1,800-year-old Headless Greek Statue Found At Turkey’s Metropolis Site
In the ancient Greek classical city of Metropolis or “The City of the Mother Goddess,” located in the Torbali region of Turkey’s Izmir province, archaeologists have unearthed an 1,800-year-old marble robed statue of a headless woman. In fact, the marble robed figure standing on a pedestal is missing not just her head, but both arms, which were probably separate add-ons. The degree of detail revealed in this superb find is remarkable. Metropolis was first investigated through archaeological field work starting in 1972 by Professor Recep Meriç from the Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir. The site has been excavated since 1989. In 1995, archaeologists discovered a Hellenistic marble seat of honor with griffins in the ancient theatre of Metropolis, which was an enormously important find.
The Metropolis Excavation Site and its Significance
Located on the west coast of Turkey, the Metropolis site is located between the ancient cities of Ephesus (renowned for hosting the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and Smyrna (on the Aegean Coast). According to ARTnews, it was first settled in the Neolithic period (between 10,000 BC up to 1900 BC), with later settlers arriving during the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras. Metropolis is primarily a Hellenistic city, with heavy Romanized overtones, to which Byzantine elements were added later.
The location where the headless female Greek statue was unearthed at Metropolis, Turkey. (Turkish Culture Ministry/ANews)
The site, which has been under excavation since 1989, is currently being excavated and explored by Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, in collaboration with Celal Bayar University. In a Twitter post on Saturday, the Department of Excavations at Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism said the statue was unearthed in the ancient city of Metropolis and added, “Our excavations will continue in 2021." The Twitter post features a 39-second video that reveals exactly how the ancient, headless Greek statue was discovered.
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In 2019, the Sabanci Foundation and the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry, spearheaded excavations at this site under the tutelage of Professor Serdar Aybek, the head of the department of archaeology at Manisa Celal Bayar University. Scientists and archaeologists from various universities in Turkey and abroad attended the launch of this “international archaeology project,” Daily Sabah reports.
“As part of our excavations at Metropolis in 2018, we aimed to obtain findings to help understand religious life in the city, to uncover trade routes and the defense and communication networks in and around the ancient city, and to investigate caves around it. At the end of the excavation period, we were excited to place an original replica of the Gryphon Noble chair, discovered in 1995 and still on display at the Izmir Archaeological Museum, in its place in the theater in the ancient city exactly 23 years later.”
“This year, we are once again stepping up our efforts to bring the new secrets of the ancient city of Metropolis to light. With works we will carry out in Metropolis this year, we will reveal new details about the daily life of the people in the city 2,000 years ago,” head of the excavations, Professor Aybek stated.
This is another of the amazing marble statue finds unearthed at the Metropolis site. This was a male statue, and it had both arms still attached. (Turkish Culture Ministry/ANews)
Metropolis: Layers of History and Finds Over the Years
At the time of the Bronze Age, between 3300 BC and 1200 BC, Metropolis was called Puranda, which was part of the Hittite’s kingdom of Arzawa. A seal bearing Hittite hieroglyphs was discovered in the city’s acropolis but has not yet been deciphered. During the Hellenistic-Greek period, 321 BC to 31 BC, the Metropolis area was ruled by the ancient Greek center of Pergamum, during which time Ares, the Greek God of War, was honored with a stunning temple.
“(Metropolis) has a deep-rooted history dating back to prehistoric times. The region has had fertile lands since prehistoric times. It has the fertility brought by the Küçük Menderes River. It is a region that has always been settled. The city we are standing on now has been inhabited since the Hellenistic period. It was developed as a planned city. With the growth of the population in the Roman period, new buildings were built,” Aybek told the Demirören News Agency (DHA).
Over the past 30 years, the headless statue is just one of a whopping 11,000 artifacts dating to various historical periods found at this ancient historical site. The finds include coins, glass, ceramics, figurines, sculptures, and bone, ivory and metal finds. Some of the most important finds include elaborate Roman baths with sculptures of Thyke and Zeus and gladiator figures. Additionally, four massive cisterns that could hold 600 tons of water were discovered on the acropolis of Metropolis.
The Greek theatre at Metropolis, restored in 2001. Photo taken 2007. (DiaboloDave / Public domain)
Sabanci Foundation General Manager Nevgül Bilsel Safkan was quoted as saying, "Excavations in Metropolis, which we have been supported since 2003 within the scope of our works in culture and arts, have a special place and importance for us. We embrace our cultural heritage by supporting the excavations in the Mother Goddess city of Metropolis. We believe that shedding light on the history and bringing today's people together with the life of the past play an important role on the way to our future. We will maintain our support for Metropolis, which is admired for its richness and profundity."
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The identity and purpose of the recently discovered headless statue is yet to be determined. However, the statue promises to shed light on Metropolis’s ancient Greek era. The archaeology team plans to continue working on this site and they will surely uncover more amazing finds.
Top image: A composite image of various photos of the headless Greek statue recently unearthed in the ancient city of Metropolis, Turkey in the spring of 2021. Source: Anadolu Agency
By Rudra Bhushan
Avery, D. 2021. Headless 1,800-year-old statue of a robed woman is unearthed in Turkey's ancient city of Metropolis - known to the Romans as the 'City of the Mother Goddess. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9734105/Headless-1-800-year-old-statue-woman-unearthed-Turkeys-City-Mother-Goddess.html.
Daily Sabah. 2021. Excavations in ancient city of Metropolis reveal details of daily life. Available at: https://www.dailysabah.com/arts-culture/2019/08/19/excavations-in-ancient-city-of-metropolis-reveal-details-of-daily-life.
Holth, J. 2021. 1,800-year-old Statue Found in Ancient “City of the Mother Goddess” in Turkey. Available at: https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/1800-year-old-statue-metropolis-turkey-1234596769/?fbclid=IwAR3sB-oxmY0XZeFuoRatZOs85Cfa5RQ5qjmpQDy-3TMHO4we10c2Wbk6rC4.