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 tunnel was for a new high-speed train called Marmaray (a combination of “Marmara” and ray, the Turkish word for “rail”), connecting to Istanbul’s metro system. Of particular concern was the placement of the main station on the European shore, on the site of ancient Byzantium and Constantinople: everything within the ancient city walls has been designated both by UNESCO and by the Turkish government as a historical site, and all digging must be supervised by the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The location that was eventually chosen, in the working-class district of Yenikapı, 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, when I asked about the decision. “Seabed and sand fill. Architectural structures aren’t going to turn up.”