Archaeologists from Kocaeli University, working in the Istanbul suburb of Kucukcekmece, discovered a miniature vessel, a bone dip pen, and an inkwell in what was then Bathonea.

Part of the writing set found in Bathonea excavations in Istanbul's Avcilar district, on the shores of Kucukcekmece Lake.
Part of the writing set found in Bathonea excavations in Istanbul's Avcilar district, on the shores of Kucukcekmece Lake. (Courtesy of Kocaeli University / AA)

A writing set dating back more than one-and-a-half millenium, to the reign of the Roman Empire, has been found in an Istanbul suburb, a Turkish university announced.

The archeologists unearthed the 1,600-year-old writing set from the late Roman era during ongoing archaeological excavations at the ancient site of Bathonea, said a statement by Kocaeli University in western Izmit.

The writing set – including a miniature vessel, a bone dip pen, and an inkwell – is believed to have once belonged to a merchant.

The discovery goes down in the history of archeology as the first time an intact writing set has been unearthed at an ancient dig.

The supervising archaeologist Professor Dr Sengul Aydingun of Kocaeli University said that even though there have been previous discoveries of separate writing utensils, the recent findings at Bathonea (in Avcilar on the shores of Kucukcekmece Lake) are unique because they comprise a full set.

Close examination of the inkwell found traces of ancient red and black ink still present. Red ink was used exclusively by state officials and courtiers at that time, according to experts.

Considering that the use of writing was quite rare 1,600 years ago, the significance of the discovery grows more evident.

Part of the writing set found in Bathonea excavations in Istanbul's Avcilar district, on the shores of Kucukcekmece Lake.
Part of the writing set found in Bathonea excavations in Istanbul's Avcilar district, on the shores of Kucukcekmece Lake. (Courtesy of Kocaeli University / AA)

Aydingun said that the writing set was found in one of the small rooms in a building whose length was 25 metres and was divided into small chambers.

According to Aydingun, the building's small rooms were probably used as state authorities' offices that recorded the goods unloaded from vessels approaching the port.

Additionally, Aydingun mentioned finding the remnants of a scale that they believe was used to weigh goods in the small port rooms.

During the same excavations, archeologists also found evidence of an earthquake that rattled the city and caused the complete collapse of the famed dome of Ayasofya [Hagia Sophia] in the year 557.

The renowned dome suffered several partial collapses over the centuries.

Ayasofya, built in 532, served as a church until 1453, when it became a mosque, with the conquest of Istanbul by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (known colloquially as Mehmed the Conqueror).

From 1935 onwards it served as a museum, but in July 2020 it returned to its mosque status, while leaving the architectural wonder open to domestic and foreign visitors.

In 1985, Ayasofya was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is among Türkiye’s top tourism destinations.

The excavations in Bathonea, in a suburb of Istanbul known as Kucukcekmece, are being carried out by the Culture and Tourism Ministry and Kocaeli University under the supervision of Sengul Aydingun.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies