Safeguarding an endangered cultural heritage

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One of the three columns on the burial mound of Karakus (right) - in which membe
One of the three columns on the burial mound of Karakus (right) - in which members of the Commagenian royal family were buried in the late 1st century BCE - was toppled during the earthquake in south-eastern Turkey. The picture on the left shows the column still standing. © Mehmet Alkan / Asia Minor Research Centre

Asia Minor Research Centre documents state of cultural monuments in the region in Turkey hit by earthquakes

The images of the massive earthquakes which occurred in south-eastern Turkey on February 6 are shocking. After a good two months, the extent of the devastation is still not fully clear. Thousands of people lost their lives. In view of the acute humanitarian catastrophe, issues relating to the protection of cultural objects did not have priority. It is already clear today, however, that the earthquakes inflicted considerable damage on numerous ancient and medieval monuments. With the project entitled "Cultural Heritage in Danger", researchers from the University of Münster aim to provide support for the local authorities in documenting the current state of cultural monuments in the province of Ad’yaman.

The city of Ad’yaman and the province of the same name, which stretches north of Gaziantep between the River Euphrates and the Tauris Mountains, are among the regions most severely affected by the earthquake. Devastating damage was caused in the city of Ad’yaman itself, as well as in nearby towns and villages. Thousands of people lost their lives there. From an historical and archaeological perspective, it is above all the monuments of the late Hellenistic kingdom of Commagene for which the province of Ad’yaman is internationally well-known. The region contains numerous monuments of the most important Commagenian king, Antiochus I (69 to c. 36 BCE), including the burial mound of Karakuş. "We want to provide assistance for the experts here and for the local authorities as they take stock," explains Prof. Engelbert Winter from the Asia Minor Research Centre. "The plan is to provide a better basis for planning specific measures to restore and protect damaged or endangered monuments," adds Prof. Michael Blömer, likewise from the Asia Minor Research Centre. To this end, the local cultural bodies will be provided with comprehensive digital documentation relating to cultural monuments in the region. This documentation was produced in Münster in the 1950s and has been developed continually ever since. As a result, the damage can be better recognised, and future restoration work will be made easier.

Responsibility for seeing the project through will lie with Dilek Çobanoğlu - she has been working closely with the Asia Minor Research Centre since 2003 - and the results are due to be presented at the end of the year in a two-day event to be held locally.

The background

For some decades now, the work done by the Asia Minor Research Centre has specialised in south-eastern Turkey. As a leading international research institute for the province of Ad’yaman, the Münster experts work together with local museums, researchers and authorities. Since 1997 the Asia Minor Research Centre has been investigating for example the remains of the ancient city of Doliche near the Turkish metropolis of Gaziantep. The excavation area covered by the research project, as well as the house in which the researchers live during their excavation work, are only a few kilometres from the epicentre of the big earthquake in Turkey and Syria.