December 29, 2010

Village In Central Turkey Is A Byzantine Museum

December 28, 2010
Hurriyet Daily News

The village of Erdemli in Central Anatolia contains the ruins of a small Byzantine village and is like a museum. An eight-year research project in the village has been completed and the structures in the Byzantine village identified and documented. The research team leader says their goal is to publish a scientific article about the structures in the valley and call for them to be restored.

Dozens of houses and churches carved into the rock faces of a valley in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri have revealed 500 years of Byzantine history and high-quality Istanbul-style paintings.

After eight years of research, academics have identified and documented hundreds of Byzantine-era structures near the village of Erdemli, in the province’s Yeşilhisar district.

The structures constituted a small Byzantine village, including houses, churches, monasteries, wine cellars and barns, according to research team leader Nilay Karakaya, an associate professor in the Art History Department at Erciyes University.

Karakaya said they have found evidence of 500 years of Byzantine life in the village. “We initiated work in Erdemli village in 2002. Our work also got support from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey [TUBITAK] between 2006 and 2008. In this process, we obtained data unique to a Byzantine village. Within the scope of the project, we have identified and documented structures including three monasteries, 22 churches or chapels, 138 houses, 48 wine houses, nine furnaces, 13 barns and two priest cells, as well as two pigeon houses and 34 non-functional constructions. A topographical map of the region was also prepared.”

Noting that the village was home to nine churches adorned with wall paintings, Karakaya said the images depicted scenes from the Bible and the Old Testament, as well as figures of saints, bishops, priests and apostles.

Karakaya said the architecture and wall paintings dated from the 10th-13th centuries in terms of iconography and painting style. “Wall paintings of these rock churches have a significant place in the Byzantium art of painting. The works have been damaged by nature and humans. Since some churches were used for different purposes, the paintings are covered with a lampblack layer. This is why researchers have not yet been able to define most of the scenes on the walls.”

She said the paintings were similar in style to those being painted in Istanbul at the time. “Accordingly, it is possible to say the paintings were made by artists from the capital city or regional artists educated there. Seeing such a high-quality capital city style in Anatolia is very interesting. These wall paintings should be examined in detail in terms of style, iconography and technique.”

Karakaya said the Palace Monastery in the valley was the administrative center of the settlement. “Our goal is to publish a scientific article about these almost-disappeared wall paintings and structures and call for them to be restored. Damage is also caused by people in the region. This is why we aim to raise awareness of the significance of this settlement for science and tourism.”

As for the Roman-era settlement at İki Kuyu, which was uncovered during research, she said it also increased the importance of the village. “This Roman settlement includes rich tombs, religious and civic structures. The promotion of this area, which is very close to Kayseri, will provide new opportunities for the restoration of works. Accordingly, if this cultural heritage is preserved, it will add to the tourism potential of our country.”