Located in the Izmir Province of modern day Turkey. Archaeologists have discovered an “exciting” find in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (also known as Ephesos), which was suddenly destroyed in 614-15. A very well-preserved Byzantine trade and dining space was discovered, according to excavation head Sabine Laudstätter, the most important find so far from the site since the discovery of the famous terraced houses.
Amazing care and sudden abandon
Archaeologists from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (AAS) are working on this superbly preserved Byzantine business and gastronomy district in Domitian’s Square. A press release said household items were preserved in the rooms due to the thick burnt layer and were “preserved for later”. AAS. They went so far as to compare the site to the legendary volcanic ash preserve of Pompeii.
The latest discovery in ancient Ephesus includes a remarkably well-preserved business district, with storage rooms filled with amphorae, cups and vessels as well as food remains. Source: OeAW-OeAI/Niki Gail
Domitian Square is a prominent site adjacent to the Upper Agora, the political center of the Roman city. The excavations, which began in 2022 AD, Part of a larger research project analyzing the changes the city center experienced between the Roman Imperial period and Late Antiquity, during the fall of the empire beginning in the mid-5th century. .
“It is assumed that the original large Roman square complex was built by shops and workshops in Late Antiquity. However, what is completely unexpected is the state of preservation as well as the exact timing of the destruction and the implications for urban history that arise from it”, says Sabine Ladstatter. Laudstatter is the director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Academy and has been in charge of excavations at Ephesus since 2009.
An area of about 170 square meters (1,829.8 square feet) was discovered. These shops and workshops were built on a large Roman square complex and the premises were all inside.
A panoramic view of the excavation area at Domitian Square, the adjacent Upper Agora on the left, the Street of the Curates on the right (OeAW-OeAI/ Niki Gail )
At 3.4 meters (11.1 feet) high, the individual rooms are preserved with thousands of pieces of ceramics, whole bowls containing seafood remains! It includes cockles, oysters and amphorae filled with salted mackerels. Along with the four pieces of gold, peaches, almonds, olives, baked peas and legumes were also found. Solid coins, and 700 copper coins.
This storage room was excavated at Ephesus, with vessels filled with their original contents. Additionally, over 400 copper coins were found in this room. (OeAW-OeAI/Niki Gail)
The rooms excavated by archaeologists include a kitchen, storeroom, workshop and a Taberna, or a restaurant and bar, along with lamps and a pilgrim’s souvenir shop. This was realized by examining 600 small pilgrim bottles sold to Christian pilgrims.
Christian pilgrim ampoules are only a few centimeters in size and can be worn around the neck. They contain sacred materials, such as holy dust, which can be removed from Christian pilgrimages. (OeAW-OeAI/Niki Gail)
Finally, the many spearheads and arrowheads found at the site suggest links to the Byzantine-Sasanian War of 602-628, fought between the Byzantines and the Sasanians in Iran, leaving both empires severely wounded. No other sign of natural calamity could have caused this sudden abandonment like an earthquake.
Profile of Ephesus: The Ionian League and the Temple of Artemis
The settlement at Apasa, the capital of the Arjavans, was destroyed by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists, who built Ephesus on its ruins in the 10th century BC. Ephesus flourished during the Classical Greek era, becoming one of the twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League.
During this time, Ephesus became a major urban center with monumental buildings known today, including the Library of Celsus and a massive theater that could hold 24,000 spectators, Heritage Daily reported. The city became a popular pilgrimage center for those visiting the nearby Temple of Artemis – today one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The ruins of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus remain a popular tourist attraction (Garrett Ziegler / CC by NC ND 4.0 )
There are other reasons for Ephesus’ fame – it was one of the Pauline epistles and one of the recipient cities of several councils dating back to the 5th century. It was destroyed by the Goths in 263 BC after an era of prosperity under Roman rule. According to the Greek philosopher and historian, Strabo, it was second in importance and size only to Rome.
The astonishing remains of the massive theater at Ephesus contributed to its fame ( Alexander Kripunov / Adobe Stock)
Although it was rebuilt, Ephesus declined in importance as the harbor along the Cook Menderes River silted up. During the wars of the 7th century BC, Ephesus met its ultimate demise in battles with the Sassanids. Later, the Ottomans incorporated the Ephesians into their empire as vassals in 1390, but the city was again abandoned by the 15th century.
Top image: Several oil lamps were unearthed in a store room in ancient Ephesus. (OeAW-OeAI/Niki Gail)
By Sahir Pandey