Archaeological findings in industrial zone to be removed to make way for warehouse

Archaeological findings in industrial zone to be removed to make way for warehouse

Banu ŞEN İZMİR – Hürriyet
Archaeological findings in industrial zone to be removed to make way for warehouse

The site was described as the 'Zeugma of the West' by archaeologists. HÜRRİYET photo, Turan GÜLTEKİN

Archaeological findings near the Kemalpaşa area in the Aegean province of İzmir will be removed to make way for a warehouse for the discount market chain BİM. 

The site of the future warehouse was taken under protection by İzmir’s Cultural Heritage Protection Board after archeological remnants, including many mosaics, were found after construction started in 2012.

However, a higher board ruled on moving the archaeological findings to a museum last August following the company’s objection, which gave the green light for construction, on the condition that the walls of the ancient houses also discovered at the site be kept intact. Members of the board justified the decision, saying it would better protect the mosaics, which could be exhibited in museums. Salvage excavations have already started to unearth the mosaics.

The company, for its part, said in a statement it decided to apply to the Culture and Tourism Ministry demanding the expropriation of the property. 

The site, which is located in the middle of an Organized Industrial Zone, became the focus of media attention after then-Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay visited the area, describing the archaeological findings as “very important” and expressing his admiration for the mosaics.

It has also been described as the “Zeugma of the West,” in reference to the ancient Roman site in the province of Gaziantep known for its sumptuous mosaics, which were inundated by the waters of the Euphrates River following the completion of the Birecik Dam.

Company to ask for expropriation

The head of the salvage excavations said the archeological remnants belonged to rural houses used between the fourth and seventh century A.D. 

“It could be a villa owned by a rich aristocrat from Nyphaion [Kemalpaşa] or Smyrna [İzmir]. It was used for more than 200 years until attacks from the Arabs,” said Akın Ersoy, an archaeologist at Dokuz Eylül University. 

Ersoy added that the site was important enough and could be a candidate for being designated as an archaeological site of the first degree. But a member of the cultural board said moving the mosaics was necessary to prevent damage.

“What’s important for us is not the firm, but what could happen to the mosaics if they are not moved [elsewhere],” said Ersin Doğaner, the dean of Ege University’s Faculty of Literature. 

“We gave a report that the mosaics could be moved and that’s it. Many museums, such as the ones in Gaziantep and Antakya, are full of transported mosaics. But the [final] decision is not ours but the Council of Monuments’,” Doğaner told Anadolu Agency. 

Meanwhile, other archaeologists have asked for the extension of the protected area due to the significance of the mosaics. 

Kemalpaşa lies on the outskirts of İzmir, near the busy highway to Ankara.