In the realm of history and archaeology, few discoveries can rival the thrill of unearthing remnants of ancient civilizations. In a recent archaeological find in Turkey, this excitement was palpable as dozens of terracotta figurines, over 2,000 years old, were discovered, bringing the ancient Greek gods, men, women, and animals to life.
These relics, remarkably preserved, were found in the historical town of Myra, now known as Demre. The town is steeped in history, having been a significant settlement during the reign of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and later, the Ottomans. In more recent times, it was home to a vibrant Greek community, which had to leave during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s. The terracotta figurines are a time capsule, providing a glimpse into life in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. Some still bear remnants of paint, while others carry inscriptions – a testament to the craftsmanship of the bygone era. As Nevzat Çevik, the leader of the excavation team and an Archaeology Professor at Akdeniz University in Turkey, told Live Science, these figurines offer "rich clues about what existed in the mysterious Myra under a thick silt layer."
The discovery came about while the team was excavating parts of a 4th-century Roman theater between June and October of 2020. To their surprise, they stumbled upon a second, smaller theater below the Roman remains. This hidden structure dates back to the Hellenistic period, from 323 BC – the time of Alexander the Great's death – to the beginning of the Roman Empire in 30 BC. Along with this ancient theater, the researchers discovered a trove of terracotta figurines scattered among the ruins. Overwhelmed by the find, Çevik poetically expressed, "It is as if the people of ancient Myra were resurrected and ran through the time tunnel all together and came to our day."
Turkey is a treasure trove of ancient Greek and Byzantine archaeological sites, attracting millions of visitors each year. These historical landmarks serve as a testament to the long, rich history and contributions of these civilizations to Western culture. They are a must-visit for any traveler, especially those of Greek heritage, offering an opportunity to trace back their roots and marvel at the grandeur of their ancestors' civilization.