Turkey's underwater cultural heritage in danger, says expert
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 10/25/2010 12:00:00 AM |
Turkey’s underwater cultural heritage faces a number of threats, especially from sport divers, an archaeology expert says during a meeting in Istanbul. ‘When sport divers go down 30 meters and find an artifact, they consider that a huge success and want to keep it,’ says an academic, adding that laws must be more strictly enforced
Underwater cultural heritage is being damaged by urban resorts, industrial development and sport divers, according to a number of Turkish experts, who complained about the ineffectiveness of legal measures on the matter during a Monday meeting.
“When you examine Law no. 2863, it is satisfactory from the perspective of protecting underwater cultural heritage, but the official sanctions are not sufficient. When a sport diver at 30 meters deep finds an amphora [a type of ceramic vase with two handles], he considers that a huge success and wants to keep it,” Dr. Ufuk Kocabaş, head of Istanbul University’s Department of Marine Archaeology, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
Kocabaş, who is also in charge of the recent Byzantium shipwreck excavations in Istanbul’s Yenikapı district discovered during the construction of the Marmaray tunnel, was one of a number of experts attending the Regional Meeting on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, held at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.
Sport divers collecting amphoras makes work difficult for archaeologists, said Kocabaş, adding that an awareness of protecting culture should be fostered in the public through education.
During the Yenikapı excavation project, which has been continuing for five years, 35 shipwrecks dating back to Byzantium were discovered. Kocabaş said they had completed the conservation of 23 of the ships and noted that a team of 600 workers, 50 archaeologists from the Istanbul Archeology Museum and 30 academics from Istanbul University cooperated in the endeavor.
Asked whether the Marmaray project had damaged the ruins in any way, Kocabaş said it would have been hard for them to find the financial support to carry out such an extended study without help from the authorities undertaking the massive transportation project.
“We couldn’t have found the financial support without the benefit of the Marmaray budget. Even though this is called a salvage excavation, we have the privilege of determining our own deadline,” said Kocabaş, noting that conservation takes a longer time.
What is unique about the excavation is the discovery of Byzantine galiots, or warships, Kocabaş said, adding that researchers learned that technique applied was the opposite of what is currently used.
“In contemporary ship construction technology, the skeleton of the ship is first prepared and the outer coat is applied later. But, the Byzantine galiots were designed completely in reverse,” Kocabaş said, adding that nobody knew how a galiot was constructed before the discovery.
Thanks to this discovery, academics focused on the ship construction of the period, including the time span between the sixth century A.D. and the 11th, said Kocabaş.
Within the scope of the project, a museum where the findings will be displayed will be created. “Yenikapı and the Golden Horn are some of the candidate areas for the museum to be located,” said Kocabaş.
Replicas of the ships will be also designed so that people can enjoy the feel of being on an ancient ship.