Belkıs and Zeugma
THE IMPORTANCE OF CULTURAL HERITAGE IN SOUTHEASTERN ANATOLIA PROJECT, ACTIVITIES OF THE GAP ADMINISTRATION AND THE ANTIC CITY OF 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.
ZEUGMA WAS ONCE A PASSAGE
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.
START OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL WORK IN ZEUGMA
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.
LAUNCHING OF ZEUGMA URGENT EXCAVATION AND RESCUE PROJECT
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).
ZEUGMA RESCUE PROJECT
To develop a strategy for the Zeugma urgent excavation and rescue work launched under the coordination of the GAP Administration, examinations and observations were conducted at the site in May 2000 with the participation of staff from the GAP Administration, Turkish and foreign scientists, experts from Gaziantep Museum, Director of Cultural Affairs in Gaziantep and representatives of Birecik A.S. The antic city was divided into three zones as A, B and C as a result of these examinations and observations.
Zone A: This area is under water since June 2000. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism had conducted archeological excavations and documentation work in this area for the last 9 years. In this region which now remains under 372 meters as the altitude of the surface of the dam lake, rescue work continued until inundation.
Zone B: This zone covers the area under 385 meters as the highest level for the dam lake where urgent excavation and rescue work was materialized in October 2000.
Zone C: This is the area which is not affected by the dam lake but covers the main part of the antic city (about 70 percent of the city). The target is to carry out long term and full coverage work in this zone under the light of earlier work conducted in Zone B.
The overall objective of the urgent excavation and rescue work is to gather more information on the evolution of the city and to fulfill documentations to enable future generations to grasp the historical importance of the settlement. Since full excavation is impossible for such a large city, this work will proceed on a sampling strategy. This will also throw light upon the character, spread, nature and order of remains in Zone B.
First observations in the area yielded some natural topographic zones. Different topographic features of each zone give an idea about how and mainly for what purposes each zone had been used. Consequently, the Zone B, which extends for about 1 km was divided into different topographical parts and archaeological works were given start in 19 excavation points expected to yield important data about the structure of the city.
In another part of the evaluation phase, a geophysical surveying was conducted by using ground radar techniques (GPR). This surveying, not exerting any harm on possible remains under the ground helped excavation work in directing it to some special points and locations.
Following these earlier evaluations at the excavation site, there was an urgent excavation and rescue work of international character racing against time to be completed in 4 October 2000.
There were 250 manual workers and over 100 archeologists and conservation experts taking part in this work.
Urgent excavation and rescue work unearthed many properties including houses, shops, workshops, religious quarters dating back to the early years of Christianity, remains of a temple, paths and waste water discharge canals. Other items found include decorative window cases, figurines, glass objects, bronze statues, innumerable coin, helmets, iron spears and knives, golden rings, leaves made of gold, golden fibula, bulla, a relief stele describing Antiochus, King of the Kommagene shaking hands with Helios, God of Sun, column base with cross relief, oil lamps and many other smaller objects of glass, metal, ceramic and earth.
Under the Conservation Program prepared by the "Centro di Conzervazione Archaeologia" (CCA), having a high level of expertise in conservation work, frescoes, mosaics and remains that could not be moved were made subject to in-situ conservation. This work includes the cleaning of frescoes and mosaics at their original locations and then their covering with "limestone mortar" so as to minimize the effect of water.
Since mosaics "Flight of Europa", "Eros and Psyche" and "Three Women" were of great importance they were moved to the laboratory. Conservation and restoration work on finds and mosaics continued after 4 October 2000, the date for the completion of the impoundment program.
All findings obtained in excavations were documented in line with the rules of modern archeology without missing any detail. Documentation works are based upon three methods as written records and drawings, digital camera and conventional photography. Documentation work including all details from the smallest architectural object to larger buildings, from small finds to earth samples was conducted in computers. There is also a web site.
As a result of this work in Zeugma, there is now a large pile of archeological records including hundreds of drawings, thousands of written documents, over 500 photographs and 2,376 digital visions. Over 1,000 of small finds thus far recorded consist of coins. The number of bulla found can be considered a world record in this field.
WORK PERFORMED BY THE GAP ADMINISTRATION IN ZEUGMA URGENT EXCAVATION AND RESCUE PROJECT
In this work funded by the PHI, the role of the GAP Administration was to ensure coordination among different parties, extend logistics support and to facilitate relevant financial transfers.
The GAP Administration ensured coordination among various parties, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, in order to ensure a fast, systematic and scientific rescue work at the site.
Work Performed in Excavation House
To provide boarding facilities to experts taking part in the Zeugma Project, the GAP administration rented a boarding facility belonging to Birecik Municipality. Taking over facilities from the Municipality, the GAP Administration managed to make the facilities fully ready for service within such a short time as 6 weeks. At the end of work conducted by the Administration, the facilities were ready with its restaurant, laundry, health cabin, a store where findings from the excavation site would be kept and 6 prefabricated buildings as boarding facilities.
Work Performed at the Excavation Site
To ensure fast, smooth and systematic work, the Administration provided various materials and equipment including mobile tents, latrines, cabins, coolers, generator, a lighting system to be used in urgent cases, pumps, working machines, loaders, tractors, water tanks etc. in line with the requests of the excavation team.
Zeugma Gendarme Post
A prefabricated building was placed on a hill overlooking the site in order to guard the site and deter any illegal activity or smuggling.
Work Performed in Gaziantep Museum
For the conservation and restoration of mosaics and frescoes found at the site, 2 labs were erected at the yard of Gaziantep Museum within 2 weeks time.
Personnel Contribution of GAP Administration
Considering the urgency and importance of the project, the GAP Administration allocated 15 personnel, 8 being full-time and 7 part-time and 3 vehicles to avoid or minimize the effect of any emerging problem.
In order continue with post-excavation works in a systematic and scientific manner and to launch new projects for the future of Zeugma, the GAP Administration is maintaining its coordination function with regard to the PHI, relevant organizations and agencies, teams engaged in excavations and local governments.
Upon the completion of excavation work on 4 October 2000, evaluation, documentation, computer entry and storage arrangement works were started at the excavation center.
5 experts from the Turkish team taking part in excavation work continued with the classification, drawing, photographing, documentation and reporting on hundreds of thousands of clay bulla and coins. This team was also engaged in the follow up of new finds emerging as a result of changes in the level of water and waves and in ensuring coordination with other teams. Other teams in the urgent excavation and rescue also conducted their work in a very tidy manner.
There were several interval publications carried out by the team, in order to use in scientific works related with "Zeugma Archeological Excavation and Rescue Work". Publication of a scientific report including whole project works is envisaged.
As a matter of fact, the book "Zeugma: A Bridge from Past to Present" was published in Turkish and in English in 2001.
CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION WORKS
Frescoes (Wall Paintings)
The GAP Administration annexed two buildings to Gaziantep Museum to be used as laboratories. Expert teams are now engaged in the conservation and restoration of mosaics and frescoes obtained in the antic city.
There is a protocol between the GAP Administration and Ankara University for the conservation and restoration of frescoes found in Zone A. Under this protocol a team headed by Y.Selçuk Sener from Baskent Vocational College of Ankara University completed conservation and restoration work on 91 panels of frescoes transferred from Zeugma to Museum from 10 May to 5 June 2001. During this process, each panel transferred from the site to the museum underwent about 50 different interventions in 10 major stages to be ready for exhibition.
Frescoes removed from 14 different sections of two Roman villas constitute 91 panels of different sizes. After adjoining some frescoes during restoration, the number of panels dropped to 81.
These works were realized under the permission of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, supervision of Gaziantep Museum, coordination of the GAP Administration and funds allocated by the PHI. Restoration works were completed by a team of 13 persons in 7 months from 23 October 2000 to 23 May 2001.
Conservation and restoration work on all pieces obtained in excavations was performed by a group of Turkish and Italian experts headed by Dr. Roberto Nardi from the Centro di Conservazione Archaeologica (CCA).
The conservation and restoration of mosaics and metal foundings are going on in Gaziantep museum laboratories which is taken from A region. The completed part of conservation and restoration of mosaics is total 870 m2. Furthermore, while the water level of Birecik Dam Lake is getting lower, the works are completed for the three mosaic which are carried to the laboratory.
ZEUGMA OPEN AIR MUSEUM
In order to display the pieces obtained in Zeugma excavations in local place, it is envisaged to build "Zeugma Temporary Museum". For this reason, a private company carried out "Report of Zeugma Temporary Museum Site Plan".
According to this project, there is almost no excavation. With carrying away 30 cm soil from the surface and filling it up, the building is constracted on a platform 15 cm tick. This project was sent to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for their approval, with the coordination of GAP-RDA. And the Ministry replied that this Temporary Museum could be constracted after finishing the scientific excavation work.
Last Update: December 28th, 2006