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Historic Allianoi goes down in clay

İZMİR – Turkish Daily News | 9/5/2008 12:00:00 AM |

Allianoi continues to be a topic of serious discussion: Various NGOs strive to save the world's oldest thermal spa from the waters of the Yortanlı Dam, but most people think that the battle is already lost. Allianoi Initiative Group raises its voice to remind the country that it is not

What to do with the ancient spa settlement of Allianoi has long been a topic of heated discussion in the Aegean city of İzmir. Various nongovernmental organizations are working to save the world's oldest thermal spa from the waters of the Yortanlı Dam, but it has often seemed like a losing battle.

An October 2007 decision held that the ancient city would be protected by covering it with clay, the Allianoi Initiative Group spokesperson Alime Mitap told the Anatolia news agency. But when a pipeline broken during excavations, water was released from the İlya River and because there is no longer access to the city, teams cannot determine what the problem is.

Mitap said the council's decision anticipated that all works in the ancient city would be done under the monitoring of experts. The Allianoi Initiative Group raised objections to the protection of the city by covering it with clay, filing a claim at the European Court of Human Rights.

“There is no scientific work being done on the Yortanlı Dam because the world had turned its face to underground dams right now. We don't think it is positive to act as if Allianoi, as a world heritage site, does not exist,” he added. 

Carrying the city to the future

Bergama Museum director Adnan Sarıoğlu responded to claims that according to the council's decision, protection and excavation projects needed to be completed in order to continue with work on Allianoi.

Drawings were being prepared for the excavation projects, said Sarıoğlu, adding that for the work to be conducted the ground needed to be dry. Water covering mosaics could not be drained. Allianoi is located in a streambed where there were thermal water springs, so the last resort was to lower the water level and prevent flooding, the director added.

All works were conducted under close supervision and no historical features were being damaged. Only archeologically sound projects were carried out, and the goal was not to damage the city. The museum's goal was to ensure that when the dam was put in use artifacts would still be protected for centuries to come, said the director.

Restoration works were launched in 1992 by the State Waterworks Authority, or DSİ. But the digging caused damage to the water channel. After the damage is fixed and the project is complete, the channel will function again.

Sarıoğlu noted that the documentation of the historical artifacts discovered in the ancient city, which dates back to the second century, continued.

“Documentation has been ongoing for eight months and is 80 percent complete. The remaining parts will be submitted to the project committee. The protection project is being conducted by the Istanbul Restoration and Conservation Central Laboratory Directorate. The excavation project, on the other hand, is under DSİ. Since Allianoi cannot be moved, it will be covered with clay and a 200-meter-long protective wall will be built after the approval of the projects,” concluded Sarıoğlu.

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