Azerbaijan Georgia Turkey Project

The Romans were famous for their paved roads and intricate trade systems, concepts that seem elementary today but were truly innovative 2000 years ago. The roads were crucial to Rome’s military efficiency and commercial prosperity. In 2003, at the Ziyaretsuyu settlement, which was along one such Roman road in what is now the Sivas Province of central Turkey, a team from Gazi University unearthed two distinct and likely related structures. The sheer abundance of ceramics recovered from the two buildings suggests that the team uncovered only a fraction of what is likely a larger settlement. While the poor condition of the buildings’ structures suggests that the people who lived within them were not wealthy, the site was probably densely populated.

Ziyaretsuyu Site Map
Ziyaretsuyu Architectural Site Map. While these buildings were constructed near one another, neither the material nor the architectural data seem to correspond to a singular, shared culture. This indicates that they were built at different times and by different cultures.

Although archaeologists date the site primarily to the Roman Period, there is evidence it was active slightly earlier, in the 2nd century BC. Architectural and ceramic elements there display some Hellenistic characteristics, and a coin found in the same cultural stratigraphic layer as the excavated buildings and dated from between 105 BC and 70 BC portrays the image of Hercules. Unfortunately, the coin was so damaged that vital information such as the location of the mint was not recoverable. The coin also indicates that Ziyaretsuyu was a place of commerce linked to Roman and Greek societies. If so, why were there so few architectural and metallic remnants? Historians suggest that the answer lies in the geographical position of the settlement.

Ziyaretsuyu was situated in a region neighboring the highland Galatians to the west and Cappadocians to the south. Consistent pillaging by these advanced societies likely affected the residents of Ziyaretsuyu and could explain the scarcity of prestige items, such as jewelry and other metallic objects, along with construction styles consistent with a simple seasonal (hence poor) settlement. With warfare continuously destroying their structures, the residents might have had less incentive or economic ability to rebuild lavish homes. These theories are, however, speculative, and will surely benefit from additional research and excavation at Ziyaretsuyu and related sites.


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