Republic Of Turkey Ministry Of Development Southeastern Anatolia Project Regional Development Administration

The Importance Of Cultural Heritage In GAP And Zeugma



The GAP project assigns special importance to the protection, conservation and tourism related promotion of the cultural heritage of the region that emerged throughout thousands of years in the progress of human civilization. The concept of sustainable development, which is adopted by the GAP, also includes "cultural sustainability" implying the transfer of cultural heritage to future generations.

Known as the "cradle of civilizations", the GAP region richly endowed with cultural assets dating back to prehistoric times, unique features and tourism potential enjoys a special status not only in Turkey but in the word as a whole. However, in the face of rather rapid changes brought along by the project (GAP) is presently threatened by a process of cultural erosion due to such factors as the impact of dam lakes and irrigation canals on many cultural assets; farming practices on tumulus and antic sites, rapid urbanization and migration and radical changes in socio-cultural patterns and modes of living. All these point oft to the necessity of addressing natural, historical and cultural assets and properties in the region through a distinct and sensitive approach.

The GAP Administration does not consider cultural heritage as an issue that consists solely of restoration, urban design, excavation and rescue works. It is through the "Sub-regional Development Planning" approach that the Administration addresses regional development issues with their social, cultural, educational, economic and employment generation dimensions.

The GAP Administration considers cultural heritage as an important component of regional development. Accordingly, it is engaged in "Sub-regional Development Plans" and in the design of preliminary projects to check the feasibility of various development projects. Following preliminary projects, the Administration seeks the cooperation of relevant governmental ministries and units, universities, local governments, civil society organizations and local people or the implementation of selected projects. Within this cooperation framework, the Administration provides coordination, follows the implementation of projects and extends financial assistance, within its budget means, to those projects that are short of funding given that they are covered by the State Investment Programme.

Besides State funding, the GAP Administration also takes initiatives to secure funding, mostly as grants, from international agencies and civil society organizations especially for projects related to cultural assets. The project carried out in Zeugma and the "Mardin Participatory Urban Rehabilitation Project" are examples of initiatives launched by grants secured this way.

For the GAP Administration, it is a primary need to take the full inventory of cultural properties in the region and develop a systematic database for the rescue and/or protection of cultural heritage. The GAP Administration signed a protocol with the History, Archaeology, Arts and Cultural Heritage Foundation (TASK) on 30.05.2001 for this purpose. More specifically, this protocol targeted the investigation and documentation of information regarding the present status of all archaeological sites in the region from the Palaeolithic age to the early Bronze Age. The GAP Administration signed another protocol with Hacettepe University in 1997 to launch the project for the "Documentation of Immoveable Cultural Properties of Birecik, Halfeti, Suruç and Bozova Districts", which were to be affected by Birecik Dam Lake.

Furthermore, within the framework of State Investment Programme, the GAP Administration extended significant financial support to excavation and rescue work conducted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the antic settlement of Hasankeyf, which was to be affected by Ilisu Dam. The same concern was apparent in the "Zeugma Urgent Excavation and Rescue Work" in 2000.


Selevkos Nikator, one of the army generals of Alexander the Great had coined the city he founded "Selevkia Euphrates" by joining his name with that of the river. He also constructed a bridge over the Euphrates to connect Zeugma to Apemia, the settlement on the other bank of the river he had built on the name of his wife.

Zeugma was in fact a bridge, a bridge to culture and arts with its spectacular mosaics made with colorful stones of the Euphrates, frescoes, statues and architecture.

Dionysus, Euphrates, Oceanus, Psyche and Poseidon had left the depths of mythology to embellish finely the floors and walls of rich Roman villas. Still hiding the footsteps of Helens, Romans and the Byzantines who settled here for the fertility of the Euphrates, Zeugma was also a bridge for trade, communication and correspondence as an important post on the Silk Road starting from Antioch and ending in China. Today, archaeologists are striving to save as much as possible from the Euphrates and transfer one of the magnificent cities of Mesopotamia to the 21st century. And in that sense Zeugma is still maintaining its status as a bridge.


The place of the antic city of Zeugma was first discovered by F. Cumont in 1917. In the 70s, J. Wagner conducted a surface work in the site and obtained significant information about the antic city.

The first excavation work in Zeugma, which is an archaeological site of primary importance, was started in 1987 in the South of Belkis Hill by the Gaziantep Museum. During excavations conducted in a rock tomb and its surroundings, many sculptures left by traffickers were found. These sculptures made of limestone and belonging to buried people were transferred to the Gaziantep Museum and are presently exhibited there.

Excavation works carried out in the antic site gained a new dimension with the start of the construction of Birecik Dam on the Euphrates, which was contracted out to an international consortium (Birecik A.S.) in 1993 on built-operate-transfer model. Following studies on the area to be affected by the dam, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism started "urgent excavation and rescue work" in 1992. As a result of this work carried oft by Gaziantep Museum, villas, floor mosaics, frescoes and various other remains were unearthed. Also found during this excavation was a splendid mosaic on the wedding of Dionysus and Ariadne. 2/3 of this mosaic, however, was stolen in 1998.

Upon the start of construction, tomb steles with eagle and basket relieves, a beheaded sculpture and a floor mosaic with goddesses of seasons, which had been found in 1993 and 1994 were removed and transferred to the Museum. In 1993, Prof. David Kennedy from the University of Western Australia joined excavations carried out by the Museum. During his work, Prof. Kennedy found that the floor mosaic of a Roman villa was also displaced by traffickers. Further investigations revealed that the mosaic taken from the site was that of two immortal lovers, Metiox and Partenope and that the mosaic was in the private Menil Collection in Houston, US. Upon the initiatives of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the mosaic was returned to Gaziantep Museum in June 2000.


Since the start of construction works for the dam made the rescue operation more urgent, there emerged a need for a rather large team of experts and considerable funds in order to conduct a scientific rescue work in a very limited time.

Considering this need, the GAP Administration took various initiatives to enlarge the scope of work carried out by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and to provide funding support. This initiative led to the signing of a protocol with the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) on 8 June 2000 to financially back up the continuation of excavation and rescue work in the site. This protocol envisaged a funding support of 5 million US dollars.

The multi-national work carried out under this protocol had the following parties: The GAP Administration (overall coordination); Packard Humanities Institute (donor agency); Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Monuments and Museums (authorizing government unit); Gaziantep Museum (supervising unit): Gaziantep Governorate and BIRECIK A.S. (facilitating and contributing parties) and the Oxford Archaeology Unit (as the professional unit managing work at the site).