If fifteen houses are built on top of one another, which one is the most important?
The Big Dig, a long read about shipwrecks under Istanbul, archaeological “surplus”, Neolithic footprints, elephants fed to lions, and the collision of modern city planning imperatives with a glut of priceless antiquities. SLNewYorker.
When it came to choosing the exact location of the first tunnel spanning the Bosporus—the narrow strait that divides the European and Asian sides of Istanbul and links the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara—one of the principal considerations was how to avoid encountering any archeological marvels. […] The location that was eventually chosen had conveniently spent much of antiquity underwater. In Byzantine times, it was a harbor. “What’s going to turn up in a harbor?” one official explained.
… From 2005 to 2013, workers with shovels and wheelbarrows extracted a total of thirty-seven shipwrecks. When the excavation reached what had been the bottom of the sea, the archeologists announced that they could finally cede part of the site to the engineers, after one last survey of the seabed—just a formality, really, to make sure they hadn’t missed anything. That’s when they found the remains of a Neolithic dwelling, dating from around 6000 B.C. […] The excavators, attempting to avoid traces of Istanbul’s human history, had ended up finding an extra five thousand years of it.