40,000 boxes of artifacts unearthed during Marmaray excavations locked in warehouse

40,000 boxes of artifacts unearthed during Marmaray excavations locked in warehouse

Ömer Erbil ISTANBUL / Radikal
40,000 boxes of artifacts unearthed during Marmaray excavations locked in warehouse

Seats of depots where over 40.000 boxes of artifacts are being held have not been removed despite earlier statements by ministers claiming otherwise. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

The archaeological excavations started in 2004 to accommodate the Marmaray Metro Project are still uncompleted, while about 40,000 boxes of historical findings are under serious threat as they have been locked in depots.

Though the 8,500-year-old historical artifacts from the Neolithic period drew worldwide interest, the excavations were stopped due to lack of funding.

About 40,000 boxes of artifacts found in the excavations, which were carried out with the sponsorship of the Transportation Ministry State Ports and Airports Authority (DLH), were locked in depots and sealed.

After daily Radikal reported on Feb. 9 that the objects had been sealed, Culture Minister Ömer Çelik announced that Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım had said an additional budget had been allocated to continue the excavations and the objects would be unsealed soon.

Though three months have passed since that announcement, the seals on the depots have not been removed. The excavations have not been restarted and the dismissed archaeologists have not been rehired.

The museum authorities said they were currently waiting for the budget to restart the excavations, adding that they had sent all the required data and documents. DLH authorities, on the other hand, said they had provided the additional budget but they did not yet fulfill the conditions of the contract, claiming that they would restart excavations as soon as possible.

Time-bounded concerns

The current condition of the artifacts is not known since they have been locked in depots for three months. Also, it is unknown how time spent obtaining scientific data would be compensated. It is required to evaluate the artifacts in laboratories to reveal their possible contributions to the science of archaeology and Istanbul’s history. A protocol made with DLH assured that financial support would be provided until they obtained full results from the excavations. As the discoveries of artifacts kept the Marmaray Project from being completed by the end of 2010, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in 2011, “First [they said] there was archaeological stuff, then it was clay pots, then this, then that. Is any of this stuff more important than people?”