Photos by Jack A. Waldron
This is going to be a different kind of post, and it is a post that I don't expect to be possible very often. First, thank you to all those who have supported my efforts to share the ancient world with my fellow human beings through an environmentally clean mode of transportation, shine light on the splendor that has been passed down to us by the ancients; i.e., their quest for wisdom, discussions on beauty, architectural legacy, arts and philosophical dialogue.
In the photos above, we see my bicycle on a rough two track trail that is about a kilometer or more in length from where it sort of meets the main road in the valley below. I was actually headed down the mountain in these photos, as I had camped the night before, explored the mountain on that morning, hung my plastic bag with the garbage from my stay on my handlebars, and was now ready to move on to my next destination. Behind my bike, Sarikaya village can be seen in the distance, and in front in the distance, Belcegiz village can be seen. At this point, I was completely satisfied that I had explored the ancient city I had intended to investigate, however, the reality of what I had documented would change over the next month and a half, and I wouldn't truly comprehend the complete picture until today, when I started uploading these photos, and double checking my previous conclusions. I do believe that this discovery is probably one for the history books . . . , or at least a minor side note on ancient cities.
I had cycled about eighty kilometers on this day due to unfortunate circumstances, which I will explain in detail now. Before setting out, I went to the Yalvac Archeological Museum (pictured above) to confirm the location of ancient Neapolis. I had done quite a bit of research on my own, but the exact location remained quite sketchy. They seemed confident in their information, and after all, they were knowledgable archeologists with regard to the sites in the area. Their information would take me a little more than twenty kilometers past where I had suspected the site to be, and since I trusted them, I committed to cycle to the new destination. When I left Yalvac that early morning, I was very confident in my goal to reach ancient Neapolis, however, I always ride with plenty of hesitation and awareness. You see, when you're on a bicycle carrying sixty odd kilos, you don't just turn around and go back like you would in a car. Things move slowly. The day goes quickly. There are ups and downs to be considered, I mean the road. To make a long road shorter, they gave me bogus information, and it was too late to back track, especially when I couldn't be guaranteed to locate Neapolis even if I made the attempt. So, a bit angry and disappointed, I pressed on to my next target, ancient Anaboura.
As you can see from the photo above, I came, I climbed (mostly pushed, to be more exact), and I camped. Anaboura was my oyster, and now it was time to extract the pearl! When I was researching the the ancient city, the village of Belcegiz was on the radar as the point of location, and just half a kilometer after turning on to the main road I noticed a fire truck parked under the massive Belcegiz welcome sign that hung over a side road. The guys clamoring on top of the truck were hanging a festival banner for an upcoming celebration, and how opportune a time it was to collect information on ancient Anaboura. They simply pointed down the road and said, "two or three kilometers". "OK", I replied. As I cycled along, I felt that the distance was beginning to approach or exceed the two kilometer mark, so I stopped and flagged down a farm tractor, and then another, and yet another, and asked about the ancient city. I was in a large valley, on my left (east) was this gentle elongated mountain with four peaks (pictured below as it looks from the road), and to my right (west) was a wall of massive mountains that stretched as far as the eye could see (pictured above) with the village of Sarikaya nestled in its bosom.
Earlier, I had passed a sign about a kilometer back up the road that read, 'Kizildag Milli Parki', and there did appear to be a dirt track that ran along the bottom of the mountain, so I pointed at the peaks to the east and enquired, 'Antik varma? Roma?, Hellenistic?', finally, an old man who was sitting on his tractor with his wife replied, 'Var, var.' I motioned to the path off the main road about a kilometer back, and he nodded 'Evet!' So, I turned back and headed up the mountain path to ancient Anaboura . . . , so I thought.
Looking at the photo above, you might ask where is the path? It is running between the sign and mountain, which may now spark the question, how could that path possibly lead to an ancient city?! Well, the reality is, that there are so many ancient cities in Turkey, they are often unexplored, inexcessable to cars, or simply, still undiscovered. So, I headed up the path, which after a very very long day would see me pushing my bicycle with its full load up the kilometer plus path to a saddle between the third and fourth peak from the north. As I pushed along, I was keeping an eye on the path for pottery shards, a sure sign that you're on to something. About three quarters of the way up I began to see such shards, which gave me great relief. The sun was dropping fast and camp needed to be set up regardless of what the site may or may not have to reveal. With valley to the west, and Lake Beysehir to the east, I settled in for a beautiful nights sleep . . . , after my bath of course.
When tour cycling, I normally pack all my gear first thing in the morning and put it on the bike before doing anything else, but on this morning I couldn't wait to begin exploring for remnants of the ancient city. I started exploring the area below my campsite, and was soon rewarded. Pictured below, a section of a geison from a building was protruding from ground. As I searched amongst the trees and brush I found numerous building members, though I soon realized that the bulk of the remains lay underground.
The small mounds of stone in this area brought me to the conclusion that I must be in the Necropolis. Ancient necropolises are often located near or surrounding the entrance or entrances to the city, so as I snapped photos I was trying to be aware of a road to the city, which I still hadn't truly located.
From the sculpted building members I examined, I suspect that they date from the Hellenistic period through to the Byzantine period. I did not find any exquisitely carved ornamentation, which leads me to think this was not the richest or most populated city, but who knows what sits below the surface? I would soon find out that others have been wondering the exact same thing.
The rather rough chisel markings on the marble fragment pictured below are quite typical of the middle to late Byzantine era.
I am not sure why I took a full photo of the bush pictured below instead of the mound of building materials laying behind it, which was my true target. There were numerous small mounds of building material to be found throughout this area, signaling that this was an extensive necropolis.
It must be pointed out that at this stage in my investigations I had no evidence that this was ancient Anaboura. In all of my research, no other ancient city besides Anaboura was supposed to be located in the area, and nothing I had thus far seen resembled anything like the few photos of Anaboura I had previously viewed.
Tile fragments can also be found amongst the ruins of the necropolis, and I suspect that quite a number of the tombs were approaching monumental status, which makes me very curious as to what lay hidden beneath the surface.
I found the tortoise, but the hare was nowhere to be seen. I was beginning to have a similar feeling about the elusive ancient city of Anaboura.
One thing that I began to notice about the necropolis was that others were also searching for antiquities, only these people were hunting for the buried treasure!
Though the Turkish antiquity authorities, including site guards, prominent archeologists and every day citizens are often easy to accuse one of being a treasure hunter, it is the locals who are truly the culprits. I am almost assuredly the first non-Turkish citizen to visit this site, and on this morning I found numerous illegal digs that had quite recently been carried out (pictured above and below).
Even when I later inquired about the ancient city of Anaboura with a leading authority in Isparta in my attempt to verify its location, I was met with suspicion. Why would I want to know such a thing? What was my purpose in locating the ancient city? Was I working on a book for publication? All of these questions and more are typical fare for the person who has a passion to discover these wonders of the ancient world. In this case, I showed that ancient Anaboura was sited on the museums own map, though there is no specific location or directions to the city, and still I was told that I would have to write to the Turkish Cultural Ministry in order to locate the city. Finally, I showed this person my blog, and explained that I was a teacher at ODTU, to which he responded, "Why didn't you say so before?" Thank you ODTU for your status in the country! As he became more understanding, he explained that he had visited ancient Anaboura some ten years prior. Still, exact coordinates would remain evasive and left to my own due diligence to uncover, which I did, many weeks later.
As I stated earlier, from my experience and basic knowledge of the typical ancient city, say Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine, the road leading into a city often passes through the necropolis, or, let's more clearly say, that the necropolis is often located along the entrance/s to an ancient city. Since I assume that the two lane path that traverses the mountain and brings one to the necropolis is in fact the ancient road, then that road should continue to the city gate, and eventually, it would.
As I scanned the area surrounding the necropolis, I noticed an elongated flatness that started from the seeming dumping off point of the mountain path, which continued up the steep hill in a snake fashion, obviously designed to limit the steepness or angle of the path (pictured above and below). Therefore, the city gate must be situated somewhere along the ridge at the top, where I could plainly see a long mass of stone blocks running both east and west.
However, if you look to the right of the stone mass in the photo above, you will notice my tent amongst the pines, and beyond that, a flat surface that rises to the crest of the hill. It is that flat semi-concaved surface that I suspected at the time to be a small theater that was built below a section of the South Wall. I did not include the possible theater in my city plan.
As I followed the old road up the slope to just below the city wall, I was eventually confronted with the mass of stone blocks, and with no gate in sight (pictured below). Looking back in retrospect, I had veered off the city road which continues west below the wall. I decided to hike east to the flat incline and approach the acropolis from that end.
There really is something quite spectacular about being on the top of a mountain in the Taurus range; though it's probably not quite as wild as being at the top of the Fann mountains in Tajikistan, where my friend Christian Mark is exploring. It is the ancient cities that come along with the beauty of the mountains that are the cherry on top.
With the village of Sarikaya pictured in the distant valley to the west, you can see that the slope leading to the acropolis is quite steep. I hope to someday find out what if anything lay below the surface of this incline.
As I stood atop the slope, the acropolis fanned out like a table top stretching north above the long entrance path on the western slope, and the northern fertile delta that skirts the eastern slope from where lake Beysehir ends (pictured below).
Pictured below, looking southeast at lake Beysehir along the eastern slope of the acropolis. Though there appeared to be a defensive wall under the surface along this slope, further investigation will have to be done in order to say for sure.
Looking to the north along the same slope, the delta stretches into the distance. With the abundance of fresh water apparent, and the large fertile plains on both the east and west sides of the acropolis, it very easy to understand why this ancient city was established here.
As I hiked north along the eastern slope, I was keen to find some evidence of buildings, fountains, an agora, and so on. I could see square outlines beneath the surface, and plenty on rough stone that were used as building materials, but no finely ornamented monument members were laying plainly on the surface.
Centuries of overgrowth and leaf cover have built up the soil covering the acropolis, still, I gain satisfation contemplating an excavation of the site, or any site for that matter.
Continuing along to the northern end of the acropolis, it was more of the same. I was admittedly a bit disappointed at the lack of visible antiquities. When I hike, I often think about funding for these sites, and what they could reveal if that money were used to excavate and restore these antiquities. I have thoughts of countless 'Field Of Dreams', as with the movie . . . , "If you build it, they will come!"
Finally reaching the northern end of the acropolis, I wondered if I should continue down to the next level. Surveying the expanse, I really couldn't see anything on the surface that would reward my efforts. Yes, I think there are some outlines on the surface that appear to be man made, and moreover, to do a complete and thorough job, I must continue. But, when traveling by bicycle, in this extreme heat, and with thirty odd ancient cities to explore within an eight week period, well, the sundial says, "Quickly! Move along quickly!"
As stood there at the northern end contemplating my next move (pictured below), I happened to pick up something out of the bottom of my eyes, as I was always on the lookout for evidence of habitation, such as sculpted building blocks, pottery shards, and inscriptions. Well, there it was, an inscription!
The inscription is quite large (pictured above and below), as you can see in comparison to my feet in the photo below. I am not an expert in ancient languages, and have no idea what this inscription says, so, if anyone reading this can help decipher this inscription, please write the translation in the comment section at the bottom of the article.
I guess the most important aspect of this inscription is that it predates Latin, and therefore dates the population of the site as being pre-Roman or not Roman in culture. After all, this is Pisidia, the ancient people of the Taurus range, the pirates of the mountains, who would swoop down on the caravans of ancient times demanding passage fees. I can think of no better place to establish such a toll station as here, where a mountain wall rises to an unsurmountable height a mere 1 or 2 kilometers or less inland. Perfect!
Getting over my discovery took some time, but the sundial was ticking, and so I decided to hike over to the western slope and follow it back toward what I believed to be the southern city wall, just above the southern necropolis. Appearing in the distance above the western slope of the acropolis in the photo below, is Belcegiz village nestled up against the mountain wall.
As I was heading back toward the southern end of the acropolis, I came across this L-shaped wall protruding from a pit, and it was quite obvious that it had been illegally excavated.
The wall seemed to be in line with the entrance path to the city, which runs just below along the western slope, so, either this was a building of a fairly large scale, or, an extension of the defensive wall from the southwest corner, which if true means that the western defensive wall must be about 400 meters in length, or perhaps longer. This L-shaped section may in actual fact be a tower. The photo above is looking southeast over the northern end of the acropolis, while photo below is looking northwest along the western slope.
Continuing south along the southwest slope, the acropolis flattens out, and here I noticed what appeared to be a road or elongated flat area (pictured below), which eventually led to a break in the Southern Wall.
This break in the Southern Wall would eventually become clearer, but as I stood facing north with my back to the South Wall, I noticed a straight elongated mound rising above what I suspect to be the inside extent of the entrance road to the city. I think this may be a Stoa, or perhaps a Nymphaeum (pictured below).
Turning around, we are now looking out through a breach in the Southern Wall that leads to the necropolis beyond (pictured below). I believe this to be the Southern Gate. Later, while exploring the wall from the western end all the way to the eastern end, I return to the Southern Gate to further document the reasons why I think this is the main gate to the city.
Before going to the western end of the wall, I stepped outside the breach to take a shot at what I believe to be the Southern Gate to the city (pictured below).
By now I was gaining a fairly good picture of the basic layout of the city. My 'gotcha!' moment truly arrived when I approached what would become the Central West Tower, just to the west of the Southern Gate. The blocks comprising the wall are finely shaped and well constructed. I continued to the western end of the wall in order to work my way back to the Southern Gate.
At this point in my exploration of the ancient city, I had still not seen anything resembling the photos I saw during my research of Anaboura. My thinking at the time however, was that this was Anaboura. After a lengthy bit of inquiry and further research, I am now able to confidently declare that this site is not Anaboura. Let me introduce to you an undocumented city that I am naming, Kyzila.
I have named the site Kyzila for a few reasons, which I will go into greater detail later. I must first continue to tell of my exploration of the Southern Wall (pictured below).
Following the wall all the way to the western end brought me to the path along the western slope that brings one to the ancient city. I had noticed the few blocks along the path while pushing my bicycle toward the city, but it was not apparent what they were at that time (pictured below).
These blocks along the path are probably part of a tower (pictured above), but I could not be certain, as too much of the structure remains under the surface and/or has tumbled down the western slope. I now began to follow the wall back toward the Southern Gate in an attempt to get a better idea of the structure as a whole.
As quite a bit of the western end of the wall had succumb to the angle of the slope, it has lost its ordered height for the most part. When however we arrive at the Western Tower (pictured below), we are able to measure and reconstruct the tower.
Something very curious about the Western Tower did stand out. In the photo above, a view of the east side of the tower from outside, one can clearly see the row of blocks that form the base of the wall. However, when looking down from the tower along the same side, as in the photo below, just outside the wall there is a flat step that has been shaped out of the natural rock for some purpose. Most likely shaped during construction, perhaps the natural rock was quarried to build the wall and towers.
As a substantial portion of the wall is in ruin, and it is quite difficult to assess the design or layout of the structure, the Southern Wall does expose at least four towers, and I could argue that six towers seem viewable around the city as a whole. With a conservative assessment however, I will point out four distinct towers.
Continuing toward the Southern Gate, we arrive at the Central West Tower, that is, centrally located to the west of the Southern Gate (pictured above and below). Though the Romans may have expanded on the wall construction at some point, in my view this wall construction more resembles a Hellenistic style with use of massive size blocks.
Now back at the Southern Gate, we can clearly see that the gate is set back from the wall to create a protective extension that juts out from the gate (pictured below). The opposite side of the Southern Gate is protected by a V-shaped tower that follows the angle of the entrance road.
The photo above is looking west from the Southern Gate, while the next two photos below are looking east.
Looking more closely at the footing of the Southern Gate (pictured above and below), we can see a distinctly flat base block that stretches the distance between the western and eastern sections of the Southern Wall.
Again, pictured below is a view from inside the Southern Gate looking out over the Southern Necropolis on the flat below.
Continuing along the eastern section of the Southern Wall from the Southern Gate, a protrusion out from the wall in form of a V-shaped tower can be seen, appearing to be further protection for the Southern Gate.
The V-Shaped Tower can be seen in the photo above, with the angle of the western wall of the tower matching the angle of the entrance road to the Southern Gate.
With the amount of building materials scattered down the slope, it is quite easy to picture the great height and massiveness that the Southern Wall once comprised.
Pictured below, I am standing under the Eastern Tower along the eastern section of the Southern Wall. This is the same mass I avoided climbing at the beginning of my investigations of the acropolis. Again avoiding the climb, I return to the top of the wall in a round about way.
Back at the top, I am now standing on the Eastern Tower (pictured below). This section of the wall was built on a flatter area, and together with the extensive support structure built for the tower, it has retained more of its original state and is better preserved.
In the photo above, the camera is facing southwest with the Eastern Tower protruding out from the wall, while in the photo below the camera is facing southwest over the east wall of the tower with Beysehir Lake in the distance.
As you can see, the corner where the tower meets the wall on its eastern side is quite tight, forming a deep V-shape before continuing east.
From this point onward along the east end, the wall can slightly be followed under the surface as it gives way to the long steep southern slope that I climbed earlier in the morning.
Pictured above, the deep V-shape where the tower meets the wall, while pictured below, a look back at the tower from further along the wall.
Finally returning to the steep southern slope, I hiked back toward the southern central portion of the acropolis, just inside the Southern Wall.
After walking a ways inward from the Southern Wall, I noticed a large flat square area that is boxed in by what appear to be collapsed walls. I am recognizing this as an Agora (pictured below).
After surveying the remaining area on the acropolis, I came to the conclusion that there was little more to view above the surface, and though the site certainly deserves further exploration, I needed to move on. This brings us to the undertaking of further research on the site during the weeks following my visit, the conclusions I have come to, and my decision to name the site Kyzila. Below is a photo of the 'Isparta Valiligi' internet site header, where I found some information about Anaboura in my early research. The information that follows comes from this site, and is a translation from Turkish to English done through Google translate.
Kızıldağ National Park
"Pure cedar forests at the skirts of Büyüksivri Tepesi, 5 km south of Şarkikaraağaç District, 1840 m high, are the focal point of the national park. The cedar forests that enter most of the steppe climate of Central Anatolia are 164 ha long. Alan was declared a national park in 1969.To the south of the park is Beyşehir Lake and the southern winds that pass by the lake pass through Bebik Valley and Yertutan Mevkii and reach the national park. For this reason, plenty of clean air with oxygen has increased the appeal of the park.Mountain hiking can be done by climbing Büyüksivri Tepesi at 1840 m altitude in the national park where mountain houses and camp sites are located. National park has camping and picnic facilities. Due to the abundant oxygen production of the blue cedar forests, it is suitable for those who have a clear air of the national park, respiratory tract disorders. Accommodation can be made with tents and caravans. There are public bungalows and eating and drinking facilities in the national park. The forests of the national park mainly consist of poplar, willow and small amount of linden, including cedar, juniper, larch, fir and oak."
Anaboura Castle, Salur Village
"In Enevre Mevkii, the castle on the Kizilkale Mountain must have been established in the Roman period. The castle was completely destroyed."
Anaboura Ancient City
"The ancient city is located to the south of Salur Village in the village of Şarkikaraağaç and west of Belceğiz Village. In the 1st century BC the city people are referred to as 'Anabourans'. The city was a member of Tetrapolis, which was founded in the Roman Empire. The city is situated on a sloping slope to the north. There are not many remains on the city. The remains of the theater and temple and the tracks of the housing bases are visible."
The 'Isparta Valiligi' website says that 'Anaboura Castle' is located in Salur Village, which is north of ancient Anaboura, while the site I am naming Kyzila is actually located south of ancient Anaboura. According to the Isparta Kultur Turizm PDF webpage, Kizilkale (map pictured below) is located several kilometers north of Kyzila, and north of Anaboura in the village of Salur, as is also stated above on the 'Isparta Valiligi' website: that Anaboura Castle is located in Salur Village.
The Isparta Kultur Turizm PDF has a list of ancient sites in the Pisidian area of Isparta, however, Kyzila is not listed in any name or modern location, nor is it located on the PDF map (see list and map below). *It should be noted that the map below is a bit misleading, as Salur Village is actually located north of Anaboura (refer to the satellite maps further down).
Further, on the 'Turkiye Kultur Portali' website (pictured directly above), they are showing photos of ancient Anaboura (not where I was), while describing the photos as the 'Anaboura Kalesi', which translates to 'Anaboura Stronghold', which I assume is how they refer to ancient Anaboura. Below, is a section of the W. M. Calder and George E. Bean 'Classical Map Of Asia Minor', and there is no ancient city located in the area I explored, so, I have sited in red where ancient Kyzila is located.
I will point out a number of reasons for naming the site I explored on July 29, 2018, Kyzila. First, at the point where the mountain path that leads to the ancient city sort of meets the main road, there is a sign that reads 'Kizildag Milli Park', which translates into 'Kizil Mountain National Park' (pictured below). This park extends from north of Beysehir lake, along its west coast all the way to the southwest corner of this massive body of water. The sign does NOT say 'Kizilkale', which we know is located several kilometers to the north in Salur Village. 'Kizilkale' translates into 'Kizil Castle', and 'Kizil Kalesi', translates into 'Kizil Stronghold', both of which have been sited in/near Salur village to the north.
None of the archeological records I have accessed, nor the experts on the area that I have personally spoken to know anything of the site I explored, which I am naming Kyzila. There are no markers on the main road or near the site, no maps pinpointing or naming the site, and further, all information on the area lacks any knowledge or recognition of this site.
Further, the inscription at the north end of the acropolis would indicate that the city was established or populated prior to Roman domination of the area. I argue that the ancient city of Kyzila was most likely founded by Hellenes during the movements of Alexander the Great in 334BC, and may even have been occupied earlier by the Pisidians, or even the Neo-Hittites. Alexander may have used the site as a military post with the mission of keeping the narrow passage through the valley open to the flow of supplies both north and south; north, to and from Antiocheia Pisidia, south, to and from Timbriada, Zorzila, Adada, Cremna and Attaleia (modern Antalya).
This narrow corridor running north and south is strategic, as it offers the perfect location for the Pisidians or other bandits to swoop down into the valley from the mountains to attack the caravans that used this route. Perhaps attacks even came from Anaboura (before the arrival of Alexander), which I now know sits several kilometers north, high up in the mountains west of the modern road, north of Belcegiz (see map below).
Kyzila offers the perfect location for an army to ensure safe passage through the valley. A standing army would also offer guarantees of safety to the inhabitants of the area. Kyzila may have been established for protective purposes, or, originally for offensive purposes. Perhaps domination of the site was fought over by competing camps? Either way, I argue that Kyzila grew into a small city, and probably absorbed the declining population of Anaboura over time, following that cites destruction and decline. Furthermore, Kyzila offers easier access to the valley when compared to Anaboura.
Why the name, Kyzila? Well, taking into account the park within which the ancient city is located being named 'Kizildag', and, not too far to the southwest there being an ancient city named Zorzila near modern day Kesme, Kyzila seems appropriate. All that is needed now are some brown signs on the road reading, 'Kyzila Antik Kent', so travelers will not be confused. That said, it would be nice if there were some signs along the road pointing out the direction to Anaboura as well, though from my understanding, Anaboura is not accessible by car, and is a challenging hike into the mountains. I will attempt this in the near future.
Pictured above, a close view of the southwest of Kyzila from the main road that runs through the valley, while pictured below, the extent of the acropolis, also taken from the main road.
*All photos and content property of Jack A. Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)
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