from the Roman Period to the Middle Ages

The Thracian harbour city Ainos in Roman and Byzantine times - the development of a traffic hub in a changing environment.

Fortifikation at the lagoon Dalyan Gölü
Performing of core drilling
Landscape and History of Ainos

Ainos (modern name: Enez, province of Edirne, Turkey) was located at the estuary of the River Hebros (Turkish: Meriç, Greek: Evros), which forms the border between Greece and Turkey in modern days. The city hill of Ainos is surrounded by two lagoons to the south and west named Dalyan Gölü and Taşlık Gölü. To the north the River Hebros marks the limit of the settled area. Due to the sediment load of the Hebros and its prograding delta the siltation has led to a westward shift in the shoreline over the millennia; therefore, nowadays the ancient town is located 3-4 km inland. Today the lagoons (showing water depths ~1 m) are separated from the open Aegean Sea by barrier beaches.

In antiquity the topography of the area must have been completely different. It may reasonably be assumed that the city hill of Ainos was located on a peninsula. The shallow lagoons may have provided an opportunity for harbouring ships and protecting them against strong winds and wave action of the open sea. The connection to the hinterland up to Hadrianopolis (modern Edirne) was given by the navigable Hebros. These beneficial conditions led to the establishment of a Greek colony since the 7th century BC onwards creating an important junction in the northern Aegean region. The prosperity of the city in Archaic and Classical times is documented by the finds of imported goods and superregional coinage. In Late Antiquity Ainos hosted a bishop and was the capital of the province of Rhodope. Considerable fortifications and churches dating back to the middle- and late Byzantine times are well preserved.

Current state of research

Excavations conducted by the University of Istanbul have taken place in Enez annually since 1971. The main aims of this research are the investigation of the prominent citadel, the graveyards east of the settlement, a well equipped Roman villa, and the so-called King's Daughter Basilica east of the Taşaltı hill. Some questions dealing with the settled area and the landscape during the centuries are still unsolved, especially the use of the areas adjacent to the lagoons, the ancient course of the Hebros, and the exact position of the former harbours.


As an interface between the sea and the hinterland Ainos offers ideal conditions for the research of a hub of merchant shipping from the Roman Empire to the Byzantine period. Among the economic and social development in particular environmental changes caused by the silting-up process played a decisive role in the evolution of the harbour town.

The central questions of the new research project are:

  • Localisation and dating of the harbour installations;
  • Determination of the spatiotemporal regime of the silting-up process which endangered the existence of the harbour town;
  • Analysis of the change in settlement topography caused by the transformation of the landscape;
  • Investigating the connections of Ainos with the interregional transport network.
Work programme

In order to achieve these aims, the project team will use different methods covering the subjects of archaeology, geoarchaeology, geophysics, geoinformatics and Construction Research. This variety of methods should enable an understanding of the evolution of the landscape and the city. The field campaigns are in cooperation with the excavations conducted by Prof. Dr. Sait Başaran (University of Istanbul).

  • Geoarchaeology: The main aim of the geoarchaeological investigations is the reconstruction of landscape changes during the Holocene in particular during the last three millennia, the period when a strong human impact can be stated on the environment. The scenarios are primarily based on the interpretation of cores from sediment archives. Due to geochemical, granulometrical and microfaunistical analyses and attribution to different facies (marine, lagoonal, limnic etc.) can be given. The facies changes will be dated by the radiocarbon and OSL dating techniques. Potential harbour sites will be identified. Another point of interest is the evolution of the barrier beaches separating the lagoons from the open sea, as well as riverbed changes of the Hebros. In addition the creation of a pollen record for the Ainos region is planned.

  • Geoinformatics and GIS for archaeological research: A network of reference points for the project area has been set up in collaboration with the Mainz University of Applied Sciences (i3mainz – Institute for Spatial Information and Surveying Technology). These points are the geometrical basis for all spatial data within the project. The technical data can be visualized and analyzed in combination with the topographic information in a geographic information system (GIS). In addition to the integration of information of all involved groups and disciplines the survey of archaeological records and findings and the generation of a detailed digital terrain model of selected areas are fundamental. In addition, flights with a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) are planned to create stereo images for the analysis and completion of the terrestrial data. All data layers in the GIS will be used to build general and detailed maps of the recent and ancient situations of the settlement.

  • Geophysics: Geophysical prospections of extensive areas on land and in shallow water have been carried out in cooperation with the Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG Vienna) and the Institute of Geosciences of the Chrisitan-Albrechts-University Kiel. The work of the latter will take place in the context of an own project within the SPP 1630.

  • Classification and analysis of pottery of Roman and Byzantine finds: The analysis of ceramics aims at reconstructing the economic development of the harbour town Ainos. The main focus will be on Roman and Byzantine pottery that delivers information about the role of Ainos in the interregional traffic and trade systems.

  • Investigation of the ancient monuments in connection with potential harbour installations (Construction Research – Bauforschung): The results from the documentation of historical structures will be integrated into the mapping of the topography of the settlement area. The construction sequence and the chronological classification of especially the fortification should be essentially achieved by means of Construction Research (Bauforschung). Based on the expected results a reconstruction of the fortifications is intended. A catalogue of all spoils and building components will be conducted to estimate the extent of non-preserved ancient buildings at Ainos.

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