Thursday, 9 July 2015

Special Instalment: Additional photographs from the Turkey trip

Drawing the programme's mascot on the flight to Adana.
Was ist Islam?
Photographing Yilan Kale from the peanut fields.
Giliana Jones and the Last Crusade.
A "fifteen-minute" scramble a day keeps the doctor away!
No comment.
R.I.P. Pagona's hat (Thessaloniki 2015 - Antioch 2015)
Pulling the strings.
Haggling with the tourists.
Ayhan kaptan.
"Be careful not to lose your ticket!"

A silk token of our gratitude to our indomitable guide, Serap Can.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Antakya - Istanbul

4 July 2015: Antakya, Day 3 - The group left Antakya for the Samandag region, famous for the monastery of St Symeon the Younger. This is a sixth-century foundation modelled after the shrine of Symeon the Elder at Qal'at Sem'an in modern-day Syria. It was home to a stylite saint, who was venerated long after his death and after whom Port St Symeon and Samandag (= Symeon's mountain) were named. The monastic site affords a majestic view of the Orontes Valley and the Mediterranean. Like the rest of this region, it is extremely windy, hence why it is currently surrounded by dozens of windmills for the production of electricity.

Above: The base of the patron saint's column at the monastery of St Symeon the Younger.

Right: A modern stylite.

Next, the programme participants visited Al-Mina (= the port), the Hellenistic and Roman port of Antioch, as well as the nearby tunnel commissioned by Emperors Vespasian and Titus (1st century AD), which conducted water from the mountains towards the harbour.

Flowing through Titus' tunnel.

Before paying a visit to the site of Port St Symeon, the group made a quick stop near the Orontes delta. At the site itself, nothing is to be seen today, since the whole area is planted with orchards. This is where production of the homonymous ceramic ware was first attested.

Near the delta of the Orontes.

A most unexpected discovery: Port St Symeon ware  found at Port St Symeon!
Keen to document this unexpected find. 
5 July 2015: Istanbul (Final day) - A substantial part of the day was taken up by the trip back to Istanbul, whence participants were to board their flights back home. The highlight of the day was the stroll through the Genoese quarter of Pera (fourteenth-early fifteenth centuries), starting from the Galata Tower, which dominates the skyline of the northern shore of the Golden Horn. Heading towards Arap Camii, the former Dominican church, the group saw a series of Genoese warehouses, as well as part of the walls. These structures, just like the friars' church itself, have been much altered in subsequent centuries. 

Peeking into a Genoese warehouse at Pera.
The luxurious farewell dinner was given at a restaurant commanding a sweeping view of the Sarayburnu, with Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace in the distance. The festivities concluded with homemade pomegranate liqueur and fig raki from Antakya.

Visibly tanned after many a "fifteen-minute" scrambles, the programme participants enjoy a well-deserved farewell dinner. 

A last drink before the journey back home.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Antakya - Day 2

3 July 2015 - The stage for today's sightseeing was set by a talk in which Doris Behrens-Abouseif presented a little-known waqf document regarding the endowment of the mosque of the Mamluk sultan Hassan in Cairo (dated 1359). This text contains invaluable information about the topography and commercial life of fourteenth-century Antioch.

Professor Abouseif  during her lecture.

The tour of the city started with a visit to the remote citadel overlooking the modern urban sprawl. A brief introduction to the historical geography of Antioch and its region was followed by a 'fifteen-minute' walk to the fortifications and the sparse architectural remains of several halls belonging to the medieval citadel.

 Top: Scott Redford giving a virtual tour of medieval Antioch.

Middle: The citadel.

Bottom: Edna Stern gazing out at the ruins.

Taking a break from all the castellology, the group spent some time in the thoroughly restored cave church of Saint-Pierre.

The modern façade of the church of Saint-Pierre.

Next up was the new Hatay archaeological museum, housing the magnificent mosaics excavated in the ancient city of Antioch and its environs.

Maria Georgopoulou in contrapposto while admiring the Antiochene mosaics.

Also of note were the medieval exhibits from the ports of Al-Mina and Kinet, which consisted mainly of glazed ceramics and metalwork.

Port Saint Symeon ware at the Hatay Museum.

The day ended with a luxurious dinner featuring the famous Antiochene tepsi kebab and other local delicacies.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Antakya - Day 1

2 July 2015 - Today was designated as the group's official 'castle day'. The day was spent on the road between Tarsus and Antakya, namely between the historical regions of Cilicia and Syria, and proved to be physically taxing due to the amount of scrambling involved! The first challenge was climbing up the famous castle of Yilan Kale, a beautifully-preserved Armenian stronghold which has yet to divulge its secrets to scholars. The 'fifteen-minute' climb up the steep slope resulted in a fairly brief visit due to ongoing restoration works. Nevertheless, the participants were afforded an arresting view of the surrounding plain and a clear idea of the intervisibility principle on which the localization of Armenian fortresses was predicated on.

Above: A splendid view of Yilan Kale.

Right: Maria Georgopoulou and Eva Hoffman following the 'fifteen-minute' climb up to Yilan Kale.

Ayas, also known as Lajazzo (present-day Yumurtalik) was a major entrepot for east-west trade in the region during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Of this once bustling port very little remains apart from sections of the walls, which are now much restored, and a castle on the small island off the port.

Above: The port of Ayas.

Right: Learning about the fascinating history of one of the great medieval Mediterranean ports.

Driving around the gulf of Iskenderun, the group passed by the site of Kinet, currently located in a heavily industrialized area. Further to the south lies Bagras Castle, once guarding the entrance to Syria. In another 'fifteen minutes', the programme participants scurried up the side of the fortress to take a closer look at various shakily-identified and dated structures (chapel, hall etc.).

Above: Bagras Castle.

Right: Wandering through the ruins.

Late in the afternoon, the group arrived in Antakya, which will serve as base of operations over the following days.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Tarsus: Day 1

1 July 2015 - The group left behind the RCAC ('tatil bitti' - the holidays are over, according to the security guard!) to catch an early flight to Adana in order to reach Tarsus, the old ecclesiastical centre of the kingdom of Armenian Cilicia.

At the airport.

Today's tour begun with a visit to the Archaeological Museum where the finds from the excavations carried out in the city are displayed. Of particular interest was the incised tombstone of a knight unearthed in the vicinity of the Ulu Cami.

The tombstone of  the 'glorious' knight Sir Philippe, facing the wall in the museum's backyard (!).

They then proceeded to the Makam Cami, the site alleged to be the tomb of the prophet Daniel, a recent excavation that brought to light substantial remains from the Roman and later periods.


Resplendent Doris Behrens-Abouseif at the site of Daniel's tomb.
        Bob Ousterhout doing time in Daniel's tomb.

Right across the street lies the Eski Cami, a former Armenian church identified by certain scholars as the site of the old cathedral, dedicated to St Sophia, which served as the coronation church for the kings of Lesser Armenia.

The tour came to an end at the site of the Ulu Cami, where the group saw the tombs of Seth, the son of Adam, the eighth-century Abbasid caliph Al-Ma'mun and the mythical physician and holy man Luqman.

In the courtyard of Ulu Cami.

Back at the hotel, Scott Redford gave a foretaste of the excavations he directed at the medieval port of Kinet, a site located between the kingdom of Armenian Cilicia and the principality of Antioch. The site's material culture throws ample light on the coexistence of Christian communities of various stripes in the region.

Scott Redford's vivid presentation of the medieval site of Kinet.

Our visit to Tarsus concluded with a dinner by the beautiful waterfall of Cydnus River (Berdan or Tarsus Cayi).

Chilling by the waterfall.

Taming the beast with the power of raki.