Academics spending more than 30 years in ancient excavation area

Academics spending more than 30 years in ancient excavation area

ANTALYA – İhlas News Agency
Academics spending more than 30 years in ancient excavation area

Alamy Photo

When the first excavations in the ancient city of Patara began in 1988, archaeologists and academics were using wheelbarrows to carry their digging items and their findings. Now that they found a trove of ancient relics, they say it’s time for conservation.

The excavations have so far trained three professors, two associate professors and three doctors in the Harbor Bath excavations.

“Here, we have not forgotten what efforts were put in the process that started with a wheelbarrow and continued with cranes. Now it’s time for conservation,” the head of the Patara excavations, Professor Havva İşkan Işık said. 

As 2020 was declared the Year of Patara, interest increased in the ancient city, located between the Mediterranean province of Antalya’s Kaş and the nearby Muğla province’s Fethiye districts.

Right next to Patara is one of the most beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean, and sand dunes are almost reminiscent of the deserts of Egypt. The 18-kilometer beach is also one of the rare beaches where Caretta carettas have been laying eggs and hatching for millions of years.

Horse and camel safari tours are organized by the entrepreneurs in the region on the fine sand dunes. Holidaymakers passing through the ancient city go on a unique journey through the beauty of the 12-kilometer Patara Beach. The beach turns into a natural photo studio at sunset.

Due to the coronavirus epidemic, activities were postponed in the ancient city as they were in many places.

Stating that the excavations have been going on for 32 years in the ancient city, Işık said,” The coronavirus epidemic will also end one day. Here we want to make our ruins and antiquities ready for that process without coronavirus.”

Işık shared photos of the past excavations in Patara on her Twitter account. “1993/94 Harbor Bath excavation. We did not yet know that we had to remove enormous collapses from an area of about 2,500 square meters with its surroundings. This excavation, which started in 1989, took 19 years at intervals and trained three professors, two associate professors and three doctors,” said Işık in her post. 

In another post, Işık shared picture of people in the Harbor Bath excavations, saying, “Endless thanks to all the scientists, students and workers who carried out the excavation. They unearthed not only one of the earliest bath structures in Anatolia, but also a basilica thermarum. Here, we have not forgotten what efforts were given in the process that started with a wheelbarrow and continued with cranes. Now it’s time for conservation.”

Sharing the precious memories she had in this adventure that lasted for years, Işık said, “In such a long period of excavation, even with the excitement and happiness of a new discovery every day, some finds may be more special. For me, undoubtedly the discovery of the lighthouse is one of the leading discoveries.  When we unearthed the huge ruins under the sand after months of efforts, I was breathless with the architecture we encountered. And I can never forget the opening of a grave tomb. When I opened the door after thousands of years, I saw the skulls carefully placed on a rock-carved shelf. I can’t forget this moment. Another unforgettable moment was that we read Trimili, the original name of Lycia in their own language, on the Patara Road Monument, and identified it with Dirmil today. Because the Anatolian origins of Lycians were once again proven. Many moments like these make us all work with excitement on a first day, even today.”

A life dedicated to Patara: Havva İşkan Işık

A professor at the Akdeniz University Department of Archeology, Işık was born in the Central Anatolian province of Kütahya. Her passion for archeology, which started with her recognition of the ruins of Çavdarhisar / Aizanoi, led her to the Faculty of Letters, then to Philipps University in Marburg, Germany, where she successfully completed her doctorate.

Then she started working at Erzurum Atatürk University. In 1990, she became one of the three founding faculty members of the Archeology Department at Antalya Akdeniz University. She has received numerous awards such as “Woman of the Year,” “Female Academic of the Year” and “International Rotary Senior Professional.”

Her excavation journey started in the ancient city of Lyrbe and then Patara, where she has been working since 1988. Since 2009, she is the head of the Patara excavations.

“There was almost nothing here. The people of the region, nomads, went up to the highlands in the summer. This excavation came to this point with the support of the state. We have a dedicated team. We are hardworking. It makes me proud to say this. They always say that I have dedicated a lifetime to Patara, it is true, but not only me but my excavation team, our children, our families have also devoted their lives here. They never complained. They saw the importance of our work,” she said.

The ancient city of Patara is 16 kilometers from Kalkan and 42.5 kilometers from Kaş. Entrance to the ancient city, which is located within the borders of Gelemiş village, is made through tolls. Patara covers a wide area. The public part of the famous Patara Beach can be accessed after walking through the ancient city.