Antiquities and Archaeology
Secret tunnels discovered under Turkish castle
Excavation of the passages beneath Niksar Castle is on hold due to lack of staff and expired permits
By Garry Shaw. Web only
Published online: 21 January 2014
Two hidden Roman tunnels have been discovered under Turkey’s Niksar Castle in Tokat province, northern Anatolia. Exposed during restoration work, one of the tunnels runs south beneath the castle towards a stream outside, while the other heads north and is thought to have given access to nearby Roman baths. Although excavation of the 100m-long tunnels is on hold due to a lack of staff and expired permits, Halis Şahin of the Tokat Museum says that they will continue to be cleared through 2014.
Covering an area 6.2km wide, Niksar Castle is Turkey’s second largest fortification after Diyarbakir Castle. Most of the site’s buildings date to the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, including an 11th-century medical school still standing within the castle walls, though an earlier Roman phase is betrayed by stonework (and even a sarcophagus lid) built into the tower walls.
Speaking to the Hurriyet Daily News, the mayor of Niksar, Duran Yadigar, says he hopes the castle will become a Unesco world heritage site once the restoration project is complete, and that the recent discoveries will bring the city to the attention of Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry. So far, a quarter of the work on its western section has been finished.
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