Fresh galleries in Istanbul cave open new windows into deep past
New galleries date back millions of years, carry traces of human presence from Paleolithic
Important new galleries have been reached in Istanbul's Yarimburgaz Cave, an important site for prehistoric research, at a depth of about one kilometer (0.62 miles).
A team under the Istanbul Prehistoric Archaeological Research project, led by Kocaeli University archeologist Sengul Aydingun, managed to reach the hitherto unknown galleries of the cave, located in Basaksehir, in the European side of the Turkish largest metropolis.
The new galleries, featuring impressive stalactites and stalagmites, will both increase the surface area of Yarimburgaz and yield new information about the history of humanity, say researchers.
Metin Albukrek, one of the team members, told Anadolu Agency the new galleries are not included in the cave map done in 1985-1986.
"There's probably no trace of people because (the new areas) are so deep," he added.
He said they hope to one day make the caves accessible to tourism with the least possible damage.
Pointing to the damage done to the cave by treasure hunters, he said: "They're digging everywhere. They're digging up stones formed 200 million years ago in the cave. There's no gold or anything else in that stone."
"We need to raise awareness of this," he added.
The first geological studies in the cave were carried out in 1869-1870, with the first archaeological studies coming nearly a century later, in 1959.
In the late 1980s, experts from Istanbul University worked to calculate the history of humankind from research inside the cave.
He said treasure hunters also break off stalactites and stalagmites formed by the lime in dripping water over tens of thousands of years.
"It's a huge crime to break a stalactite that grows only up to an inch (2.5 cm) in 100, sometimes 1,000 years," he said.
Similar to cave in Antalya
Emre Kurucayirli, another team member, explained that there are niches used in the Byzantine and Roman eras at the entrance of the cave and that it was once considered a "cult" place.
Kurucayirli stated that human traces in the cave date back to 600,000 BC.
"Unfortunately, no human remains were found here, but the tools they made were found," he said.
Underlining that the cave is a very rare and important place, he added: "There are four places in Turkiye that yield finds from such an ancient period. There are only two places that have been so well researched and yielded finds from all phases of the oldest period, which we call the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) – that is, we can see they were used uninterruptedly."
"The other is Karain Cave in Antalya (on the Turkish Mediterranean). There are four places in the whole Balkan region where history goes this deep," he continued. "This is one of the few places. It's very valuable and its location is very important."