Karkamış city cleared of mines

Karkamış city cleared of mines

GAZİANTEP - Anatolia News Agency
Karkamış city cleared of mines

Excavations did not start for a long time in the ancient city of Karkamış because of land mines in the area. The city has been cleared of explosives and will turn into a archaeology park with the work of a Turkish and Italian team over the next five years. AA photo

Excavations will start soon at the Karkamış Ancient City, which is located in an area littered with land mines on the Syrian border of the southeastern province of Gaziantep. The work will be carried out by a team from the Culture and Tourism Ministry and Italian Bologna University. The team has already arrived in the city to start excavations.

Nicolo Marchetti, who has maintained many excavations in Gaziantep and speaks Turkish very well, spoke to Anatolia news agency and said their goal was to unearth the ancient city completely with its roads, squares, city walls and temples, and turn the city into an archaeology park.

Marchetti said Karkamış had potential to become a significant archaeological area just like Bergama and Ephesus. “British teams have previously excavated the ancient city and found traces from the Iron Age,” Marchetti said. “These excavations were carried out in the early 1900s, but the history of Karkamış is older. We have a very big scientific idea about this place that can become a very important national park, an archaeology park. We know there are very important structures here and we also know where they are. We will work in this area for five years. This season’s work will continue through Nov. 15.”

Ahmet Beyazlar, who will join the excavations to represent the ministry, said work would be carried out with scientific contributions from Istanbul and Gaziantep universities along with Italy’s Bologna University.

He said Karkamış was unearthed in the 1870s and thought that it was a very important city during the late Hittite period.

“Its name is written in Egyptian hieroglyphs alongside crows and bamboo,” Beyazlar said. “It means that this region was always a frequent place for crows. The region also has strategic importance since it is the door opening to Mesopotamia. It is a transition place between the East and West and the North and South. Excavations did not start for a long time in the region because of the land mines, but Karkamış has always been a focus of the archaeological world. As a result of excavations, new data will be found regarding the region,” he said.

An excavations village will be established in the ancient city because the work will take a long time, said Gaziantep Provincial Directorate’s Secretary-General Cafer Yılmaz. “More than 700,000 square meters of the ancient city belong to us while 300,000 square meters belong to the Syrian city of Carablus. I hope joint work can be carried out later on.”

Yılmaz said Karkamış had magnificent potential for both the region and Gaziantep. He said their goal was to entice tourists to stay longer in the city.

“We expect excavations to start next week.”

Clearing land mines from the Karkamış ancient city started two years ago on an area of 663,800 square meters. Approximately 1,200 mines were found by hand and with the help of dogs and removed.

Quality control of the area was carried out according to U.N. standards after the clearance. During the mine clearance, coins and historical artifacts were found and given to the museum directorate.