Ancient Anatolian sites abandoned to their fate
DİYARBAKIR – Doğan News Agency
DHA PhotosTwo historical areas in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır are in danger of falling into greater disrepair after three watchmen at the site were forced to leave due to unpaid wages stemming from a budget shortfall.
“The Archaeology Museum Directorate was paying our salary. We had to leave the job because we were not paid for four months,” said one of them, Kadri Yıldırım, who worked at the Hilar Inns and Çayönü Hill area in the province’s Ergani district for four years as a guide, security official and cleaner.
The two historical structures, which were first revealed during excavations in 2006 and opened to tourism, are registered as a first-degree archaeological site but they are open to all dangers. Now, however, the stone gates of some Roman-era rock graves have been broken, while some tombs have been turned into a dumpsite.
While they were open, the sites were attracting as many as 50,000 tourists a year. Visitors were not even allowed to enter the rock graves but after the workers left, the graves rapidly became a repository for garbage. The lightning system of the main inn was disassembled, while graffiti was scrawled on the walls.
The Çayönü settlement, located to the north of the inns, was also vandalized, as the fences around the settlement were ruined while the signboards along the walking route were removed. Yıldırım said the trio’s salaries were cut at the end of 2013 but that they continued serving in the area voluntarily until April 23.
“Cigarette stubs are thrown inside the inns, some stones have been broken. The area is miserable. We cannot stop worrying about it,” he said.
Abbas Yorulmuş, who worked in the area for seven years, said nobody was taking an interest in the historic place at the moment.
“It is an abandoned place now. We were cleaners, workers and guards here for 24 hours a day. We were introducing the region to tourists. We were fired in December last year but we waited until April 23, thinking that the problem could be solved. This area looks like a garbage dump now. We are very sorry. The museum told us that the special provincial administration budget was cut this year. We wrote a letter to the ministry and the governor’s office. But in the end, we had to leave this place,” he said.
Villager Tarık Aslan said village guards had replaced the three watchmen, but added that visitors did not like them.
“Watchmen were giving information to visitors but village guards don’t do anything. You see the current situation. The state constructed a road here for 1.5 million Turkish Liras but could not find salaries for the watchmen,” he said.
Ergani District Gov. Erdin Yılmaz said the Diyarbakır Archaeology Museum should protect historical places but added that workers’ salaries were not paid because of the budget shortfall.
“We provide for the security of historical places with village guards and gendarmes. But the responsibility [for watchmen] belongs to the museum directorate. We are working to prevent this problem here,” Yılmaz said.
Hilar Inns and Çayönü Hill
Located within the borders of Ergani’s Sesverenpınar village, the Hilar Inns has a unique geographical structure and archaeological value and features a number of rock grave chambers and reliefs.Çayönü Hill is known as one of the earliest places in which hoofed animals were domesticated.
Religious structures from different faiths have also been unearthed during excavations in the area.