Mardin’s Gift To History

Principalities large and small have thrived here and left their traces. Among those traces, the freshest of all is ‘the Sürekli Hoard’, which was brought to light only a few months ago, is one of the best examples.

It was an ordinary autumn day. An infrastructure project was under way in the village of Sürekli in Kızıltepe township of Mardin province. Everything was proceeding normally. Earth moving equipment was busy excavating the road to the village, where a long, narrow trench was being dug for laying new sewage pipes. And then it happened! Delving deep into the black earth, the machine’s shovel lifted into the air with a load of rubble and a shower of soil mixed with gold suddenly rained down. Instant confusion reigned, and everyone was filled with a sense of curiosity mingled with excitement. A treasure that had lain under the ground for centuries had suddenly come to the light of day, albeit by sheer accident. The security guards and the Mardin Archaeological Museum were immediately notified, and officials lost no time in arriving at the excavation area and undertaking the necessary investigations. Until then, no one had ever laid eyes on this this dazzling treasure of historical import that sparkled so alluringly under the mellow September sun.

Successfully Defying Time
Mindful of the difficulties of approaching winter, archaeological experts from the Mardin Archaeological Museum quickly mounted a rescue excavation. When the excavations, which pressed on night and day, were complete, the museum had come into possession of some extremely significant artifacts that would shed light on the history of Mardin and the region in general. Although the gold items had barely been touched by the effects of time, the same could not be said of the silver ones. There was oxidation as well as corrosion with metals like lead and iron on the silver coins and jewelry, which hampered identification efforts. It was time now for the restoration and conservation team to step in. Centuries of corrosion were removed from the artifacts using the most advanced methods. These necklaces, talismans and tiny amulet boxes had literally defied time and its depredations in their overriding desire to be known and recognized. Following laboratory studies came the more pleasant and intriguing task of identifying the periods and dynasties to which the artifacts belonged.

Artifacts From Three Continents
The results of dating the objects and determining their periods were most astonishing. While hordes and other such finds encountered at a certain stratum in an archaeological dig usually consist of artifacts from one or at most two civilizations, the objects unearthed at Sürekli in Mardin exhibited a diversity that embraced not only Italy and the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ilkhanids and Ayyubids but several other dynasties large and small as well, such as the Aglebids, the Fatimids, the Mamluks, the Zengids, the Black Sea Laz clans of Celayir and the Armenians of Cilicia, all of which renders this treasure highly unusual and extremely important. Thanks to its rich diversity, the Sürekli Hoard constitutes a virtual x-ray image of its time that has come down to our day.

On The Trail Of Ali Baba
The place where the Sürekli Hoard was found lies on the historic Silk Road, in other words, at the crucial intersection of the medieval caravan routes and the Europe-Near East-Asia trade routes. Many sources, principally the Şerefname or ‘Book of Glory’, which illuminate the history of the Middle Ages, speak of tribes here that lived by robbing and plundering caravans passing through the region during the very period to which the finds date. These legends in the sources live on today in the oral culture of the area, as evidenced, for example, by a village called ‘Cildiz’, meaning ‘Forty Thieves’, just 5 kilometers from the village of Sürekli where the hoard was discovered. When the rich diversity of the Sürekli Horde is compared with information derived from historical rumors and with existing place names in the region, it soon becomes apparent that this treasure could in all probability be loot that was captured in one, or a number of, caravan robberies. Who knows? Perhaps the legendary Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves actually lived and operated right here in Turkey! But the best thing would be for you to visit the lands where this magnificent horde was found and decide for yourself.
Special thanks to Mardin Archeology Museum

The minting places of the gold and silver coins in the hoard are quite varied, among them: Tabriz, Qashan, Sabsevar, Gûrgan, Shahristan-i Rashidi, Marv, Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Aleppo, Damascus, Cairo, Alexandria, Hasankeyf, Mardin, Malatya, Harran, Ani, Sivas, Samsun, Erzurum, Erzincan, Amasya, Tokat, Alanya and Constantinople (Istanbul).

Of the 336 coins found at Sürekli that have been dated so far, 216 are Ilkhanid, 38 Ayyubid, 35 Mamluk, 7 Byzantine-Venetian, 6 Anatolian Seljuk and 3 Zengid. One is Artukid, and thirty others date to various periods in Islamic history.

A total of 524 historical artifacts made of gold, silver and bronze were found in the excavations and later opened up for display to visitors at the Mardin Archaology Museum in a ceremony organized with the backing of the Mardin province Office of Governor.