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Excavations to reveal hidden history of eastern Turkey’s Ani ruins

Archaeological digs will unveil the historical mystery behind the Ani ruins, located on the modern-day Turkish-Armenian border, the site is a cradle of civilizations that has seen many dynasties throughout the centuries

Ani archaeological site, located on the Turkish-Armenian border close to the Arpaçay district in Kars province, is one of the most popular destinations in Turkey thanks to its fascinating history. The hidden past of the site will be revealed through excavations soon, increasing its popularity even further among foreign and local tourists.

Registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Ani ruins are also known as the “World City,” “Cradle of Civilizations,” “1001 Churches” and “40-Ported City.” Once ruled by the Urartu Kingdom, Scythians, Persians, Macedonians and Sassanids respectively, Ani was captured by the Islamic armies in 643. The site was used as a capital by Armenian rulers in the Bagratuni dynasty between 884 and 1045 and was under the rule of Byzantines between 1045 and 1064. On Aug. 16, 1064, Ani was conquered by Alp Arslan, the second Sultan of the Seljuk Empire.

A structure from the Ani ruins, Kars, eastern Turkey, May 26, 2021. (AA Photo)
A structure from the Ani ruins, Kars, eastern Turkey, May 26, 2021. (AA Photo)

As it has hosted 23 civilizations since its foundation, Ani is home to many religious buildings such as mosques, churches and cathedrals of distinct beauty and historical value, as well as other invaluable historical buildings and cultural treasures on the Turkish banks of Arpaçay. The site is of particular importance as the first gateway to Anatolia from the Caucasus.

Approximately 25 important buildings, consisting of walls, mosques, cathedrals, palaces, churches, monasteries, firehouses, baths, bridges and a partially destroyed closed passage, have survived in Ani to the present day. The site also sheds light on the past with nearly 1,500 underground structures in 32 regions of five valleys, where a significant portion of the population of Ani lived in the Middle Ages.

An aerial view from the Ani ruins, Kars, eastern Turkey, May 26, 2021. (AA Photo)
An aerial view from the Ani ruins, Kars, eastern Turkey, May 26, 2021. (AA Photo)

The excavation work, to be carried out in the region in partnership with the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Kafkas University (KAÜ), will begin in June. The work will be conducted under the coordination of Muhammet Arslan, head of KAÜ art history department and Ani archaeological site excavations. The excavation is planned to last 12 months, including digging, protection, storing and the publication of works.

The head of the excavation, Arslan told Anadolu Agency (AA) that Ani is a very important historical place worldwide. Stating that they are planning a six-month excavation for the first time in the history of Ani excavations, he continued, “The excavation work in the field will continue for six months and then storage and publication works will be conducted in the remaining six months.”

The Ebu
The Ebu

Excavations will be carried out, especially around the Seljuk Bazaar, the large bathhouse and the Ebu’l Manuçehr mosque in the Ani ruins. The work around the Ebu’l Manuçehr is particularly important as the structure is the first Turkish mosque in Anatolia. Ebu’l Manuçehr Bey commissioned the mosque a year after Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan won the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. The mosque, which has survived until today, is known as one of the oldest Seljuk structures in Anatolia. The ceiling of the rectangular two-story building is decorated with rich Seljuk motifs. The mosque’s 99-stair minaret was used as a watchtower.

Arslan added that they will reveal the rich heritage of the city through their excavations: “Some of the most monumental works in the city belong to the Christian period. While we will carry out excavation works around these structures, we will also focus on works constructed during the Seljuk Empire, which was the second prosperous period for Ani. Because it was located on the Silk Road as the first point of transition from Central Asia to Asia Minor and the first gate to enter Anatolia from the Caucasus, Ani’s cultural heritage enriched over time in the past, and this wealth led to an increase in the population of the city. According to the statements of travelers, approximately 100,000-150,000 people lived here, and when the trade got richer, the architectural culture also revived. With our latest excavations, we will also revive the historical background of this ancient land.”

Courtesy: Anadolu Agency

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