Jul 06 2010

WLC History Students Discover Ancient Road

Published by at 3:32 pm under Uncategorized

WLC history majors Jon Jossart, Shannon Turner, and Paul Young recently returned from two weeks of exploration in Turkey with Prof. Glen Thompson.  Using GPS technology and GoogleEarth, the expedition hoped to develop a methodology for more accurately recording the remains of the Roman road system and discovering new surviving sections.  The expedition was funded by a generous grant from the Fischer Family Foundation, and WLC board member Dr. Jerry Fischer and his wife Kay took part in the expedition as well. The trip was co-led by Dr. Mark Wilson, a historian and Bible scholar who lives in Izmir, Turkey, and who has already visited many of the Roman remains.

Students measuring width of Roman road
Students measuring width of Roman road

Scholars of ancient Rome have made lists of Roman bridges, milestones, and sections of road that are still visible, but the descriptions given often make them difficult to find.  Armed with these lists, photos, and maps, the WLC group would drive to the approximate site of a road and began hunting for the remains.  Local villagers were quizzed for information, then the participants would hike to likely spots, and examine ancient stones for inscriptions.  The area that was especially targeted was the region of St. Paul’s first missionary journey, and so the group began in Antalya and Perge and traveled north to Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. The June trip had ten working days, followed by two days of debriefing, reflection and relaxation in Cappadocia.

After spending the first day testing our equipment and methodology, we headed on the second day for Climax Pass.  We knew that the main Roman road for the area went through this ancient pass, and we were able to accurately chart the known section, as well as add data on its extension to the south.  After coming out of the north end of the pass, we discovered a whole new section of road, not previously mentioned in the literature, including several unknown inscriptions, something far beyond our trip expectations.

WLC team on the Roman bridge at Yunuslar
WLC team on the Roman bridge at Yunuslar

The next day we traced the road between Perge and its harbor town of Magydos.  This may have been the path taken by Paul when he first arrived from Cyprus. Several days later we made a positive ID on the ancient city of Malos, south of Pisidian Antioch.  Using GPS coordinates, we can now share this information with other scholars of the ancient world.  We spent a full day looking for evidence of the road that connects Pisidian Antioch with Lystra, and finally succeeded in mapping a full one mile stretch.  Finally, as we headed for Cappadocia, Mrs. Thompson spotted a Roman bridge off the side of the modern highway.  While it was only one of 6 Roman bridges that we studied and mapped, this one does not seem to have been noticed by previous scholars.

Our expedition was a total success and outstripped our expectation. Not only did we test a methodology for more accurately recording the position of artifacts already known, we also made new discoveries.  In addition we became aware that previously known sections of road and some milestones have since disappeared, the victims of expanded farming and urban sprawl.  So besides sharing our data with other scholars, we have seen the importance of archiving pictures of the artifacts, and hope to do so on a new website.  We also intend that this will be the first of a series of such trips, and that we can work toward a larger online database of information on Roman roads, milestones and bridges in this area of the world.

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