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Near East: Byzantine cistern filled with cement

A cistern-like Byzantine-era structure has been unearthed during renovation of an underpass in Istanbul’s Beyazit neighborhood. The construction company had tried to cover up the entrance to the structure to continue its work, but thanks to the keen eyes of a local citizen it has been rescued from being buried underground, according to daily Hurriyet.

Byzantine cistern filled with cement
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality initiated a tender for renovation work on the Darulfunun underpass in August. The tender was won by an Isildak Construction and Mak. Is. Construction consortium, and the renovation began after the project was approved by the Istanbul Preservation Board No: 4.

During work by subcontractor Vizyon, the covers of two tombs in the area were found in August. The tomb covers, estimated to date back to the early Christian era, were badly damaged by a digger. After the covers were taken to the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, the museum became aware that it had not been informed about construction work in the area, but work nevertheless restarted a short time later.

An unidentified person later also informed the museum that the entrance to a Byzantine cistern hundreds of square meters in size had been unearthed during the construction, which the company had attempted to fill with cement.

Officials of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum sent two archaeologists to the construction site to examine the entrance of the cistern and work was halted. A report will now be sent to Istanbul’s 4th Cultural Heritage Protection Board, which will make a decision on whether the construction can continue.

Speaking to Hurriyet, Istanbul Archaeology Museum officials said they had not been informed about the remains by the municipality, but learned of it only thanks to a “responsible” citizen. “The Forum of Theodosius, which is made up of Byzantine shops, is in this area. Examinations will reveal if this is the ruins of a shop or a cistern,” the officials said.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [November 14, 2014]

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