In the ancient Aegean coastal resort town of Assos in northwestern Türkiye, a trident believed to date back to the 3rd or 4th century AD and thought to have been used for fishing has been discovered.
The artifact was unearthed by archaeologists excavating the ornate fountain known as the Nymphaion (eastern fountain) located to the east of the center of the ancient city.
The excavations in the ancient city are being carried out by a team led by Professor Nurettin Arslan, a Humanities and Social Sciences professor at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Turkish Historical Society are also supporting the excavation efforts.
An expert restorer worked on cleaning the trident from the soil and oxidized substances on the archaeological find.
The trident was found among the fragments of the collapsed basin of Nymphaion, and its size and distinctive shape immediately indicated that it was a utilitarian fishing harpoon held by fishermen.
Arslan stated that fish harpoons were particularly observed as an item in Anatolia, especially in wall paintings and other depictions.
Nurettin Arslan, “We are encountering such materials for the first time in Assos because iron tools are the fastest deteriorating materials in ancient cities,” he said. However, the discovery of this nearly intact trident in this structure is an important example.
“Although we know that such tools were commonly used in ancient times, we can say that it is an important artifact due to the rarity of surviving examples to this day. As far as we know, it is said or mentioned in descriptions that these types of tools were used in ancient times to catch large fish at sea with small boats, usually at night, by using torches,” he explained.
Assos fishermen, who have been making a living from the sea for thousands of years, likely had access to similar harpoons produced in the region. Archaeological evidence of iron smelting and processing has been found in Assos, so it is possible that the metal may have come from the city.
Assos, located in the village of Behram in the Ayvacık district of Çanakkale Province, is believed to have been founded by immigrants from Lesbos (the Methymna Settlement on the island of Lesbos) in the 7th century BC, according to ancient writers. Recent archaeological studies have confirmed that the history of the city dates back to the Bronze Age.