Sunday, June 26, 2005


Ancient Thermal City to Be Flooded in Turkey


Southeast European Times
By Allan Cove
June 23, 2005

The 1,800-year-old city of Allianoi will be flooded in
November by the Yortanli Dam.

The world's oldest known ancient thermal city, Allianoi, stands to be flooded when the Yortanli Dam begins operation this November. Located in the very centre of the planned dam lake, it will be submerged under some 17 metres of water. If no solution is found, Turkey may lose a significant historical site.

To help save the 1,800-year-old city, environmentalists and other volunteers have formed the Allianoi Initiative Group, with the slogan "Don't Let Allianoi Be Flooded".

"A 2,000-year history is being sacrificed for a 50 to 60-year-old project. We don't say that the dam should not be constructed, but the project should be modified in a way that will prevent Allianoi from being ruined," says the group's spokesman, Arif Ali Cangi.

It has received support from the EU, which recently decided to financially support preservation efforts at Allianoi under its "Culture 2000" programme. The Pan-European Federation for Heritage -- a non-profit umbrella organisation consisting of more than 200 NGOs -- joined with the European Council and UNESCO in writing a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, seeking help in rescuing Allianoi and its Roman baths.

Since the Turkish government, however, has stated its firm intention to open the dam on schedule, archaeologists have launched a massive effort to salvage artefacts discovered at the site before it is submerged. Since 1994, numerous parts of sculptures, ceramic pieces, metallic findings and glass artifacts have been recovered, spanning the Roman to Byzantine periods. The State Water Affairs (DSI) agency has put forth a plan for the site, proposing that it the ancient buildings be coated with clay so that they won't be damaged under water. Archeologists say this would simply inflict further damage. Another approach under consideration is to move the thermal spring buildings to another location.

Villagers in the area, many of whom earn their living from agriculture, have mixed feelings. The dam will provide water needed for irrigation. But the flooding of Allianoi will also destroy a part of Turkey's cultural heritage, and the potential to attract tourists.

Throughout history, Allianoi was known as the "native land of the health god Asklepion". Established in the Hellenistic Age, it achieved prominence in the 2nd century under the rule of the Roman Emperor Hadrianus. For over 15 centuries, it enjoyed the reputation of an excellent healing centre, with spring waters in the therapeutic 45 to 55 centigrade range.

Recent excavations have revealed two ornate gates, streets with amazingly clean marble stones, shops, houses with perfectly protected mosaics, large squares, public fountains and insulas -- places to rest after a bath. The latest findings were some of the most perfectly protected ever seen in an archaeological site, because they were covered by alluvial soil.


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