An ancient, lost island in Turkey is set to be discovered by underwater archaeologists after being submerged by a giant earthquake over 1,000 years ago. The Byzantine island of Vordonisi was lost under the Mamara Sea but archaeologists have now identified its location thanks to recent seismic activity and ancient maps.
The history of the sunken island
The island once housed a Byzantine monastery, built by Patriarch Photius I. The monastery, known as either 'Gordonos' or 'Armeniakon', was constructed during Photius' exile from Constantinople, in 886. The patriarch was banished by Emperor Leo VI, after Photius accused him of conspiracy against his predecessor, Basil I.
The island is said to be just 540m2, a tenth of the size of the other Prince Islands on the coast of Istanbul – then Constantinople.
A major earthquake in Constantinople caused the island to sink a few metres below sea level in the year 1010. The only remnants of the island are tiny flashes of light occasionally seen on the surface – believed to be the very top of the sunken monastery.
However, recent earthquakes have slowly but surely caused the island to rise back up. In 2013, Turkish researchers confirmed that the island did exist at one point in time.
Just two years later, ancient Byzantine maps of Constantinople and its surrounding area revealed the exact location of Vordonosi. Archaeologists photographed the map, and have been excavating underwater ever since.
"Vordonosi Island is to be brought to light after 1,000 years by a research team from Istanbul University, Bursa Uludağ University and Düzce University with the support of the Maltepe municipality," Ali Kılıç, mayor of the Istanbul district of Maltepe, told Hurriyet Daily News. "The next step will be opening the island to tourism."
Kılıç says that once the researchers have uncovered the island, they hope to try and gain it 'World Heritage site' status. Should that be the case, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) accepts, it will join 1031 other areas across the globe as a designated World Heritage site.
"The island will be discovered in all its aspects with the help of this research and then we will present a study to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, the Culture Ministry and UNESCO," said Kılıç.