Reconstructed ancient metropolis

Outlines of Antiochia fully analyzed for the first time

The Iron Gate is measured with an electronic tachymeter. © Ulrich Weferling / HTWK Leipzig
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It once belonged to Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople to the four largest cities in ancient times: Antioch. The city had several 100, 000 inhabitants in antiquity and was probably in direct competition with Alexandria. Now, for the first time, it has been possible to reconstruct the outlines of the city at that time using state-of-the-art equipment: its diameter was once three times five kilometers, and the oldest city wall dates back to the 3rd century BC.

Antioch is today known to tourists to Turkey as Antakya. But many of these tourists make it to the magnificent mosaics excavated by archaeologists in the 1930s. Sometimes they also visit the church on the field slope of the Staurin mountain, a city hill of Antioch, where once Paul and Peter taught. In the barren rock landscape in eastern Turkey, however, there are still quite different treasures hidden - no potsherds or gold coins, but parts of the former city walls and fortifications. And it is precisely these remnants of the wall that are of interest to Professor Ulrich Weferling of the Department of Surveying in the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK Leipzig) and his six students.

Metropolis Antioch

"For many archaeologists, of course, the five-meter-high rock relief on the hillside of the mountain town of Epiphaneia and finds such as mosaics are of interest, but we are concerned with documenting the dimensions and structural development of ancient Antioch, " explains Weferling. Since 2004, an interdisciplinary project group with a total of 20 participants has been traveling to Turkey once a year for five weeks to explore the remnants of Antioch. Last year, Weferling and his students managed to capture the contours of Antiochia on the basis of the city wall trains found on plans. It turned out that the ancient city was actually a metropolis and had a diameter of three by five kilometers. The oldest city wall from the 3rd century BC runs far from the old town center along rocky slopes and over the 500 meter high Silpius mountain.

The students of the HTWK Leipzig work on various tasks in several small teams: As a basis for all future research in Antioch, a network of reference points has to be created and measured. This basic survey is performed using the satellite positioning system GPS. By evaluating the GPS measurements, the positions of the reference points can be determined with an accuracy of one centimeter. With modern electronic tachymeters and GPS devices, measurements are made for the topographic master plan of ancient Antioch.

On the trail of old masonry with state-of-the-art technology

In addition, with the most modern tachymeters, measuring instruments are used whose laser-based distance and angle measurement enables the positioning of all measuring points with millimeter precision. The remains of the city walls and the Iron Gate are also documented with tachymeters and digital photogrammetry - a process that can be used to create plots based on digital photos. Another group has begun to track down and measure the ancient water channels. All teams work closely with the participating Turkish and German archaeologists and building researchers from different universities. display

As today's Antakya continues to expand and expand, it is important for archaeologists to know where to halt construction to avoid destroying valuable ancient legacy ren. In addition, such a large part of the development history of the city could be reconstructed. "Often it was not so easy to find the walls, " says Weferling, "sometimes only traces of wear are left in the grass." On the other hand, it is just that called "Iron Gate". A weir and part of the city wall, which is about 31 meters wide and 35 meters high.

Worthwhile hardships

This section leads over the Parmenios gorge and accumulates the melting and rainwater of Parmenios. The ascent to the remains of the wall is not easy, there is often a strong wind blowing on the 500 meter high mountains and it is very hot, says Prof. Weferling from his experiences. For the hardships but you will be compensated with a joint meal together with the Turkish staff. "Our driver and his wife were very hospitable and the students liked to drink tea together."

Before the students of the HTWK Leipzig began with the documentation of the walls, the statements about the city walls were mostly based only on written sources. The different stages of construction and restoration on the walls were not recorded. Soon, with the help of a digital 3D animation, it will be possible to see what the complete closed wall system of the ancient city looked like. The documentation of the entire plant will be completed by a further measuring campaign this summer in large parts. But the work is not over yet: The research work should then focus on the ancient water supply and archological significant individual buildings.

(University of Applied Sciences Leipzig, 16.02.2007 - AHE)