Ancient city to rise in SE Turkey area cleared of mines
GAZİANTEP - Anatolia News Agency | 3/31/2011 12:00:00 AM |
The 7,000-year-old ancient city of Karkamış, which lies within a military area in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, has been cleared of mines. The excavations in the town are set to begin this year with archaeologists from Italy and Japan
Excavations will begin this year in the ancient city of Karkamış following the removal by hand of 1,200 landmines from the area, located in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border.
The city, which dates to 3000 B.C., is thought to be the place where the world’s first written peace treaty, the Treaty of Kades between Ramses II and Hattusili III, was signed. Coins and historical artifacts already found there have not yet been catalogued but have been handed over to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
Archaeologists from Italy and Japan are set to begin excavations this year in the ancient town.
The area around Karkamış was a mined military zone for years, said Gaziantep Special Provincial Administration Secretary-General Cafer Yılmaz. An agreement was signed two years ago by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the General Staff to allow the Special Provincial Administration to manage the de-mining process.
The Nokta Yatırım Limited Company, which won the bid to clear the landmines, has finished its work, finding and neutralizing 1,200 mines, Yılmaz said.
“We have made a great success. Finishing this procedure without any accidents is a point of pride. We dug out 1,200 mines and demolished them,” Yılmaz said. “The mine clearing and the quality control after the clearing were done in accordance with United Nations standards. Access to the area is currently controlled by the local police station and we also maintain private security on location.”
The purpose of the project is to increase tourism profits, Yılmaz, adding that the former minefield would be handed over to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
“By April the official act should be completed. We expect the ministry to start the excavations this year,” he said. “We have allocated 100,000 Turkish Liras in the directorate’s budget for the excavations. It’s not a grand budget but it is a start and we wanted to show that local support exists. This budget allows us to start the excavations this year.”
During the mine clearing, equipment was installed in the field that will monitor archaeologists’ work continuously, Yılmaz added. “The coins and historical artifacts, the worth of which has not yet been determined, will be handed over to the Museum Directorate,” he said.
[HH] Region could draw more than 10 million tourists
According to Yılmaz, Karkamış was also the place where the first combat vehicle was driven. “It is a very untouched and authentic area that has the Euphrates River on one side and Şanlıurfa and Syria on the other,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for Gaziantep and Turkey. Hopefully, through cooperation we will help tourism profit from this region.”
Karkamış’s history is actually older than that of the ancient Hellenistic city of Zeugma, also on the Euphrates, Yılmaz said. “The town has a rich heritage due to the different cultures that settled there in the period before Christ. We are aware of the importance of history and culture tourism. Therefore we try to bring forth this potential through our budget and human resources,” he said. “Gaziantep’s [annual] tourism has reached 800,000; if these efforts bear fruit, we hope to obtain 1 million tourists.”
Yılmaz believes that the southeastern cities of Gaziantep, Kilis, Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Adıyaman, Mardin and Şanlıurfa could get more of the country’s tourism share, drawing some 10 million visitors.
[HH] Many applicants for excavations
The town of Karkamış bears traces of major civilizations and a long history, said Salih Efiloğlu, the tourism director for the Gaziantep Special Provincial Administration, adding that they hope to bring profit to the tourism sector and the overall economy by bringing this cultural heritage to the surface.
“There are many applicants for excavations, mainly from Japanese and Italian universities,” Efiloğlu said. “Our ministry definitely wants Gaziantep University to be part of the project. Right now the work continues.”