Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Friday, December 8, 2017

To protect and preserve archaeological sites in Turkey

Recent articles published in the Hurriyet Daily News clearly underscore the problems Turkey’s archaeological sites are facing. The reasons for this concern are many, generally political ones, but the result is that in the end these antique sites do not receive the care and attention they deserve.

The most recent target is the beautiful city of Ephesus in western Turkey where serious plans exist to build a more than six kilometres long canal that will connect the ancient harbour which has silted up over the centuries with the sea. A 600-meter-long channel will allow yachts to access their anchor space near the entrance and a bridge will connect both banks enabling pedestrians and cars to cross. The price to pay (moneywise) for the first phase of the 30-meter wide access channel is 30 million Turkish Liras, money that does not add anything to the beauty or the archaeological value of Ephesus. The canal will have a concrete foundation and the mud from the present swampy area will be dredged up to a depth of four meters. Construction is planned to start early 2018 and should be completed one year later – a very daring statement!

The Hurriyet Daily News luckily warns for the ensuing damage both to the environment and to the precious remains of ancient Ephesus. Each spring, water levels are already rising in front of the Vedius Gymnasium which makes one wonder about the consequences of opening the waterfront even more. Besides, the alluvium accumulated over the past 2,500 years holds the remains of many “sunken” ships as well as Ephesus’ necropolis. Will they be rescued in the process? If so, this means more work and higher costs that may not fit within the one year time-frame for this invasive construction.

Let’s not forget that Ephesus is on the UNESCO World Heritage List and over the past 120 years excavations were carried out by the Austrians who also made preliminary research in the area that is now under threat. However, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has stopped the Austrian team on 31 August 2016 (that is last year), i.e. before the end of the normal excavation season. Their decision is based on Austria’s attitude towards the AKP government in Turkey. This means that people with in-depth knowledge of the place are pushed aside.

The ancient city of Ephesus covers a huge surface that has not yet been explored or excavated, while those parts that have been unearthed and carefully restored definitely require maintenance. Who is going to do the job with the Austrians gone? And should this not have priority over the construction of a harbour and even an airfield!

Yes, to make things worse, the plans to build an airport for “small” planes has been revived as well! The vibrations of the planes taking off and landing nearby have destabilized buildings in the ancient city and the project was stopped in 2013. After an internal squabble, work was, however, restarted and at present the taxiway, the runway and the connecting roads have been completed.

The Turkish government wants to attract more foreign tourists to Ephesus (and to other places as well). Today, the number of the visitors that come to Ephesus is only one quarter of that reached in 2011 but those numbers cannot be compensated by those expecting to arrive by boat or small planes as their budget is of a different order. Besides, access of foreign visitors by air and water will require larger infrastructures for customs, cars (parking) and buses (to transfer them to Ephesus), which in turn will lead to air and water pollution that will damage the fragile stones of this ancient city.

Unfortunately, Ephesus is not the only city under threat. There is, for instance, the case of Hattusha, the capital of the Hittite Empire in Central Anatolia which is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Members of the German Institute of Archaeology have been excavating the area since 1906 but due to the diplomatic tensions between their government and Turkey, their permit was withdrawn last year and the site is no longer maintained. The Germans contributed to the local economy in the region as they spent up to 900,000 TRY during their yearly stay and provided a job to a workforce of at least 60-70 people.

This has very serious consequences for the Hittite restoration project, a 65 meters long stretch of the 6.5 kilometre-long city walls. The Hittite style was reproduced carefully by building adobe bricks on top of the stone foundation. The archaeologists took pride in implementing the same procedure as the Hittites to make the 64,000 adobe bricks as they mixed 2,400 tons of adobe soil, using 100 tons of straw and 1,500 tons of water. The reconstruction of this seven-meter-high wall was started in 2013 but had to be stopped three years later. Without proper yearly maintenance, the wall is now crumbling down due to the erosion of rain, sun and snow.

The number of visitors cannot be compared to the figures of Ephesus for the obvious reason that Central Anatolia is far away from the tourists’ centres along the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea, but even so, only 2,000 tourists walked over this great site last year as opposed to the usual 25,000.

Another dramatic situation is unfolding in Perge, one of the most frequently visited sites by the tourists that used to flock into the Antalya area. The figures quoted by The Hurriyet Daily News say it all: 190,000 visitors in 2014, 112,390 in 2015 and only 60,000 in 2016. Here too, it is the local people who have invested in their souvenir shops and snacks/cafeterias who are suffering the most.

There certainly are many, many more such examples, unfortunately. For the past decennium foreign archaeologists and researchers have been kept away in favour of Turkish scholars. This looks like a nice way to put the native scholars at work but it is a loss of long-term foreign expertise and certainly not a good money deal. In 2016, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism spent 28 million Turkish Liras on a total of 560 excavation sites, meaning that the average budget for each site was 50,000 TRY. Remember that the Austrians spent 700,000 TRY in Ephesus and the Germans 900,000 TRY in Hattusha each year.

To make things worse and probably in the wake of the arrest of an employee from the American Consulate in Istanbul with alleged links to the Gülen movement, Washington announced it was suspending the processing of all visas in Turkey. The response from Ankara followed almost immediately and it stopped issuing visas in its embassy and consulate in the US. Well, the number of American visitors had already fallen drastically to 37,000 in 2016, whereas the year before there still were over the 88,000 visitors (read this article in Fortune for more details). *


The Guardian meanwhile has figured out that the Turkish tourism sector has encountered devastating losses. The Association of Turkish Travel Agencies has estimated that this year’s loss might be between GBP 2bn and GBP 2.5bn. They give the example of Antalya, a city whose economy relies mainly on the revenue from tourism and where visitors have dropped by over 50% in the first eight months of 2017. Even Russian visitors have decreased by 95% and although Turkey’s ties with Moscow have been mended its citizens have not yet returned en-masse.

Not much light at the end of the tunnel, it seems. The Hurriyet Daily News is drawing some cynic conclusions of this tasteless situation, reminding us that 27 million TRY were spent on the restoration of one mosque, the Abdulhamid II’s Hamidiye Mosque in Istanbul to be compared with 28 million TRY spread over 560 excavation sites!

* Update: As of 28 December 2017, the United States and Turkey have lifted the mutual restrictions on issuing visas for each other's citizens. Normal service has resumed and American citizens can once again go to Turkey.

No comments:

Post a Comment