Byzantine Revelation

The building of Istanbul’s new underground railway has uncovered thousands of years of history, including the first complete Byzantine naval craft ever found. Pinar Sevinclidir investigates.

Archaeologist Metin Gokcay knocked on many doors in the small towns of Anatolia until he finally found the last known craftsman to carve hair combs exactly like the one he had dug out and dated back to the Byzantine era. The craftsman had stopped making the combs years ago but, to Gokcay’s pleasure, could still display the skill and technical proficiency he had inherited from those who lived centuries ago. The wooden hair comb that prompted Gokcay’s journey was found four years ago in Yenikapi, a run-down neighbourhood in Istanbul that is now the site of a major excavation. Hundreds of gold coins, amphorae for wine and oils and ivory cosmetic cases are among the treasures to have been uncovered. But it is the 33 Byzantine ships found preserved in the earth which have brought the site to the attention of the world.

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