Saturday, 16 Oct 2021

Archaeology breakthrough: How expert stumbled on lost Ottoman town in Qatar

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The Ottoman Empire holds the prestigious title of being one of the largest and longest lasting empires to ever have graced the Earth. It spanned much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa, beginning in the 14th century, eventually crumbling in the early 20th century.

More specifically, at its peak, the Ottomans ruled over the following countries: Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, parts of Arabia, and much of the coastal strip of North Africa.

The success of the Ottoman Empire is contested among scholars of the period.

There are, however, a series of development and modern ways of ruling that enabled the Ottoman’s to exercise total control for seven centuries.

For example, it was a meritocracy: promotion largely depended on those who worked their way up, making for an efficient running of the Empire by only the best.

It had a state-run educational system much like the ones we see around the world today.

And, there was a universal state-run judicial system.

Despite the immediate might of the Ottoman Empire, it is a relatively untapped field of study.

This, explained Dr Andrew Petersen, Director of Research in Islamic Archaeology at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, is a result of much of its time period being closer to today than, say, the ancient Romans and Greeks.

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Yet, it isn’t without its spectacular finds.

Talking to, Dr Petersen revealed the time he was sent to the north coast of Qatar to investigate a potential Ottoman settlement.

What he found astounded him.

He said: “There, we found some mounds which actually just looked like an area that hadn’t been cleaned for a while, there were lots of plastic bottles and bits of rubbish.


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“But we found a small town which was completely forgotten about, it was quite an exciting excavation because there was evidence of how people lived, of houses, a palace, a boat yard, mosques.

“The interesting thing about the site is that even though it’s not that old, the only thing we know about it comes from archaeology, from our excavations.

“If we hadn’t done the work there nobody would have known it existed or what people did there, and we had some quite good finds there – some jewellery, pottery from all over the world, from the far east and lots of different places.

“I got an idea of quite a cosmopolitan society on this deserted coast that people had not known about before. In terms of time it was inhabited until the end of the 1700s, we’re not sure when it was founded, but say from 1300s to 1700s.”

The discovery proved that there are likely countless more undiscovered settlements that have escaped any sort of historical record.

Their discovery and explanation, then, often rests solely with the work of archaeologists.

Although the Ottoman Empire had several positive aspects to it, equally, several of its machinations ultimately led to its downfall.

The biggest one might also be interpreted as its strength – for seven centuries it was ruled over by a single family.

Although this ensured a solid power structure, it inevitably led to a highly unbalanced system of control.

Similarly, power was always transferred to a single person as opposed to being split between rival princes, or, in the modern day, political parties.

Many historians agree that the Empire gradually began to decline after its army was defeated at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

The Empire officially ended on November 1, 1922, when the Ottoman sultanate was abolished and Turkey was declared as a republic.

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