological Field Survey Project belong to the Early Iron Age (1200/1180–850 BC). The most significant indications of the migration of sea and land tribes, which began in 1200/1180 and eventually contributed to the events that led to the fall of the early eastern Mediterranean civilizations, are a particular type of ceramic objects. Coarse ware and Buckel ceramics signify the presence of land tribes of Balkan origin, while Later Hellas III C ceramics have been attributed to sea tribes. The Buckel ceramics that have been attributed to the Thracians/Phrygians are completely different from the ceramics of sea tribes. Such ceramics are frequently encountered during excavations in the formerly Thracian region of Istanbul, in the districts of Silivri, Çatalca, Avcılar, and Küçükçekmece (Image 2). In addition to Buckel ceramics discovered during field surveys, some other findings that signal the passage of Thracians/Phrygians from the Bosphorus have been discovered. These include cult areas carved in rock (Image 3), cult wells, water channels, tumuli (small mounds), and mineral slag, all of which resemble examples in the Balkans, the motherland of the Thracians/Phrygians, as well as the remains of an old iron ore pit lying to the north of the village of Çakıl.10

More recent evidence on the Hellenistic/Roman period in Istanbul include remains that might have belonged to the Angurina port on the coast of the Beylikdüzü district11 and a three-arched stone bridge situated behind the TEM motorway (Image 4), which is within the borders of Başakşehir. Both structures can be dated to the 4th or 5th century and have been registered by the Istanbul Cultural Heritage Preservation Board and donated to the city of Istanbul.


In parallel with the field survey in 2009, excavation was started on the Firuzköy location of the Küçükçekmece Lake Basin, in zones designated as Areas I, II, and III (Image 5).

3- Open space Frig cult area

Area I is located in the middle of the east-facing part of the Avcılar Firuzköy Peninsula. Within this area, excavations of the remains of a small harbor, ancient roads, a square or bazaar, and a pool with an apse are still being carried out. Some broken and scattered architectural remnants, human skeletons found under walls, ceramics, and other findings on the upper surface of the Area I excavations indicate that the area was abandoned after a disaster (earthquake, landslide, or fire) and not resettled until a few centuries later. This process was repeated a few times. Finally, in the 18th century, Ottoman agriculture began to be carried out there, and the ancient remains were used to construct farm buildings. The earliest discoveries in Area I were found on the lower parts of the apse structure. The discovery there of statuettes and ceramic pieces belonging to the early Hittites is important, as this provides knowledge that can fill the gaps in Istanbul’s chronology.

Area II is the northernmost excavation area, located on the eastern coast of the Firuzköy Peninsula. At the end of the surveys, which were carried out in 2003, the levels moved down and the architectural remains started to appear more clearly and some could be identified. In this area, a large open cistern and a portcullis were discovered. Among the buildings that were made of stamped logs, which were thought to belong to workshops that made objects for the emperors, palace, or monastery, there is a cistern; its large size and holding capacity means that it could have met the needs of people living here. In order to better govern his empire, which had expanded throughout the Mediterranean, the Roman Emperor Constantine located his capital on an important geostrategic area where Asia and Europe meet, a location that encroached on the Byzantine city state, which had been founded in the 7th century BC, and was located on the Historic Peninsula of today’s Istanbul. In this new capital of the Roman Empire, Constantine undertook a huge construction project. The records of late antiquity demonstrate that the outermost border of Constantinople began at Küçükçekmece. The excavations carried out on the Küçükçekmece Lake Basin have verified these records.

Area III is located on the southernmost part of Firuzköy Peninsula. There are underwater architectural remains there, thought to belong to a large port and a lighthouse that was used in the Hellenistic/Roman period.

4- Roman bridge by TEM highway near Başakşehir district

5- Aerial view of Küçükçekmece lake basin (Murat Öztürk)

Small objects, figurines, coins, ceramics, and amphoras (containers for foods and liquids), collected from all three areas, demonstrate that Küçükçekmece was an important port, recognized for thousands of years for its sea trade with remote areas. The findings reveal the presence of a lively sea trade from the 5th century BC to the 7th century AD between the Black Sea and many ports, extending from west to east along the Mediterranean in places such as Spain, Italy, Sicily, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Phoenicia, Syria, and the Aegean Islands. International trade from this port eventually decreased, primarily because the basin became blocked.

The ancient name or names of the settlement located in the basin, which provide important data from the Lower Paleolithic Age onward, have not yet been identified. The identification of the excavation area as Bathonea stems from an account that Professor Semavi Eyice gave in two articles published in the same year, both called “Küçükçekmece in History.” In the articles, he stated that the river that flowed from the front of Yarımburgaz Cave into Küçükçekmece Lake was referred to in ancient records as Bathinias (Deep River) and that there may have been a phyle (Byzantine district or settlement) known as Bathonea in the Hellenistic period. On the basis of an inscription found in an epigraph in Silivri, which was translated by Georges Seurre,12 this area was referred to as Bathynias; the inscription, written on a sarcophagus that is today exhibited in the garden of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, reads: “Damas, the son of Rufus of Bathonea, died at the age thirty three.” Working from some steles on gravestones and devotional items, Eyice stated that this was a Byzantine district and that there could have been such a settlement in the area.13 The Byzantine historian Anna Comnena (1083–1153), known for her famous work Alexiad, mentioned an important church constructed on behalf of Saint Theodore Tiron.14 Janin argued that this church was located in an area near Constantinople known as Bathys Ryax (Deep River).15 On an enamel plate preserved in the Hermitage Museum, Bathys Ryax is engraved alongside the name of Saint Theodore.16 During excavations, the appearance of a large church, a building that could have been a martyrion (ecclesiastical building constructed in honor of martyrs), and metal workshops confirmed these theories. Furthermore, on a world map known as Tabula Rogeriana, prepared in 1154 by the famous Arab traveler İdrîsî (d. 1165),17 this area is labeled Batira.

No written record has been found of the name or names of the area after the end of the first five excavation periods. Researchers hope that it will be possible to determine the ancient names of the area and its place in cultural history by evaluating future findings from multidisciplinary archaeological, epigraphic, geological, oceanographic, speleological, and geophysical studies, as well as analysis and bibliographic research.


Small Harbor, Harbor Road, Pool, and Square

As the harbor, with two piers 100 meters apart, is smaller than another harbor on the south side of the peninsula, it is referred to as the Small Harbor. The excavation of the harbor on the north side began in 2009. Up to a meter below the surface, linings made of straight-cut stone were discovered. The remains of the port’s metal brackets can still be seen and make it possible to date the harbor to the Early Roman period. The walls on the lakeshore on the east and west side of the Small Harbor run parallel to the coastline; these are dry walls made of overlapped rows of stones without mortar (Image 6). Within the rows of stones, spolia occasionally appear. It is possible to see a Corinthian capital, a fraction of a column and column bases, and large stone blocks that have been cleanly perforated, all of which belong to the 1st or 2nd century. In the excavations carried out to the west, behind the stone pier, researchers found a fairly pristine ancient road 3.8 meters wide, lined by curbstones. The road was stabilized by filling its center with smaller stones and smoothing the surface with tamped earth (Image 7). The road, which goes straight to the pier, makes a sharp right-angle turn to the left after 100 meters. The ceramic pieces and other remains found on the road establish that this road was used from the Early Roman period onward. The road, known as the Road of the Small Harbor, meets with a 5 × 7 meter pool; the pool can be dated to the Hellenistic or Early Roman period. The pool is constructed with cleanly cut limestone blocks and has a few steps leading up to it (Image 8). The stones on the uppermost row of the pool are carved as being internally wiped. The base of the pool is covered by cleanly cut face stones. A restoration project for the pool is expected to commence in the near future.

The ancient road, paved with stone and marble, passes in front of the pool and connects to a large square. The measurements of the square were revealed by the excavation to be 40 × 40 meters (Image 9). It is thought that this square was probably used as a fish market and that after the president of the fishmongers’ guild informed the regional manager or eparkhos at dawn about the amount of fish caught overnight, the fishermen would bring the fish to the square using the road from the small port. After leaving a certain amount of fish in this pool as the daily tax due to the state,18 they would sell the remainder. Found on the shoreline of the Small Harbor in 2008, a segment of an unguentarium (a container for perfume and ointment) stamped with the word “EPARKOU” was the first evidence of the presence of a local manager for the fish market. Fishing played an extremely important role in the urban economy in the ancient Greek and Roman periods. According to ancient records, 15 tons of fish were caught per year in Küçükçekmece.19 In Istanbul and its surroundings during the Roman and Byzantine periods, all kinds of financial activities were controlled by guilds. Since the lagoons were salty, maintained a mild temperature, and were filled with nutrients, migratory fish, such as bonito and tuna, as well as other fish including eel, mullet, and swordfish, could breed easily there. In ancient times, dried mullet roe from Küçükçekmece was in great demand in the city.20

6- Little pier

7- The road of little pier

8- Ancient pool

9- The stone and marble floored square – Market place

Apse Structure

10- Excavation of apsidal structure

An apse structure was discovered during excavations that began after some remains were found on the surface of the area where the Small Harbor was located (Image 10). The huge swallow-clamped stone blocks that make up the foundation of the apse suggest that a Hellenistic structure may have existed there. During the excavation of the apse, researchers encountered pieces of stones that had fallen from the dome. The marble floor of the structure’s middle nave still exists. It is likely that the structure collapsed completely, down to its foundation, after a landslide following a large earthquake in the 6th century; this was repaired later on, but after suffering the same fate again in the 9th century, the area started to be used as a graveyard. A row of stones made up of straight plates drew researchers’ attention to the 1 meter level of the foundation. Due to evidence that soil had flowed inward at this level, it was thought that the area under the bottom rows of stones was empty; after a plate was lifted, a channel filled with water was discovered underneath it. The channel, which was examined in association with the Anatolian Speleology Foundation (ASPEG), has been called the Channel of the Apse Structure. Together with the annexes, 145 meters of tunnels and three pipes, measuring 4.5, 5, and 7.7 meters, were identified in this channel; all of these were photographed and sketched (Illustration 1). The tunnel goes upward at a slope of approximately 1% (Image 11a). The walls of the tunnels were made of roughly knapped stones, 20–40 cm in size, and mortar. The ceiling of the main water tunnel was covered with huge stone plates, while the ceilings of most of the sub-tunnels were covered with bricks in a demi-arch formation (Image 11b).

During excavations in 2013, it was decided to proceed downward from the level of the water channel of the apse structure. On the lower levels of the cleared area numbered 27/V, a female figurine made of iron was discovered. Approximately 10 days later, in the cleared area 15 K, located on the western side, a second figurine of the same type was found.

The place where the first figurine was found was at the 9.45 level of the grade in the semi-circle of the apse. This grade is well below the foundation of the basilica’s apse, so whatever is found there cannot be related to the basilica. At first sight, the surviving huge limestone blocks of the apse can be seen. Due to the swallow-clamped structure, these blocks seem to belong to an exedra of the Hellenistic period. The exedra was probably used as a water structure. Discovered during 2012 and examined by ASPEG, the water channel is thought to have provided clean water to the exedra. It is thought that, with the closure of the water channel by soil and debris over time, new channels were constructed farther away from the exedra. Abandoned for a while after the Hellenistic period, the exedra was used as the foundation for the apse of a great basilica in later antiquity. In 2010, researchers started to remove the debris that had originally been the apse’s dome and was lying within the foundation of the building. To determine the period in which the basilica was constructed, on the suggestion of Professor Ansu Bilban Yalçın of the excavation science committee, it was decided in 2013 to go down as far as the inner and outer foundation of the apse, restored at the level of 11.15. While workers progressed down to that level, under the stone blocks that belong to the Hellenistic exedra, ruins from another period were discovered at the level of 10.15. This level consists of sand and Ostrea edulis shells. While the level that was covered with O. edulis was being excavated, a textured floor of sand and yellowish clay was discovered. At 9.45 cm below the floor, a set of sandstone blocks that were evenly spaced in two rows were discovered; an iron figurine was taken from the same level (Image 12).

11a- The narrowest point of the late Roman Empire water canal

11b- The brick ceiling of apsidal structure canal

12- Early Hittite period figurines

13- Early Hittite period figurines

A second figurine (Image 13) was found on the “c” plan square of the 15 K cleared area in Site I. This cleared area was discovered in 2012 and started to be excavated by ASPEG in order to unearth one of the pipes within the channel. The figurine was found below another layer at the 13.87 m grade; it was lying on a surface covered with sand and marine shells at the 14.90 m grade. Lying in a north–south direction under the single-row set of stone walls, this layer appeared as workers dug down from the 15.98 m grade in the 15 K “c” plan square cleared area. The fact that both figurines were found on layers of the same type demonstrates that they belong to the same age. The horizontal distance between these cleared areas is 45 meters to the southwest of the apse structure. Researchers hope that, as the excavations proceed, the architectural relevance between the two layers of the cleared areas where both figurines were discovered can be identified more clearly. In addition to the two figurines, which can be dated to the first half of 2000 BC (Early Hittite period), ceramic pieces dated to the same period were discovered; the two finds verify one another (Image 14). Findings from the excavations at Küçükçekmece Lake Basin (Bathonea) not only help to fill gaps in the history of Istanbul but also represent the first signs of the Early Hittite period (17th–15th centuries BC) in Thrace.

Antique Road

The antique road is paved with stone and marble. At some points it reaches a width of approximately 8 meters, which would enable vehicles to pass in both directions. As the excavation proceeded, three different periods were discovered. Based on coins and other artifacts, the road on the uppermost level can be dated to the Early Ottoman era (the beginning of the 15th century), while the road or architectural structure below 70 cm is dated to the 9th or 10th century; the stone pavement on the lowermost level can be dated to the early 7th or 8th century. The distance between the uppermost and lowest levels is 1.35 meters. On the pavement of the lowest road, the stones slope toward the middle. It is apparent that the road has been beveled to improve the flow of rainwater. The use of one of the huge stones from the apse that belonged to the basilica in the construction of the road is the most significant sign that the road was built after the destruction of the basilica.

14- Early Hittite ceramics


On the area to the north of Firuzköy Peninsula, known as Area II, excavations are being carried out on remains named the Large Cistern, Citadel Structures, and Columned Structure. The bricks of the structures discovered during excavations bear stamps that belong to the reigns of Constantine the First and his sons (Constantine the Second, Constantius, and Constans). It has been theorized that Area II contains in itself a body of architectural remains, including a palace/monastery complex, a martyrion, and the Large Cistern; all of these were located in an area belonging to the emperors, which was gradually expanded during the era of Constantine the First and his sons.

Large Cistern

Removing the vegetation that covered the remains revealed a monumental building; the excavation of the area was planned.21 During the excavations, which began in 2011, an arched, open cistern made of stamped bricks was identified (Image 15); the surface of the wall within the cistern was covered with 5 cm of plaster. The upper part of this surface was covered with a thin layer of plaster, and earthenware pipes were found in it at regular distances. These pipes were filled with soil; when they were cleaned, it could be seen that the back openings of most of them had been deliberately closed. It is thought that the closed pipes were placed in the cistern, which had a large water capacity, in order to reduce water pressure. The east–west and north–south walls of the structure are connected elliptically but are not angled, and the wall on the western side continues with arched niches in order to support the weight of the water above. Nine of these niches could be opened. To measure the length of the cistern, the long wall on the east–west line was carefully examined. Excavated at a length of 70.2 meters by the year 2012, this long wall descends to 3.5 meters below the surface. The floor of the cistern appears to have been plastered with red mortar made of compressed brick dust, with a thickness of 10 cm.

On the south side of the long wall, one of the channels that provide water to the cistern was identified, and ASPEG started its examination. The outer surface of the channel is made of stone and the inner surface is filled with debris; it is made up of a wide, low wall, an inner lining that makes it watertight, and a layer of thin stone plates that form its sides and bed. The creation of a detailed map of the tunnel, where two pipes were discovered, is still in progress (Illustration 2). In most of the tunnel, travertine formations were encountered. In a study carried out in September, with the outdoor temperature at 26° C, the temperature inside was measured at 14° C. According to the first interpretation of Dr. Özkan Ertuğrul, one of the members of the excavation’s science committee and a member of Trakya University, the presence of the channel and the monumental water structures around it suggest that one of the channels carrying water to Constantinople, which was in need of water in antiquity, could have passed by here, or such a route could have provided clean water for the ships that used the harbor. Significant results are expected to emerge from future excavations regarding the importance of waterways in the history of Istanbul. Moreover, it can be argued that the waterway on the Aretas–Hebdomon line—the existence of which is known although the exact location has not as yet been discovered—should be looked for in this area. The stamped bricks gathered from the cistern are being examined by Professor Mustafa Hamdi Sayar, a member of the scientific committee from Istanbul University. From Sayar’s evaluations it can be understood that the construction of this building began during the reign of Constantine the First (324–337) and was continued later by his sons. In the 5th and 6th centuries, this cistern was restored by leading clergymen of the age or by regional managers, using supplies produced in various brick factories.

15- The great cistern

16- The floor of mosaic structure inside the fortress

17- Scenes from the works of region II excavations

18- Scenes from the works of region II excavations

19- Scenes from the works of region II excavations

Cleared Areas in the Citadel

The characteristics of the groups of huge structures that were discovered in the 13–14 m cleared areas within the location known as Kale Içi (Citadel) have not yet been identified. Researchers believe that they all belong and are related to a common complex. A diagonal structure found in front of the remains of the fortress, which had a floor covered in an optus sectile type mosaic (Image 16), could not be identified. Although the structure of the architectural plan belongs to an early period, this unidentified structure might be a martyrion from the 4th or 5th century.

Columned Structure

This excavation area was called the Columned Structure as it began at the point where a portion of a column was seen emerging from a hole that had been dug by illegal excavators. It is being surveyed on the cleared areas numbered 23F, 23G, 24F, 24G and 15G-15F (Image 17, 18, and 19). On the lower layers, workers found architectural remains and small items that can be dated to the period between the 5th century and the early 12th century. The 12th century is represented by ceramics, and this period can be traced down in the earth to a level of colored and glazed kitchen items, which can be described as luxurious and of high quality and which date from the 9th century. The pieces of green and yellow glazed pottery and glass are numerous. On the lower levels within the cleared area, pieces of amphoras that belong to the 7th, 8th, or 9th century were found, as well as a metal melting pot, pieces of metal jewelry and ornaments (Image 20), unguentaria, and coins. Neither the form of the Columned Structure nor the stamps on the bricks provide accurate information about the structure’s function.

20- Bronze jewelry molds

On the cleared areas 16F, 16G, 27F, 27G, and 28G, which are located on the eastern side of the Columned Structure and which were opened in 2013, some sections that are thought to be workshops and some interesting artifacts have been discovered. A small treasury (Image 21) with seven coins was discovered on the walled edge of the section that was used as a latrine in this area. The golden coins belonging to Emperors Fokas (602–610) and Old and Young Herakleios (610–640) established the dating of finds on the same level. Quite robust amphoras (Image 22) and more than 400 unguentaria were also discovered in these cleared areas (Image 23). When Tübitak Marmara Research Center examined the remains of a few unguentaria, residual traces of medical substances were discovered. Unguentaria might provide information about the notions of health in these periods.

21- Gold coins of Emperor Fokas and old and young Herakleios

22- Amphorae (The containers used to carry food and drinks in shipping trade, 5<sup>th</sup> - 7<sup>th</sup> centuries

23a- Unguentariums (the bottles of medicine, perfumed oil, and healing water)

23b- Unguentariums (the bottles of medicine, perfumed oil, and healing water)

24- Aerial view of the ruins of great port (Murat Öztürk)

25- Pieces from a Roman period sarcophagus found on the shores of the port

There is evidence that a fire broke out in these cleared areas in approximately 640 or 650. The abundant remains suggest that the building was quickly abandoned during the fire. These dates coincide with the Avar raids on Constantinople and the wars with Emperor Herakleios that erupted after they crossed the Danube River, progressing into Thrace, which belonged to the Byzantines.

The remains that were found in the cleared land in Area II demonstrate that from the 4th to 12th centuries this area witnessed much life and activity. It can be supposed that the fire that occurred in the 12th century caused this area to be abandoned. Desolate for a while, the area was probably resettled between the 9th and the 12th centuries. The fact that there are almost no remains dating from the period after the 12th century demonstrates that, after this date, the northern part of the area was not used for settlement.


Major Harbor

The unnatural bulge on the edge of Avcılar Firuzköy Peninsula, which extends north–south, is caused by the remains of an ancient harbor. In an area on the edge of the peninsula known as the Major Harbor, there are remains of the terrace walls of the harbor; these consist of uniformly cut stones and debris and are 1.5 meters thick (Image 24). Among the remains of the Major Harbor, which forms a triangular shape, those of a tomb are of special interest (Image 25). The water level, which is low at the point where the edge of the peninsula stretches toward the lake, must have made the construction of the harbor easier. One ruin on the rocky part of the lakeshore has been identified as part of a lighthouse (Image 26). Küçükçekmece Lake was originally a bay that was part of the Sea of Marmara. A thin sandbar that formed in front of the bay gradually separated it from the sea, and it became a lagoon.22 It can be understood from the information given by Agathias,23 a writer of late antiquity, that this sandbar had not yet formed in the 6th century. For this reason, it is logical to assume that there were ancient harbors on the bays of Küçükçekmece where ships anchored, loaded their goods, and set out to sea.

Importance of the ExcavatIons for Istanbul

Archaeological excavations have both social and scientific significance. Without a doubt, what is sociologically important is relating the findings of the excavations to today’s society. In this manner it is possible to relate the results of the Bathonea/Küçükçekmece Lake Basin excavations to our own era.

26- Aerial view of the remnants of an ancient lighthouse found at the farthest corner of the major harbor.

The excavation results in this area can be evaluated as supporting many fields of science. For example, as the results of these excavations are scientifically confirmed, they disclose unknown parts of the history of Istanbul. This is an important acquisition of information. The results of the excavations also support other scholarly disciplines, such as art history, architecture, economics, and the history of medicine. Archaeological excavations do not merely interest archaeologists; they support a great variety of scientific endeavors.

Among the varieties of tourism, cultural tourism is the most useful, providing benefits at both the individual and financial level. Thus, this industry should be enriched, and Istanbul’s potential in this field is enormous. With the start of an archaeological excavation in an area, cultural tourism enterprises can also begin. Excavations over large areas last for a long time. In such a situation, waiting for the completion of the excavation is not possible and also not advisable. The area where the Bathonea/Küçükçekmece Lake Basin excavations are being carried out has been acknowledged as Istanbul’s second historic peninsula. This area has the potential to be a new destination for tourist day trips, especially in conjunction with a visit to the nearby Yarımburgaz Cave—which has been established as the oldest settlement not only in Yarımburgaz, Istanbul, or Turkey, but also in Europe—and to Küçükçekmece Lake. This route could include tours of the cave and the excavation site, and a lunch overlooking the lake. A boat trip on the lake and a visit to the lighthouse would be highly relaxing and informative.

Such a trip could also decrease the number of visitors to the Historic Peninsula, which has become severely overcrowded. At the same time, the duration of a tourist’s stay in Istanbul, which is now approximately three days, could be increased to four. With the excavation site and Yarımburgaz opened to tourism, new projects could be introduced to develop this area as a tour route and a center of attraction. For example, the discoveries of Early Hittite figurines and ceramic pieces, which can be dated to the first half of the second millennium BC, will have an enormous impact on the world stage and will naturally increase interest in Istanbul.


1 After first being explored geologically by Abdullah Bey, the cave was discussed in two articles in 1869 and 1870, and was explored in the 1900s by R. Bousquet, Harun Reşit Kocacan, R. Hovasse, and G. D. Hubbard. Hovasse was the first person to draw attention to the likelihood that this cave was an area of prehistoric settlement. The first archeological research was carried out by Şevket Aziz Kansu. Later, Kılıç Kökten and Şevket Aziz Kansu conducted more detailed research in 1963–1964.

2 Under the leadership of Mehmet Özdoğan of the Istanbul University Faculty of Letters, Department of Prehistory, additional Yarımburgaz excavations were carried out. As a result of these excavations, it was determined that the first settlement of the cave occurred in the Lower Paleolithic era. In order to make the Pleistocene archaeology of Turkey better understood, a third set of excavations was carried out between 1988 and 1990, under the leadership of Güven Arsebük, also from the Istanbul University Faculty of Letters, Department of Prehistory, with the participation of Mihriban Özbaşaran and F. Clark Howell of the University of California, Berkeley‘s Department of Anthropology. The excavations were carried out as a collaboration between these two universities.

3 L. A. Quintero and P. J. Wilke, “Evolution and Economic Significance of Naviform Core-and-Blade Technology in the Southern Levant”, Paléorient, 1995, vol. 21, no. 1, p. 19.

4 Şengül Aydıngün, “A New Prehistoric Settlement near Küçükçekmece Lake in Istanbul: Avcılar-Firuzkoy”, Boletín de la Asociacion Espanola de Orientalistas, 2007, vol. 43, pp. 11-23; Şengül Aydıngün, “Some Remarkable Prehistoric Finds at Istanbul Küçükçekmece”, XII Symposium on Mediterranean Archaeology (SOMA 2008), London 2009, pp. 154-157; Şengül Aydıngün, “Early Neolithic Discoveries in Istanbul”, Antiquity, 2009, vol. 83, no. 320.

5 Aydıngün, “Some Remarkable Prehistoric Finds at Istanbul Küçükçekmece”, pp. 154-157.

6 Mehmet Özdoğan, “The Late Chalcolithic of Yarımburgaz Cave”, Studi di Paletnologia in Onore di Salvatore, edited by M. Puglisi, A. Palmieri and R. Peroni, Rome: Università di Roma “La Sapienza,” Dipartimento di scienze storiche, archeologiche e antropologiche dell hità, 1985, pp. 177-189; Mehmet Özdoğan, “Yarımburgaz Mağarası”, TTK Bildiriler, X, 1990, vol. 1, pp. 373-388; Mehmet Özdoğan, M. Y. Miyake and Mihriban Özbaşaran-Dede, “An Interim Report on the Excavations at Yarımburgaz and Toptepe in Eastern Thrace”, Anatolica, 1991, vol. 17, pp. 59-121.

7 Mehmet Özdoğan, “Submerged Sites and Drowned Topographies along the Anatolian Coasts: An Overview”, Submerged Prehistory, edited by J. Benjamin, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2011, pp. 219-229; Mehmet Özdoğan, “The Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and Bronze Age Archaeology: An Archaeological Predicament”, Environment and Archaeology of Black Sea, Sofia 2007, pp. 203-214.

8 The first scientific explorations on Selimpaşa Mound were carried out by David French ( “Recent Archaeological Research in Turkey Surface Finds from Various Sites”, Anatolian Studies, 1965, no. 15, pp. 34-39). After this, Mehmet Özdoğan conducted further scientific explorations (“Trakya’da Tarihöncesi Araştırmaların Bugünkü Durumu ve Bazı Sorunlar”, GDAAD, 1983, vol. 10, no. 11, pp. 21-58).

9 Aydıngün and her team conducted research within the scope of the ITA Project. See: Volker Heyd, Şengül Aydıngün, Emre Güldoğan, “Geophysical Applications for ITA 2008: The Example of the Selimpaşa Höyük”, 25. Arkeometri Sonuçları Toplantısı, Ankara: T.C. Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, 2010, pp. 553-570 (“ITA” refers to the Istanbul Prehistoric Archaeological Field Survey Project); Şengül Aydıngün et. al., “2008 Yılı İstanbul Tarih Öncesi Çağlar Yüzey Araştırması”, 27. Araştırma Sonuçları Toplantısı, 30. Uluslararası Kazı, Araştırma ve Arkeometri Sempozyumu, Ankara: İsmail Aygül Ofset Matbaacılık, 2010, vol. 3, pp. 273-288; Şengül Aydıngün, Volker Heyd, Emre Güldoğan, İstanbul’un Batısında Kalan Son Höyük: Selimpaşa, Ankara: Asitan Kitap, 2014.

10 Şengül Aydıngün and Haldun Aydıngün, “Erken Demirçağ’da”Istanbul Boğazı Üzerinden Trak/Frig Kavimlerinin Anadolu’ya Geçişine Ait İlk Bulgular”, Arkeoloji ve Sanat, 2013, no. 142, pp. 65-78.

11 Hakan Öniz, Hakan Kaya, Şengül Aydıngün, “A Harbour Structure at Beylikdüzü”, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 2014, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 179-184.

12 Georges Seure, “Antiquités Thraces de la Propontide: Collection Stamoulis”, Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, 1912, vol. 36, pp. 588, no. 14.

13 Semavi Eyice, “Tarihte Küçükçekmece”, GDAAD, 1978, no. 6-7, p. 59; Semavi Eyice, “Küçükçekmece”, Türkiye Turing ve Otomobil Kurumu Belleteni, 1978, vol. 62, no. 341, pp. 2-10.

14 Anna Comnena (Komnene), The Alexiad, VIII-3, edited and translated by Elizabeth A. Dawes, London: Routledge, Kegan, Paul, 1928.

15 Raymond Janin, Constantinople Byzantine, développement urbain et répertoire topographique, Paris : Institut français deétudes byzantines, 1950, p. 406.

16 Christopher Walter, The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003, p. 44.

17 Ramazan Şeşen, “İdrîsî, Şerif”, DİA, XXI, 493-495.

18 Gilbert Dagron, “The Urban Economy, Seventh-Twelfth Centuries”, The Economic History of Byzantium: From the Seventh through the Fifteenth Century, edited by Angeliki E. Laiou, Washington : Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2002, vol. 2, p. 459.

19 Pınar Bursa, Antik Çağ’da Anadolu’da Balık ve Balıkçılık, Istanbul: Türk Eskiçağ Bilimleri Enstitüsü Yayınları, 2010, pp. 14-18.

20 Karekin Deveciyan, Türkiye’de Balık ve Balıkçılık, translated by Erol Üyepazarcı, Istanbul: Aras Yayıncılık, 2006, p. 218.

21 The remains of the structure known as the Big Cistern were first described by Cafer Tayyar Emre, an art historian, and Ahmet Arslandoğmuş, an archaeologist. Both are experts at KUDEB, working with the Avcılar municipality.

22 Cazibe Arıç, Haliç-Küçükçekmece Gölü Bölgesinin Jeolojisi, Istanbul: İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi Maden Fakültesi Yayınları, 1955.

23 Agathias of Myrina, a traveler in antiquity, narrated events between the years 552 and 558 and stated that Küçükçekmece Lake was a harbor of Istanbul during the reign of Justinian I (527–565). See Myrinali Agathias, Historiae, 5.3: Agathiae Myrinaei Historiarum libri quinque, edited by Rudolf Keydell, Berolini: De Gruyter, 1967.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.