Ancient stele damaged during excavation

Ancient stele damaged during excavation

Ömer Erbil - ISTANBUL
Ancient stele damaged during excavation

A 2,700-year-old ancient funerary stele that went missing before being found in the yard of an excavation company was poorly treated, resulting in damage, according to archaeologists.

“The foot of the king figure is totally broken. The ornaments in the frame, the figure on the left and the things on his hands have suffered damage. [The stele] should have been removed carefully with scientific methods,” said archaeologist Nezih Başgelen said, adding that a serious investigation was required.

The stele was unearthed last year during construction work in the Central Anatolian province of Konya’s Ereğli district before it was alleged to have been sold, only to be discovered on May 3 buried in the garden of a digging company. Some parts of the artifact, however, were broken after it was removed from the ground with a caterpillar. 

Sandals worn by the king figure on the stele disappeared entirely, while the stele was also cleaned with a plastic brush without regard for any standard archaeological measures. 

“One can clearly see the difference between the first photo of the stele taken when it was found in the garden and the one taken after it was delivered to the museum,” Başgelen said. 

“Another issue that should be investigated is the well on the land where the stele was found in Ereğli. There has been a lot of speculation that the well was closed by officials without a detailed investigation and that nobody was given permission to make examinations there. [Ottoman-era artist and archaeologist] Osman Hamdi Bey discovered 18 tombs in a well during the Sayda excavations,” he said.

Last year in March, workers at a construction site on the Anafartalar Street unearthed the late Hittite-era stele. The stele, which is believed to have been made by the King Varpalas as the world’s first relief monument, suddenly went missing. 

A contractor who was questioned within the scope of an investigation into the lost stele said the stele was given to a worker from the digging company who told police that the stele was buried in the garden of his office in the Orhangazi neighborhood on the Konya-Adana highway. The buried stele was found after an excavation of the garden.