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The Changing Policies on the Protection and Management of Archaeological Sites in Turkey: an Overview

Zeynep Eres

Cite this as: Eres, Z. 2020 The Changing Policies on the Protection and Management of Archaeological Sites in Turkey: an overview, Internet Archaeology 54.


The earliest legislation in Turkey on the protection of antiquities was devised by the Ottomans, the forerunner of modern Turkey, issued in 1869 specifically to protect archaeological sites and regulate the archaeological excavations that were taking place in various parts of the Empire. The Ottoman antiquities law continued to be in force after the foundation of the Turkish republic, and revised as late as 1973 to accord with approaches that took place in Europe. The main concern of the legislation was to establish rigid control over archaeological excavations, discouraging new projects, thus hindering the availability of new data on cultural history. It was only in the late 1990s that the government decided on a new policy to encourage tourism by encouraging new tourist routes based on coastal areas and selected ancient ruins, such as Ephesus and Pergamon. This new approach opened up fresh pathways; a concern about cultural assets, among them archaeological sites that had been overlooked. Meanwhile, priority was given to enrich Turkey's place in the UNESCO World Heritage List by proposing archaeological sites that can readily fulfil UNESCO's requirements. Thus, currently 13 out of 18 World Heritage Sites in Turkey are archaeological.

Reconstructed remains at Hattusha, the capital of the Hittite Empire
Reconstructed remains at Hattusha, the capital of the Hittite Empire

Even though tourism is presently considered as the prime indicator of economic development and cultural heritage as a matter of national pride, the viability of government policies on archaeological heritage is rather questionable. This is mainly the result of inconsistencies and bureaucratic obstacles (red tape). The system has additional weaknesses, such as a shortage of experts in museology and conservation and inadequate tenders, resulting in a lack of consultation with experts and inappropriate architectural restorations. This article will present an Overview assessing how the government implements conserving and managing archaeological sites in relation to the Valletta and Faro Conventions. The other two components of the subject, namely the behaviour of archaeologists and public opinion, will also be discussed.

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  • Keywords: archaeology, presentation, conservation, anastylosis, prehistoric sites, Turkey
  • Accepted: 1 November 2019. Published: 28 February 2020
  • The publication of this article is funded by the European Archaeological Council.

Corresponding author: Zeynep Eres
Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul Technical University

Full text

Figure 1: Roman baths excavated in 1930s on the main street in the modern part of Ankara and turned into an open-air museum. Image: 2019, Zeynep Eres

Figure 2: After the excavations in the late 1950s, the orthostats were preserved in situ at Karatepe-Aslantaş. Image: 2015, Zeynep Eres

Figure 3: The roof was built between 1957-1961 to protect the Karatepe-Aslantaş orthostats in situ. Image: 2015, Zeynep Eres

Figure 4: The façade of Celsus Library in Ephesus was erected in 1970s using the technique of anastylosis. Image: 1990, Mehmet Özdoğan

Figure 5: Gymnasium of Sardes was reconstructed in the 1960s. Image: 2013, Zeynep Eres

Figure 6: A detail from Sardes Gymsaium; most of the masonry and marble coverings were made with new material. Image: 2013, Zeynep Eres

Figure 7: Roman bath was converted into a museum in the ancient city of Side. Image: 2004, Zeynep Eres

Figure 8: The Samsat mound submerged under the Atatürk Dam Lake in South-east Anatolia. The mound consists of an archaeological deposit about 52m thick and covers all periods from the Neolithic period to the Middle Ages. Image: 1977, Mehmet Özdoğan

Figure 9: In Hattusha architectural remains from different periods were excavated. In the late 1970s, the remains were covered with soil and models of the structures from the Hittite Great Empire period were constructed above the original remains. Image: 2012, Zeynep Eres

Figure 10: The remains of the structures exposed in the Neolithic settlement of Çayönü in South-east Anatolia were covered with soil and full-scale copies were modelled on them. In the archaeological site, building remains from different cultural layers are exhibited. Image: 1991, Mehmet Özdoğan

Figure 11: In Aşağı Pınar the architectural remains were covered with soil. Because the modern village architecture is similar to archaeological remains, three buildings were brought to Aşağı Pınar for presenting prehistoric daily life to the visitors. Image: 2010, Aşağı Pınar Archive-Mehmet Özdoğan

Figure 12: Inside the exhibition hall, converted from a granary, full scale models of the Aşağı Pınar houses are exhibited.. Image: 2015, Aşağı Pınar Archive-Mehmet Özdoğan

Figure 13: Kanlıgeçit Early Bronze Age settlement is only 300m away from Aşağı Pınar. The building remains were covered with soil and full-scale models of the remains were constructed exactly above the original remains. Image: 2012, Kanlıgeçit Archive-Mehmet Özdoğan

Figure 14: Seven cultural layers were found in Aşağı Pınar's 3m thick archaeological deposit.. Image: 2011, Aşağı Pınar Archive-Mehmet Özdoğan

Figure 15: The re-erection of a temple in the ancient city of Laodicea. Image: 2013, Zeynep Eres

Figure 16: A detail from the temple implementation in Laodicea: A single row of original stone is visible on the ground, the upper part of the wall was built completely with new stones.. Image: 2013, Zeynep Eres

Figure 17: A detail from bouleuterion in Patara ancient city. All the stairs were reintegrated with new material so that the building could be used for social activities but unfortunately, the authenticity of the building is totally lost. Image: 2015, Merve Arslan Çinko

Figure 18: Yesemek archaeological site was a sculpture workshop in the Late Hittite period. As it is an authentic and unique site, the professional heritage managers advised the local municipality to suggest this archaeological site for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today the municipality supports all the archaeological research on the site. Besides research, an international symposium series on Yesemek has also started

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