Cultural Postcards + Turkey

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Near East: Ancient monuments poorly restored in Turkey
While nodern Turkey is enriched by the historical sites of 206 ancient amphitheaters, most of which are left from Roman and Byzantine times, they are being mistreated by poor and haphazard restoration methods.

Ancient monuments poorly restored in Turkey
Turkey’s rich collection of ancient amphitheaters do not receive proper attention and are 
often restored using cheap methods [Credit: Cihan, Abrurrahman Büyükkeskin]

Turkey is fortunate to sit astride lands which were once part of the Greek, Roman and Byzantine empires. By virtue of this fact, the country has the world's richest collection of ancient amphitheaters. According to some sources, there are 206 such ancient theaters in Turkey that are left from the Graeco-Roman period. This figure is much greater than in any other country. However, the attention these precious monuments receive from the authorities is scant, while the recent restoration work carried out at these cultural sites shows obvious signs of the mistreatment to which they have been subject.

The ancient amphitheater of Antiphellos in Kaş, a small tourist town near Antalya, is an example which has drawn the greatest reaction, as concrete was reportedly poured into the ground of this precious antiquity. It is not yet clear which authority permitted restoration workers to pour concrete into the ground and, thus, damage the theater. No comments have yet been made by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Telmessos, the ancient town that was the first residential area in Fethiye, is another one of these antique treasures that has been severely mishandled. The restoration, which began in September 2012, is ongoing. It is clear when comparing older photos of Telmessos with photos of it from the present day that this ancient town and its antiquities have lost much of their historical character. The 2,300-year-old ancient town of Troas, a precious site of antiquity dating back to the Hellenistic period, which includes the Apollon Temple, has also experienced ill treatment as heavy trucks were driven onto the Apollon Temple, a move which resulted in damage to the monument.

The Taraf daily reported on Monday that the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) is planning to build houses at the ancient town of Bathonea, located next to Lake Küçükçekmece in İstanbul. After seeing archeological reports in 2013 the Ministry of Culture and Tourism decided to nationalize the site, giving it historical status to prevent its ruin.

Experts have expressed alarm, saying that a board of scholars should be set up so that they are able to supervise and inspect the restoration being carried out at the country's ancient sites. According to them, the inspections that they receive are carried out after the restorations are done and these inspections are carried out by unqualified people, a fact which results in more botched restorations. The protection boards of these ancient sites should be autonomous and out of the reach of political pressure.

According to experts in the field, the Cultural Sites Protection Board, affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Natural Assets Commission, affiliated with the Ministry of Environment, should draw its members solely from universities and these members should be removed from politics. Professionalism should count rather than relationships in the decision-making processes involved in protecting the precious heritage which has been left to this country, they note.

Source: Todays Zaman [August 18, 2014]

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