Rescue excavations in Turkey

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Photo:  The ancient town of Hasankeyf looks set to become a submerged site Photo: Hasankeyf Matters

Archaeologists are racing against time to finish excavations in the Batman province of south eastern Turkey before the Ilısu Dam reservoir floods the area.

The Kuruki, Graemer and Çemealo sites have artefacts dating back to the Iron Age - 2,000 years BC. In Kuriki archaeologists have found artefacts dating back to Assyrian, Greek and Roman civilisations with the first settlement dating back to 5,000 years ago. Finds include remnants of lentil and cereals stored in granaries.

Another of the sites which will be flooded due to the rise of the waters in the surrounding valley is the ancient town of Hasankeyf, along with the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq.

For centuries Hasankeyf was a regional hub, home to Romans, Byzantines, the Artukids, Ayyubids and Akkoyunlu, before its absorption into the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century.

Just recently, excavations carried out by a Japanese team have revealed painted graves from the Neolithic age 11,500 years ago, complete with human skeletons.

A report in National Geographic indicates that construction of the Ilısu Dam could be completed in 2014, which means that most of Hasankeyf and virtually all tangible traces of those who have lived here could disappear beneath the reservoir as early as 2016.

Protest group Hasankeyf Matters says that at present no international recognised scheme for the conservation, preservation or relocation of the ancient site is in place. They want the area to be considered as a UNESCO World Heritage site.