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Byzantine Fortress in Ancient Greek City Pyrgion to be Unearthed

Byzantine fortress
A Byzantine fortress in the Ancient Greek city of Pyrgi, in present-day Turkey, will soon be unearthed in totality. Credit: Facebook/Ioannis Georgopoulos/Archaeology News Network

A Byzantine fortress will soon be unearthed at the ancient city of Pyrgion, the modern-day city of Birgi in what is now western Turkey, according to a statement from its lead archaeologist Veli Sevin on Friday.

Excavations have already begun at the site to unearth vast Byzantine-era fortification system thought to be nearly 900 years old. The city of Birgi is on UNESCO’s tentative list of  sites of exceptional world heritage.

The city of Pyrgion was known as Dios Hieron, the Sanctuary of Zeus;” it was one of two cities thus named. It eventually became part of the Roman Republic and the Roman province of Asia with the annexation of the Kingdom of Pergamon.

It was renamed Christoupolis in the 7th century and was known as Pyrgion from the 12th century onward. Pyrgion fell to the Turks in 1307.

Located in the small, picturesque town, the archaeological dig aims to uncover the massive walls and fortresses that archaeologist Veli Sevin states once stood 8 to 9 meters (about 26-30 feet) high.

“The walls of the Byzantine fortress will be uncovered in the excavations. There used to be a tremendous fortress here that covered an expanse of 6 hectares (14.8 acres),” Sevin told the Anadolu Agency. “The walls still stand, at least partially. We want to unearth these walls to present them to humanity.”

The Archaeology News Network reports that Sevin, who is serving as a scientific consultant to the excavations, says the fortress, which did not have any architectural embellishments, was surrounded by rough stone walls.

Ancient Pyrgion, the present-day site of the city of Birga, is on UNESCO’s Tentative List of places with extraordinary world heritage. Credit: Twitter/Simon Dawkins

The Greek name of the town, Pyrgion, means “fortress.” The historic town of Birgi is located in what is now the Odemis district of Izmir province, where the ancient Greek city of Smyrna was located.

A statue created in the 300’s AD was unearthed in July of 2020 near the ancient city.

Believed to have been created around the year 300 AD, during the time of the Roman Empire, the exquisite piece of sculpture portrays a woman in floor-length robes. Her head has been broken off but it survives.The ancient city was known to have had females in its administration. It is unknown,  however, at this point, just who is depicted in the sculpture.

The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s excavation department triumphantly announced the amazing find, stating “First sculpture of 2020 found in Perge excavations,” in a tweet.

According to the Ministry, Sedef Cokay Kepçe, an archaeology professor at Istanbul University, is heading up the excavations which unearthed the stunning find. The plans are currently to display the third-century statue in the Antalya Museum when all the necessary restoration work on the piece has been completed.


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