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Galata Bridge, ca. 1895 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Istanbul: Gateway to History, Memory and Magic

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For a moment, if one could conjure up in one’s mind's eye Istanbul, a city of magic, mystery, strategic geographical importance, and historic consequence: Standing on the Galata Bridge, facing north, one gazes in the direction of the Black Sea, on whose far shores lie Ukraine and the Crimea; Bulgaria and Romania a little west of north and Russia to the northeast. To the right one points to Asia, home of a storied history that is being reconsidered and deciphered more every day as new and exciting archaeological discoveries are being brought to light. This region is Anatolia, also called Asia Minor or, in Turkish, Anadolu.

To the left lies Europe, old Trakya 1900 (Public Domain) and to the right lies Asia, old Anatolia (Public Domain)

To the left lies Europe, old Trakya 1900 (Public Domain) and to the right lies Asia, old Anatolia (Public Domain)

To the left lies Europe, with its own rich and varied story. Here lies the portion of Turkey called Thrace, or, in Turkish, Trakya. It consists of only three per cent of the Turkish land mass but is home to 10 per cent of its population. To the south, the Sea of Marmara connects with the Black Sea at the Bosporus Strait, the famous Golden Horn, and flows into the Aegean through the Dardanelles Strait and thence to the Mediterranean.

Trade along the Bosporus (1872) (CCO)

Trade along the Bosporus (1872) (CCO)

Effects of the Deluge: The Contours of the City

If a theory called the Black Sea Deluge Hypothesis, proposed in 1997 by William Ryan and Walter Pitman, proves to be correct, then modern-day Turkey was quite different and much more tumultuous some 7,200 years ago. The theory states that both the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea to the east were fresh-water lakes fed by glacial melt water that ran into the Aegean Sea and, later, as the glaciers receded, up into the North Sea. This outflow caused the water level to drop. Because this was well into the time period when humans lived on this land, they built cities and prosperous towns along what were then shoreline areas but are now under water. Sea levels around the world were rising due to the breakup of the Laurentide Ice Sheets in Canada and North America, and the Mediterranean was no different. All that separated it from the Black Sea was a rocky sill at what is now called the Bosporus. One day the barrier was inundated.


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This is the first of a series of eight articles written by Jim Willis which will detail aspects of the history of various ancient sites in Turkey and Anatolia.  In September, 2020, Ancient Origins Tours is partnering with award-winning tour operator Travel the Unknown to provide its readers with comprehensive escorted tours throughout the mysteries of the region, visiting classic destinations as well as more obscure locations where the magic of the past remains as strong today as it did thousands of years ago. Your hosts are Jim Willis, author of  Lost Civilizations: The Secret Histories and Suppressed Technologies of the Ancients, and Micki Pistorius, Premium Editor.

Top Image: Galata Bridge, ca. 1895 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Jim Willis

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After graduating from the Eastman School of Music, Jim Willis became a high school band and orchestra teacher during the week, a symphony trombonist on the weekends, a jazz musician at night and a choral conductor on Sunday mornings. ... Read More

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