Archaeologist bids farewell to Hierapolis after 40 years
Italian archaeologist professor Francesco D’Andria, who has participated in excavations in the ancient city of Hierapolis in western Turkey for 40 years, calls Turkey his second home. Even though he had retired last year, he continued working in the ancient city, however, he has decided to stop working in September.
D’Andria, 75, began his academic career at Lecce University and joined the excavation team in the ancient city of Hierapolis in the western Turkish province of Denizli’s Pamukkale in 1978 as an assistant archaeologist.
Impressed by Pamukkale and Hierapolis, he established close relations with Turks in the excavation team. This is how his 40-year adventure began in Turkey.
He received the title of professor and became the head of the excavations in the ancient city in 2000. Under his presidency, important data has been unearthed so far in Hierapolis. D’Andria has also learned Turkish.
The professor, who has worked on the restoration of the 1,800-year-old Hierapolis Ancient Theater, which is considered the most important and most unique Roman Theater in the Mediterranean basin, lifted 95 percent of the original architectural material available.
D’Andria and his team have unearthed and restored many places, including where St. Philippus was killed by pagans. St. Philippus was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus the Christ, who came to Hierapolis to spread Christianity in 80 A.D. They have also restored the monument built there after Christianity was considered an official religion, the tomb of St. Philippus and the church built in his name.
These structures have drawn many Christian tourists to Hierapolis.
Five years ago, archaeologists headed by D’Andria unearthed the entrance of an inn, which is regarded as the “gate to the country of the dead” in antiquity and called the Ploutonian (Pluto’s ‘Gate to Hell’).
Having spent 40 years in Turkey, D’Andria has spent almost his whole academic life in Hierapolis. After his retirement due to old age last year, D’Andria has been working with Italian professor Grazia Semeraro.
“This is my last term; I am done here. I came here for two months only but I found something special here. There is nature and history in Hierapolis, which had surprised me. Turks have been very friendly to me so I continued working. I headed the excavations for 18 years. Forty years is very long, I have many memories. I feel a bit sorry but I am happy for what I have left behind. I have left many friends here. After 40 years, I feel half Italian and half Turk. Turkey is my second homeland,” he said.
D’Andria said he loved Turkish culture very much and would visit after the end of his mission.
“Archaeologists before me have looked for these places but failed to find them. But the historian Strabon wrote, ‘birds die in front of the inn because there are gases.’ One day, I found many dead birds there and thought on it. I started digging 10 years ago and found this place. This place is a journey from hell to heaven. Thermal water comes from the Gate to Hell and creates the white haven of Pamukkale,” he said.