Urartian city to become open-air museum
The historical area in the eastern province of Erzincan, which is one of the most important Urartian cities and home to the Altıntepe Castle on the historical Silk Road, will be transformed into an archaeology park with an open air museum.
The Altıntepe Castle, which is located 15 kilometers away from the city center, had been built by the Urartians on the historical Silk Road, said Erzincan Provincial Culture Director Arda Heb, speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency.
Ankara University Professor Tahsin Özgüç had carried out the first excavations in the area between 1959 and 1967, said Heb, adding that many excavations had also been made there later.
He said Professor Mehmet Karaosmanoğlu had restarted the excavations on the castle in 2003.
“Important findings were discovered in these excavations. During the excavations in Altıntepe, the inner castle gate, the walls and the public room called Apadana, were discovered. The warehouse building, sewage system, open air temple and three stone graves were also unearthed. The artifacts in Altıntepe were Urartian structures and they contributed to Anatolian archeology and were considered important examples of the culture they represent,” said Karaosmanoğlu.
Heb said the most important feature of the excavation field was that the first toilet bowl had been found there as well as one of the first canalization systems in history.
Various mosaic figures and a church were also unearthed during excavations, he said.
“On the eastern slope of the castle, there is a church, which was built on a terrace in the Eastern Roman Empire. The most important feature of the church are the figures on mosaic stones, which have been able to protect themselves until today,” said the culture director.
The castle had been home to the Urartian and Byzantine civilizations, said Heb.
“One of the best preserved Urartian cities so far, Altıntepe, is home to the region’s richest ancient artifacts. The archaeology park project, prepared by the Erzincan Governorate Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism, has been approved by the Culture and Tourism Ministry and passed from the Erzurum Cultural Heritage Protection Board,” he said.
“The project has three stages. In the first stage, the tombs of kings will be revived and the outer walls will be reinforced. In the second and third stages of the project, walking routes, view terraces and cafes for guests will be made,” said the culture director.
The hill was a significant center for the Eastern Roman Empire and has a church with three naves and mosaic floors. The church was built on a natural terrace and has a rectangle floor plan. The colorful mosaic floors with various geometric shapes and figures of plants and animals are unique to the region.