Monday, February 18, 2013

Set in Stone

Much has been written here about the history of Hasankeyf and the glories of its natural surroundings, but what of the very fabric on which the city stands and from which it has been hewn?

Hasankeyf, city of stone
The geology of the site is in fact one of its most striking features. As one approaches Hasankeyf, before even the citadel or other monuments are distinguishable, the sheer face of creamy gold limestone rising up above the Tigris and capping the nearby hills is impossible to miss. 

Approaching Hasankeyf from Batman (pre-roadworks)
The so-called Midyat limestone dates from the Lutetian age in the Eocene epoch; that is, between 40 and 48 million years ago. The limestone itself, while not particularly fossiliferous, does contain nummulites (large lenticular fossils, perhaps best known for the role they played in ancient Egypt, where they were for a time used as a form of currency). These fossils indicate that the limestone was deposited during a period when the area was submerged below the waters of an ancient sea.

The geology is important, too for the way in which it was exploited by the earlier inhabitants of Hasankeyf, who enlarged and added to natural caves to create a veritable city, carving out tunnels, stairwells and cisterns; exploiting natural features to provide secure homes and access to water and/or the river from the city.

Upper Hasankeyf from afar
And of course the very monuments of Hasankeyf itself were carved from the limestone close to hand, creating a deep sense of harmony between the city and its surroundings. 

The irony of these marine sediments again being consigned to a watery fate is not lost on all who care about the future of Hasankeyf...

-- Helen


  1. Helen, The photos say it all. What a beautiful, unique place. Thanks for the geology and history lesson.

  2. My pleasure. Will we see you at the Ingathering in April?