Cultural Postcards + [Turkey]

Near East: Ancient Anatolian sites abandoned to their fate
Two historical areas in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir are in danger of falling into greater disrepair after three watchmen at the site were forced to leave due to unpaid wages stemming from a budget shortfall.

Ancient Anatolian sites abandoned to their fate

Ancient Anatolian sites abandoned to their fate
Diyarbakir’s Hilar Inns and the Cayonu Hill are registered as first-degree archaeological
 sites but they are in danger of becoming no more than a rubbish dump after the
 departure of the area’s watchmen [Credit: DHA]

“The Archaeology Museum Directorate was paying our salary. We had to leave the job because we were not paid for four months,” said one of them, Kadri Yildirim, who worked at the Hilar Inns and Cayonu Hill area in the province’s Ergani district for four years as a guide, security official and cleaner.

The two historical structures, which were first revealed during excavations in 2006 and opened to tourism, are registered as a first-degree archaeological site but they are open to all dangers. Now, however, the stone gates of some Roman-era rock graves have been broken, while some tombs have been turned into a dumpsite.

While they were open, the sites were attracting as many as 50,000 tourists a year. Visitors were not even allowed to enter the rock graves but after the workers left, the graves rapidly became a repository for garbage. The lightning system of the main inn was disassembled, while graffiti was scrawled on the walls.

The Cayonu settlement, located to the north of the inns, was also vandalized, as the fences around the settlement were ruined while the signboards along the walking route were removed. Yildirim said the trio’s salaries were cut at the end of 2013 but that they continued serving in the area voluntarily until April 23.

“Cigarette stubs are thrown inside the inns, some stones have been broken. The area is miserable. We cannot stop worrying about it,” he said.

Abbas Yorulmus, who worked in the area for seven years, said nobody was taking an interest in the historic place at the moment.

“It is an abandoned place now. We were cleaners, workers and guards here for 24 hours a day. We were introducing the region to tourists. We were fired in December last year but we waited until April 23, thinking that the problem could be solved. This area looks like a garbage dump now. We are very sorry. The museum told us that the special provincial administration budget was cut this year. We wrote a letter to the ministry and the governor’s office. But in the end, we had to leave this place,” he said.

Villager Tarik Aslan said village guards had replaced the three watchmen, but added that visitors did not like them.

“Watchmen were giving information to visitors but village guards don’t do anything. You see the current situation. The state constructed a road here for 1.5 million Turkish Liras but could not find salaries for the watchmen,” he said.

Ergani District Gov. Erdin Yilmaz said the Diyarbakir Archaeology Museum should protect historical places but added that workers’ salaries were not paid because of the budget shortfall.

“We provide for the security of historical places with village guards and gendarmes. But the responsibility [for watchmen] belongs to the museum directorate. We are working to prevent this problem here,” Yilmaz said.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [May 27, 2014]