Friday, February 3, 2012

In pursuit of Allianoi…

Hasankeyf is not the first -- and sadly will not be the last -- historical monument in Turkey to be threatened with inundation by dam projects. Past victims include Zeugma (Commagene), many mosaics from which have been relocated to a museum in nearby Gaziantep, and Allianoi.

statue from the baths at Allianoi
In a talk sponsored by the Cultural Awareness Foundation, Assoc. Prof. Ahmet Yaraş of Trakya University addressed a packed auditorium in Istanbul to share details of the archaeological finds at this ancient spa settlement -- and the subsequent battle to protect the significant site from flooding by a nearby irrigation dam.

Exhibitions, a documentary (which the national TV station ultimately declined to screen), protests, court cases… No avenue was left unexplored, but ultimately efforts proved futile and excavations at the site, no more than 20 percent of which had been explored, were sealed with cement, backfilled with construction sand and covered by the dam’s waters. Over a year later, the dam has filled but infrastructure for the related irrigation system (to be privatized upon completion) will not be in place for a further two years, according to Yaraş.

While the outlook for threatened sites like Hasankeyf seems still bleaker in the face of Allianoi’s fate, one lesson to be learned from endeavors to save the ancient spa is the need for coordinated efforts to document, publicize and record threatened pieces of cultural heritage. Not just in an attempt to preserve or save them, but also in order that -- whatever their fate -- they not be forgotten.


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