Historical Yarımburgaz caves abandoned in Istanbul
ISTANBUL – DHA
The Yarımburgaz caves, where the first people settled in Istanbul 400,000 years ago, have been abandoned. The caves, which have been destroyed during TV series and film shootings over many years, are now shelters for substance addicts.
Officials have said the protection of the caves is insufficient and they need to be reintegrated into society, as they also carry importance in terms of world history.
It has been reported that the route of the Canal Istanbul project, an artificial sea-level waterway that will connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, has been changed because of these caves.
The first archaeological excavations were carried out in the 1960s in the Yarımburgaz caves, which are made up of four separate caves in the Başakşehir district. Important artifacts have been found during excavations, but today the caves are in ruins due to years of neglect.
Substance addicts who gather around the caves have caused great damage to them by burning fire and drawing on the walls.
The Archaeologists Association Istanbul Branch Chair Yiğit Özar, who has been a part of the archaeological research team for the caves, has reacted against the abandonment of historic places.
Özar has said the protection around the area is insufficient.
“The Yarımburgaz caves are near the Küçükçekmece Lagoon in Istanbul. They are located in one of the biggest archaeological excavation fields in and around Istanbul. Archaeological excavations were carried out for the first time by Şevket Kansu in 1960s. Later, Mehmet Özdoğan and Güven Arsebük carried out work here. Findings from 400,000 years ago have been unearthed in excavations. They date back to 800,000 years ago according to some sources,” he said.
“Archaeological findings on the transformation of the Neolithic Age cultures to Europe have also been found here. These findings reflect the Yarımburgaz culture in scientific literature. We know the caves have been used as a chapel in the Byzantine era. But because of damage caused by shooting films inside the caves, most of these findings disappeared. This field is very important for the whole world due to its position among the continents,” said the association chair.
Özar said the caves were registered as a first degree archaeological site in 1977.
“Legal protection has not been enforced. The caves have been used as a setting in many films and TV series, especially for the Turkish ‘Tarkan’ series. For example, a hole was dug during the shooting of the film ‘Yor.’ It was filled with water and exploded with dynamite. Important archaeological pieces were destroyed in this explosion,” he said.
“Today, there is an iron fence at the entrance to the caves. It seems like they are protected but they can easily be cut. What we demand is to increase security measures and to open the caves to the public,” said the association chair.
Residents in the district have also been disturbed by the substance addicts living in the caves.
“They sometimes come here and use drugs. They follow people and ask for money. We are very disturbed. They sometimes scream. We do not let our children go outside alone. We cannot use this route without a car because they follow you when you walk there,” said Seyit Azez, 71.