Friday, February 8, 2013

Slide Scanning - Samosata

We are currently digitising the APAAME slide collection of ground photographs, and I had the pleasure of completing the letter 'S' not that long ago.
'S' contained some beautiful sites in SYRIA, SABRATHA on the Mediterranean coast of Libya, and SARDIS in Turkey to name a few.
All of these sites are geoencoded in our database to allow for sites to be searched by location as well as by site name. When I was finding the geographical coordinates for SAMOSATA, I was surprised to come across this in Google Earth (having personally been unfamiliar with the site up until now).
Location of the ruins of Samosata beneath the Ataturk Dam in Turkey (click to enlarge).
Samosata, ancient city of Commagene, was flooded in 1991 with the construction of the Ataturk Dam, and the modern town of Samsat on the site was moved to the north on higher ground. The remains of the ancient tell, possibly the remains of a palace, can be seen here in the scanned slide, the photograph taken before construction of the dam. It had evidently become a playground for the local children of Samsat. The entire site is now at the bottom of Ataturk Dam.
Photograph taken on the tell of Samosata c1970s, the Euphrates River in the background. Photograph: David Kennedy (Click to enlarge).
Very little excavation occurred before the site was flooded. CORONA satellite imagery, freely available through the fantastic University of Arkansas' 'CORONA Atlas of the Middle East' reveals the extent of the ancient site - the walls c. five kilometers long, enclosing an area of roughly 200 hectares (500 acres). This ancient city was the capital of a prosperous Hellenistic kingdom that later flourished under the Roman Empire. This is evident when you provide some perspective: Samosata was roughly three times the size of Pompeii, and 50 percent larger than Londinium, the capital of Roman Britain (Kennedy 1998). Should excavations been carried out to a greater extent, finds may have revealed the wealth of the capital of the Commagene kingdom, its later prosperity under the Roman Empire and as home of the Legio XVI Flavia until the 3rd century AD before its gradual demise into obscurity.
Screen shot of Samosata from CORONA Atlas of the Middle East, University of Arkansas http://corona.cast.uark.edu/index.html#bbox=4282983,4509629,4292155,4514526
Due to the location of Samosata now under some 120m of water, these historical images are all that preserve the knowledge of the site for future generations - who may become keen Underwater Archaeologists to learn more of Samosata.

For more information on the site of Samosata and the flooding of archaeological sites by the construction of the Ataturk Dam: David L. Kennedy (1998) 'Drowned Cities of the Upper Euphrates', Saudi Aramco World 49.5 (Sept/Oct): http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/199805/drowned.cities.of.the.upper.euphrates.htm
To browse the CORONA imagery, please visit the CORONA Atlas of the Middle East: http://corona.cast.uark.edu/index.html

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