18 February 2006

Harbors far from the sea


This satellite photo from Google Earth is of the area in western Turkey where the Meander (Büyük Menderes) River empties into the Aegean Sea. The course of the river, which as it approaches the sea divides into several channels, is my approximation (see below for a close up). A previous post had a picture of the delta I had taken from Mount Mycale on Dilek Peninsula. Lake Bafa is a shallow, brackish water lake.

During the last ice age an enormous quantity of water was tied up as snow and ice. This resulted in a shortage of liquid water and consequently, the global sea level was about 100 m or more lower than the present level. The continental shelf was exposed along the coastlines and many coastal islands became connected by dry land to each other or to the mainland.

After the ice age ended, about 10,000 years ago, the sea level gradually rose, islands became islands again and coastal areas got flooded. This is known as the postglacial transgression. The image below is my recreation of what the Meander Delta may have looked like about 2500 years ago. I don't think it is known how far inland the sea went. So, the location of the end of the embayment is a wild guess.


Along the shores, there were 3 well-known Ionian harbor cities, Priene, Miletus and Heracleia. The small island northwest of Miletus acquired its share of fame by giving its name to the Battle of Lade between the Ionian Greek and the Persian navies that took place near the island in 494 B.C.E.

But gradually, with the silt it was carrying, the river filled up its own delta, which moved towards the sea. This is known as progradation. One by one, the coastal cities were cut off from the sea and the Latmian Gulf became a brackish water lake. The diagram below shows the approximate dates of the coastline throughout the history.

Map from Göney, S. 1975. Büyük Menderes Bölgesi. [M.Ö.=B.C., M.S.=A.D.] Another scheme is given by Müllenhoff et al. (link below).

The Island of Lade is now a hill surrounded by cotton fields. Ships must surely have sunk during the Battle of Lade. I have always wondered if one dug deep enough in the fields, if one would find the remains of those ships.


More information on the progradation of the Meander Delta:
Marc Müllenhoff, Mathias Handl, Maria Knipping & Helmut Brückner. 2004. The evolution of Lake Bafa (Western Turkey) – Sedimentological, microfaunal and palynological results. Coastline reports 1:55-66.


afarensis said...

That is an interesting question...be interesting to see someone try!

D.A. Silvestri said...

Great blog! And it's a question that engages the imagination - archaeology deals with mysteries, the earth has changed so much even in the last 2 centuries. Keep researching please.

simon said...

What a great Google Earth image of 2500 years ago you have created. The Panionion was also an important Ionian site here. See eg http://www.ypai.gr/atlas/thesi_uk.asp?idthesis=390


Well, I included only the major cities. The Panionion, I understand, was more of a sanctuary. There was, of course, Didyma, abother temple site south of Miletus.

When I get a chance I will do a similar reconstruction of the Ephesus area.

ann said...

Ground penetrating radar would be one way to look for buried ships. It would also be useful for delimiting stone harbor features, just by the density of the materials.

Ground water may have enhanced preservation. You might want to read about the riverboat "Arabia" and the excavations that are being done (limited to seasons when the site isnot farmed) near Kansas City Missouri USA.

How far inland marine deposited rocks are could be checked with microfossils.

Thank you for an interesting read.