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Four Water Cisterns Found At The Ancient City Of Metropolis

Four Water Cisterns Found At The Ancient City Of Metropolis


The city of Metropolis, “The City of the Mother Goddess,” is a jewel in the crown of Turkish archaeology. Metropolis was a spiritual center and a king pin in the trade and economics of the ancient world. Now, the discovery of four buried water cisterns is revealing how the successive generations of people who lived in the ancient city sustained themselves, and their animals and fields.

Metropolis: City Of The Mother Goddess

The classical city of Metropolis, the “City of the Mother Goddess,” is situated near Yeniköy village, in western Turkey, approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Izmir. The city was mentioned by Strabo (63 BC-23 AD) who described “a town in the Caystrian plain in Lydia, on the road from Smyrna to Ephesus, at a distance of 120 stadia from Ephesus, and 180 from Smyrna.”

Metropolis was investigated by archaeologists in 1972 and excavations have been ongoing at the site since 1989. It was in 1995archaeologists excavating at the city’s ancient theatre discovered a Hellenistic marble seat of honor, decorated with a mythological griffin.

The upper, hillside area of Metropolis where the water cisterns were recently discovered. (DiaboloDave at English Wikipedia / Public domain)

The upper, hillside area of Metropolis where the water cisterns were recently discovered. (DiaboloDave at English Wikipedia / Public domain)

Today, people visiting Metropolis will find a primarily Hellenistic city that was heavily Romanized. Byzantine remains are prominent in the city including an ancient church to the east and fortification walls laid across the city connecting to the original Greek defenses on the city’s acropolis.

Located on major trade routes, with an economy based on agriculture, Metropolis flourished during the Roman era. By the 3rd to 2nd century BC, it had developed into a well laid out city. It then remained under Byzantine control until the Ottomans took over the region.

One of the four water cisterns found at the Metropolis site. (DHA)

The Water Supply Of Metropolis Was Beyond Smart

This year represents the 30th year of excavations at Metropolis and Dr. Serdar Aybek , head of the department of archaeology at Turkey’s Manisa Celal Bayar University, told Hurriyet Daily News that a team of researchers had unearthed four monumental interconnected subterranean structures.

The four water cisterns were found under the acropolis, the highest part of the city, beneath a seven-meter (23-foot) earth fill dating to the Late Roman period, roughly 1,500 years ago. An article in Archaeology News Network says the people of Metropolis built these cisterns during the Byzantine period as an additional water source to the water resources found in the lower parts of the city.

The most famous ancient water cistern in the world is the Basilica Cistern beneath the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) in Turkey. Located under a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica, this cathedral-size cistern measures approximately 138 meters (453 ft) by 65 meters (213 ft), covering an area of 9,800 square meters (105,000 sq ft). It was able to hold 80,000 cubic meters (2,800,000 cu ft) of water.

The four new cisterns found beneath the Metropolis acropolis are estimated to have held around 600 tons of water. They served the daily water needs of the city’s inhabitants, including all agricultural activities. Furthermore, these cisterns also played an important defensive function while the city was under siege.

Ceramic shards found in the Metropolis cisterns that had apparently been turned into garbage dumps around the 13th century AD. (DHA)

Archaeologists Found Even More In Metropolis

The excavators also discovered marble architectural features dating to the Hellenistic period, before the cisterns were constructed, and among these were the smashed remains of a rectangular inscribed altar.

Archaeologists also found glazed ceramic pieces decorated with vegetable and animal designs, which were deposited in the cisterns in the 12th and 13th centuries AD. Particles of food remains and animal bones were analyzed showing that the people of Metropolis ate beef, poultry, and mutton. The researchers think the cisterns were repurposed as garbage dumps around this time.

Dr. Serdar Aybek says the four cisterns are examples of the knowledge held by “the masters in the ancient period in Metropolis in the field of water engineering” and that these four cisterns hydrated the entire settlement on the lower slopes of the acropolis, including the upper bathhouse.

Nevgül Bilsel Safkan, general manager of the Sabancı Foundation, told Hurriyet Daily News that the four cisterns “carry important information about the city’s water needs and eating habits, but also the objects that were used in daily life and in defensive strategies.”

Top image: The developed upper area of the ancient city of Metropolis where the four large water cisterns were found.    Source: DHA

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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