Istanbul University's Contributions to Archaeology in Turkey

DOI :10.26650/APB/SS2.2023.183   
EditorOktay Belli

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic, lay the foundation stones for the modern scientific institutions that would ensure the survival of a modern State. For this purpose, he initiated the Institute for Turkish Studies in the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul University in 1924 and the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) in 1931. More important than these, the Darülfunun (House of Sciences), which had been established in 1863, was transformed into Istanbul University following crucial reforms in 1933. This date is also of great significance for archaeology because, beginning in that year, major steps were taken toward the structuring of archaeology in Turkey in the real sense of the word. Prof. Dr. Helmuth Theodor Bossert, who had come from Germany, was appointed director of the Turkish Institute of Archaeology, which was founded in 1934 as a part of Istanbul University. The Institute began forming and structuring various departments under the discipline of archaeology in the Faculty of Letters. Prof. Dr. H. Th Bossert was also given the chair of the Sumerian-Hittite Philology Department. Prof. Dr. Arif Mufit Mansel, who was to become the true doyen of Turkish archaeology in the near future, was appointed head of the Department of Classical Archaeology. While young students, who had been sent to Europe in accordance with Ataturk’s instructions, began returning home as scholars of the future, our University also welcomed scholars who fled from Nazi regime in Germany. Archaeological excavations and surveys of scientific significance were started in Thrace and Anatolia with the establishment of the relevant sections of specialization.
The present study, titled Istanbul University’s Contributions to Archaeology in Turkey, encompasses only part of the archaeological excavations and surveys carried out in the years 1932-2000 by the faculty members in the Prehistory. Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Classical Archaeology. Classical Philology, History of Art, and Ancient History departments of the Faculty of Letters. Due to the decease or retirement of some of our professors, articles on only about half of the excavations and surveys could be compiled.
The studies, achieved with great devotion during a period of 68 years, cover various cultures and civilizations. ranging from the earliest periods in Thrace and Anatolia to the end of the Ottoman Empire.
To provide the excavations with modern facilities, it was necessary to build archaeological research centers comprising suitable depots, study rooms, photography darkrooms, laboratories, conference halls, and dining rooms. bedrooms, rest areas, and kitchens. For this purpose, modem buildings and annexes were installed, thus forming Historical and Archaeological Research centers in Antalya (1954) for archaeological studies in the Antalya region, in Van (1967) for studies in East Anatolia, and in Edime (1973) for studies conducted in Thrace. Regulations were prepared and put into effect separately for each center while excavation houses were constructed in Samsun-Bafra and Diyarbakir-Çayônù. Soon after their establishment, these centers started making important contributions to the discovery and preservation of historical and natural sites in their respective areas. Apart from this, with the facilities offered by the Van Historical and Archaeological Research Center, whose equipment is as satisfactory as those of contemporary archaeological institutes, the mountainous region extending from the Iraqi-Syrian border in the south to Caucasia in the north, and from the Iranian border in the east to the Euphrates in the west, has been systematically explored. Even during peak periods of terrorist activity in East Anatolia, archaeological excavations and surveys in that region continued without the slightest interruption and with great success. Studies went beyond our borders and the territory of the Autonomous Nakhichevan Republic was also systematically explored.

The International Symposium on Anatolia in the Iron Ages, a meeting that has been organized jointly since 1984 by Aegean University (Izmir) and the British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara, was held at the History and Archaeological Research Center in Van in 1990. Because other universities in Turkey have still not established similar history and archaeology research centers, the importance attached to the disciplines of history and archaeology by Istanbul University may be understood more clearly.
The excavations and surveys are aimed at bringing to light and informing the world about the unknown history of the civilizations in Anatolia, a land situated between Asia and Europe. Therefore they cover a wide geographical area extending from Thrace in the west to the Iranian border in the east and from Antalya. Adana and Diyarbakır in the south to Samsun in the north.
Archaeological work carried out by our faculty members has been realized with contemporary methods and in coordination with specialists in geography, anthropology, ethnography, metallurgy, paleontology, zoology, botany, and other practical sciences, earning the respect and appreciation of scholars in Europe and elsewhere. It should be noted, for example, that the first Archaeometry Section in Turkey was formed in the 1970s by the related faculty members of the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul University.
In Turkey, the first department with a four-year program on the restoration and conservation of artifacts was founded in the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul University The work accomplished by the faculty members and students of the department for the rescue, conservation, and restoration of all artifacts unearthed at various excavations set an example for other universities and the museums. Istanbul University has also pioneered the restoration of archaeological sites. To protect the sites from the destruction of all kinds and to leave them to posterity in a sound and safe state, comprehensive "Historic-National Park Projects" have been prepared and their materialization was ensured at many places. The Karatepe-Aslantaş excavation site, which is the first Historic-National Park in Turkey, was successfully organized as an open-air museum and welcomed visitors in the 1960s. This was followed by the "Van Fortress and the Ancient City of Van Historic-National Park Project" in 1983, and "Protection and Improvement Project for the Van Gevaş-Hişet Fortresses, Historical Turkish Cemeteries and their Surrounding" in 1988. "Çayönü Open Air Museum Project’ in 1989. "Anzaf Fortresses Open Air Museum Project" in 1992, "Yumuktepe Archaeological Park Project" in 1993, "Aşıklı Mound Open Air Museum Project" in 1997, and 'Aşağı Pinar Open Air Museum Project" in 1998.
Istanbul University has always played a leading role in planning and rescue projects that have been conducted in coordination with other national and international organizations The first example of such activities was achieved in coordination with the State Planning Organization m Çukurova region in the years 1964-1966. Highly systematic surveys and excavations carried out in the context of the Keban. Karakaya, Atatürk dam projects and the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) concerning the areas to be inundated by the dam waters, have been affected entirely under the leadership of Istanbul University since 1967. Some of these are still carried on by our colleagues successfully. These international surveys and excavations involved, for the first time, extensive student participation as well. Istanbul University continues to be a pioneer in our country in making surveys and excavations with student participation as an established practice.
In 1991. the Institute of Archaeology in Turkey was formed under the leadership of faculty members from the Faculty of Letters, and through this body, the participation in national and international scientific activities and conventions has been very successful. Our greatest aim is to establish a fully-equipped Institute of Archaeology in Turkey that would assist our colleagues in their studies and unite all of our colleagues under one roof. starting with our University’s faculty members who have been compiling a cultural inventory of Turkey since 1932.
Istanbul University has contributed to the history of archaeology in Turkey not only with the number and variety of excavations and surveys but also with its contemporary and modern excavation methods. Even when archaeology was in its infancy in the 1930s, scientific studies conducted by our faculty members did not lag behind world standards and continued to be updated over time. Unique research projects and archaeological discoveries were made known to the world with scientific publications and became much sought after. Furthermore, these publications played a major role in the development of tourism and in informing foreigners about Turkey. As we indicated above, studies earned out by German academicians who had fled from Germany and come to Turkey in the years preceding and during World War II. also continued in the post-war years. Lectures given and research conducted by foreign scholars in the fields of prehistory, ancient near eastern languages and cultures, classical archaeology, classical philology, history of art, and ancient history have greatly contributed to ancient studies in Turkey.
The Faculty of Letters has a high potential among its capable faculty members, and the archaeologists of this establishment have been carrying on archaeological work outside of Turkey as well as in Thrace and Anatolia. "The Nakhichevan Archaeological Studies", the first international project of Turkey, was started in 1998. Furthermore, archaeological research projects are also executed in Rhodes. Bulgaria. Israel, Mongolia, and the Turkic republics of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan with great success. Our major wish is to increase the work in these international archaeological projects and enable our young colleagues to research these new fields.
The articles in this book have been arranged in three sections, namely surveys, archaeological excavations, and surveys carried out abroad, in chronological order, starting from the earliest research. The preparation of this book was made possible, above all, through the financial support and motivation provided by the Istanbul University Research Fund. * The priority placed on scientific studies by the Rectorate of Istanbul University and the financial support had a most positive effect on the preparation of this publication, which was not an easy task. The financial support provided by the Research Fund for archaeological excavations and surveys is not the usual standard type of support in our country and has contributed greatly to the development of ancient studies in Turkey.
The Turkish Historical Society (TTK) founded by Ataturk in 1931 has supported the excavations led by our professors and colleagues. The society also prints archaeological publications. After the constitutional changes in the 1980s, the financial aid for excavations ceased. We hope that the Turkish Historical Society (TTK) will resume its support for the surveys and excavations inside and outside of Turkey, and also give more weight to publications.
Archaeological excavations and surveys conducted by our colleagues were made possible via the permissions and excavation licenses granted by the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums in the Ministry of Culture. We worked in harmony with the representatives assigned to us by the Ministry, many of whom were our graduates. Extensive efforts were made to increase the knowledge and experience of the Ministry representatives. The executives of the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums supported us not only by giving the necessary permissions but provided a modest amount of financing as well. It is a great pleasure for me to extend my heartfelt thanks to the officials of the General Directorate for the material and moral support that they have extended to our colleagues.

The Experts Committee of the Research Fund, which has been giving great financial and moral support to archaeological excavations and surveys conducted in Turkey since 1988, decided to publish the contributions of Istanbul University to archaeology in Turkey in two separate volumes. Turkish and English. It is a great pleasure for me to thank the Rector Prof. Dr. Kemal Alemdaroglu, Vice President Prof. Dr. Nur Serter, Secretary of the Research Fund Prof. Dr. Nejat Dalay and the members of the Board for the material and moral support they have extended to us.
This book is an expression of our indebtedness to intellectual knowledge and a memorial to our professors and to our university who have contributed greatly to our scientific formation. We shall consider ourselves to have accomplished our task if we can convey our memories to future generations.



PublisherIstanbul University Press
Publish Date05.05.2001
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