The biggest surprise of ancient Ephesus were the terrace houses, a beehive of archaeological activity underway for thirty years. In this series of closely connected homes of wealthy citizens built into the hillside, archaeologists have uncovered intricate mosaics and frescoes, indoor pools and fountains, central heat and indoor plumbing, and a surgical practice with waiting room. I was especially struck by the juxtaposition in that these homes seemed to have both private studies for scholarly work and slaves’ quarters. So enlightened, in some ways, yet in this the ancients were blinded. Two thousand years later, our nation’s founders had not progressed much.
The entire site is situated inside a superstructure to protect from the elements as excavation continues. Archaeologists work side by side, piecing together thousands of fragments of artifacts unearthed, as curious tourists peer over their shoulders. A lengthy glass walkway protects fragile mosaics; extensive metal scaffolding and stairwells climb three or four stories high to allow fantastic views of the site and work at hand.
Later we would view the most fragile artifacts at the Ephesus Museum — a treasure trove of discovery where ancient life is restaged. Architectural artifacts, statues, and finds from throughout the city are also placed here for safekeeping. Among Bulent’s personal finds on display were a blue patter he’d reassembled from many pieces, an intact gold idol, and a bronze pitcher containing wine sediment, aged two thousand years. Bulent laughed as he recalled the conversation with his colleague over testing those ancient spirits: a day in the life of an archaeologist!
*Our brief visit to Turkey was infinitely more interesting in the company of a private guide, Bulent, through Sea Song Tours. An archaeologist who worked in his early career at Ephesus, his insider’s perspective and expertise, along with deep pride in his beautiful country, made a world of difference in our experience.