LOADING...

























DELVING INTO MERSIN'S PAST
2002 / FEBRUARY

Mersin is one of the numerous towns and cities which run like a string of pearls along Turkey's Mediterranean coast. It lies in the shadow of the Toros Mountains at the western end of the fertile Çukurova Plain, a flourishing, prosperous port city with orange scented gardens, palm trees and cheerful inhabitants. The history of this eastern Mediterranean city goes back into the depths of time, 9000 years to be precise. Seeing its skyscrapers today that is hard to imagine, but this city is the oldest in the world still inhabited and thriving today. The first settlement here was established in neolithic times at Yumuktepe, now one and a half kilometres inland from the sea, but then on the shores of a deep bay. This first prehistoric settlement consisted of huts made of reeds and mud, and a few scattered examples of similar huts can still to be seen today on backstreets and at the edges of gardens.

PAGE 1/4


























DELVING INTO MERSIN'S PAST
2002 / FEBRUARY

Mersin's first inhabitants had learnt to domesticate animals, including sheep, goats, cattle and pigs, and to cultivate wheat, barley, lentils and peas. In place of tody'ss orange orchards were wild olive, fig and almond trees. Such were the beginnings of a city which has never looked back.
Today the 23 metre high settlement mound of Yumuktepe standing on the banks of the River Müftü, formerly known as the Efrenk, is like a green park surrounded by residential districts. But once you are aware of what lies beneath the surface of this small hill, it is metamorphosed into a monument proudly guarding its 9000 year-old history. More than sixty settlement layers are superimposed here. The first excavations of the mound took place in the 1930s and 1940s, conducted by a team of British archaeologists from Liverpool University led by John Garstan.

PAGE 2/4


























DELVING INTO MERSIN'S PAST
2002 / FEBRUARY
The next phase of excavation was carried out in the 1990s by Turkish and Italian archaeologists, and it was they who made the remarkable discovery that the city's beginnings went back to 7000 BC, and had been constantly rebuilt time after time since then.
Each successive layer revealed that the neolithic inhabitants had gradually begun to construct stronger buildings with stone foundations, until around 4900 BC Mersin had become a walled citadel, evidently the stronghold of a powerful local chieftain. The inhabitants of this fortified city had made the acquaintance of grapes, and possibly begun to make wine. About 3500 years on, in 1400 BC, walls were again built around the city to protect it against the Hittites of central Anatolia, who threatened to overrun this little local kingdom in Çukurova. By the end of the 5th century BC alluvium carried down by the Müftü had forced the sea to recede, leaving the city stranded inland.
PAGE 3/4


























DELVING INTO MERSIN'S PAST
2002 / FEBRUARY

The inhabitants were obliged to relocate at a new site on the coast known as Zephyrion. Until mid-Byzantine times this small tranquil seaside town lived almost unnoticed between its large and famous neighbours, the cities of Tarsus and Soloi-Pompeiopolis (the modern Mezitli). In the 7th century the Yumuktepe mound once again became a strong fortress, inside which the Byzantine emperors built churches and houses. Today Mersin is a modern, rapidly growing Turkish city with a population getting on for a million. With its skyscrapers - one of 52 storeys - modern hotels and the largest harbour on the Mediterranean, Mersin is a major commercial and cultural centre in the region. Elderly it might be, but the mood is dynamic and vigorous. And evidently that has always been the case, as you realise when you visit Yumuktepe and the galleries of Mersin Museum to discover the remarkable vista down the time tunnel of the city's ancient past.

* Professor Dr Veli Sevin Yüzüncü Yıl University in Van

PAGE 4/4

























Previous Next