October 01, 2010

Turks to destroy the archaeological site of Allianoi

Ancient Roman spa awaits flooding in Turkey
By Nicolas Cheviron (AFP) – 15 hours ago

ALLIANOI, Turkey [correct: occupied Asia Minor] — Under a mild autumn sun, workers bustle about like bees at a Roman bath complex sprawling over a green plain in western Turkey in what looks like a regular excavation site.

But the fate awaiting the impressive ancient spa of Allianoi is dark: the workers here are tasked with burying the site and not digging it out to reveal its secrets.

Much to the consternation of archaeologists and civic bodies, the Turkish government has said it will go ahead with flooding the valley the site sits in to serve as a dam reservoir with a capacity to irrigate 8,000 hectares (19,760 acres) of farmland.

The work now underway is an effort to preserve the complex for future generations, before officials allow water to accumulate in the reservoir for the Yorganli dam before the end of the year.

As archaeologists -- denied entry to the site -- mourn the loss of a significant treasure, workers dump wheelbarrows of sand over the foundations of the hospital of Galen, a prominent Roman physician born in the 2nd century AD in the nearby city of Pergamon, or modern-day Bergama.

Soon the thermal bath -- with its five metre-high (17 feet-high) walls and a pool still powered by a hot spring -- will disappear under the sand, after being covered with a pinkish protective coating, along with buildings looking out over a columned courtyard, rooms covered with mosaics and paved walkways.

It is a sad sight for Professor Ahmet Yaras who excavated Allianoi for nine years and who says 80 percent of the site has yet to see the daylight.

"Normally, cultural treasures need to be examined and registered before any action is taken on a site. Here, flooding the site before the excavation is complete is a massacre," lamented the archaeologist.

"There is no other warm bath, health center in the world as well preserved as this... Unfortunately, all this will be abandoned forever," he said.

Furthermore, Yasar expressed doubt that the sand will be enough to preserve the site under 30 metres of water.

"Even if the site were protected, the sedimentation brought by the dam will reach 15 or 16 meters in 50 years time. It would be crazy to try to excavate the complex again at such a depth," he added.

But the fate of the site is not much of a concern for the farmers at the nearby village, who see the Yorganli dam -- completed in 2007 -- as the answer to their irrigation problems.

"They exaggerate, I do not think there is much of the ancient there. It is just a hot spring," said Mehmet Aydin, 52, who grows cotton, tomatoes and corn on his plot.

His remarks almost echo the views of Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu who said in late August: "Allianoi does not exist, it is an invention... There is just a hot spring like many others across Turkey."

His remarks were roundly criticized while the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the European non-governmental preservation organization Europa Nostra and archaeologists from the European Union urged the Turkish government in a letter to preserve the "common [correct: Greco-Roman] heritage" at Allianoi.

But the game seems to be over: Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay quashed hope of saving Allianoi last week when he dismissed the idea of questioning the local archaeological commission's decision in late August to bury the site for preservation.

"After all, Allianoi remained underground for a long time and it surfaced only during drilling works," he said.


Onur Dincer said...

The Turkish government officials have no excuse for this modern form of barbarism. They must be stopped!

Average Joe said...

I knew that Muslims hated modern civilization, but I did not know that they hated ancient ones as well.

ashraf said...

[correct: occupied Asia Minor]
I knew that Muslims hated modern civilization, but I did not know that they hated ancient ones as well.

There is no thing as occupied Asia Minor!!!
Could we also write "occupied Greece"(since Greece was under Byzantine then Ottoman yoke)
stop of OT(but I can read dozens of pages)
We are all human beings brothers and sisters and did not choose our language, religion, country, raceetc and all our differences are our richness that belong to allof us in reality...

You could not say that muslims hate modern/ancient civilisation(and that's not true in reality), this is an absurd illogical claim and islam and muslims have nothing to do with this news.

We dont know if this site is really Allianoi site, but what should be said is THAT SITE WILL BE PRESERVED BY SPECIAL CONSTRUCTION SO THAT IT REMAINS INTACT and after the dam activity will end 20-30 years later, the protection buildings will be removed and the site reopened again.


for the sake of democracy and truth please post my comment

Marnie said...

The decision to flood this important archaeological has as much to do with the immediate needs of the local farmers and declining local water supplies, as it does their lack of interest in history.

Dams all over the world have flooded important archaeological sites, including in North America. For example, the Crystal Springs reservoir which is part of the water system for San Francisco, flooded an American Indian archaeological site.

There's some information on youtube. Search Allianoi. It's a Turkish archaeologist who is speaking out on saving the site.

Providing the local farmers with an alternative water supply would go a long way toward saving Allianoi. Making incendiary comments about "taffy yanking Turks" isn't going to accomplish anything.

Onur Dincer said...

I don't care about what the Turkish government officials or Islamists think about history or about what Dieneke calls Turkey. What is really important here is that the action of the Turkish government officials is an unacceptable and indefensible barbarism irrespective of intentions.

formerjerseyboy said...

Ah, hellenistic chauvinism rears its ugly head again. The reference to "occupied Asia Minor" harkens back to the times when the proto-fascist "megali idea" animated Greek foreign policy. If we read the source article with integrity, we can see that Turkish archaeologists are upset as well about the flooding of the site, while the local farmers are more interested in what happens to their crops. This is an old story in the mediterranean basin, cultural conservation efforts pitted against perceived threats to economic progress. Turkish governments have been prominent in the research of and the preservation of remains of the multitude of civilizations that have called "Asia Minor" home.

Belenos said...

I am 100% against this cultural vandalism by Turkey, but the "occupied Asia Minor" bit was the kind of childish right-wing Greek nonsense that has no place on a site which does serious science.

You've let yourself and your readers down. That's the problem with nationalism, it corrupts and cheapens everything it touches.

Dienekes said...

I am 100% against this cultural vandalism by Turkey, but the "occupied Asia Minor" bit was the kind of childish right-wing Greek nonsense that has no place on a site which does serious science.

Fortune gave the Turks custodianship over the enormous archaeological and historical heritage of Asia Minor. It is up to them to act like civilized people or like occupiers.

Onur Dincer said...

It is up to them to act like civilized people or like occupiers.

I think instead of reading into people's intentions, which we cannot know with any certitude, we should focus on actions and judge people by them.

pconroy said...

Of course the sad part about all this, is that this site is actually part of their own heritage - as "Turks" from this region are largely descendants of Greeks :(

Onur Dincer said...

Conroy, you are making the same Orientalistic mistake with Dieneke: reading into people's intentions. What the Turkish gov. officials are doing is barbarism by modern standards, but we don't know their true intentions with any certitude, so we shouldn't automatically ascribe their barbaric behavior to rejection or indifference to their own heritage.

Unknown said...

This despite a concerted effort by archaeologists and preservationists, who fought hard to save the site. But I suppose in Turkey you can’t build anything without destroying a dozen archaeological sites that somebody thinks are important. Allianoi is being covered in plastic and sand, so that when, in a few centuries, it emerges from the waves again, it will be pretty much the way it is now. to:http://www.turkeyarchaeologysites.com