Among its multitudinous sins, Turkey faces a barrage of criticism over its supposed lack of due respect and care for ancient archaeological sites and artefacts within its borders. I’d like to share with you just a few news items detailing some of the archaeological finds in the past week:
Roman, Byzantine remains found at Istanbul train station
Restoration work on Istanbul’s Haydarpaşa train station at Kadıköy has unearthed the remains of what is believed to be a coastal town with findings so far dating from the late Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The station was opened in 1909 with German support to link Istanbul to Baghdad.
In those days a little history wasn’t allowed to stand in the way of progress. Today, a small army of 50 archaeologists armed with teaspoons and paintbrushes are picking over the site, keen to hold up progress on the much needed and long-delayed rail link for months, if not years.
An open-air museum to rise from the ruins
Restoration work is beginning on the remains of the ancient Byzantine Boukoleon Palace, located on the shore of the Marmara Sea near the popular tourist sites of Sultanahmet Mosque, Hagia Sofia and Topkapı Museums.
The palace, with its own private harbour, was built by the Roman Emperor Theodosius in the 5th century and extended in the 9th century by another emperor, Theophilus. It has long lain in ruins, and much of what remained was demolished in the late 19th century for the Orient Express railway line, and later, in 1959 when a road was constructed along the sea coast.
These days, of course, more value is given to such relics of history, and the government of Turkey is planning an open-air museum with an extensive park and overhead walkways to make the ruins more accessible and attractive to visitors. A big question, of course, is – Who pays for all this?
Two-thousand-year-old Roman bath
The Basilica Therma at Sarıkaya near Yozgat
A thermal spa located in the central Anatolian town of Yozgat is being opened to visitors who will be able to immerse themselves in healing waters once employed in the treatment of members of Roman royal families. One might be tempted to criticise the commercial exploitation of such a priceless relic of an ancient civilisation – but again, who is going to pay for their restoration and upkeep?
Dionysus, Pan sculptures found at temple of goddess Kybele in northern Turkey
Archaeologists working at Kurul Castle in the Black Sea province of Ordu have found more ancient statues in excellent condition. A 2,100-year-old statue of Kybele found there in 2016 was hailed as one of Turkey’s most important recent archaeological finds.
Historic tombstones found in wall of school in eastern Turkey
Tombstones dating back to the 12th century have been found in a wall in the grounds of Şair Nefi Middle School in the province of Erzurum.
If you want to make a contribution to the preservation of these sites, I’m sure Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism would love to hear from you.
Cuisine hailing from the southern province of Hatay, included in UNESCO’s “Creative Cities Network” in the field of gastronomy, is now set to be branded and introduced to the world.
With over 600 dishes, Hatay cuisine is famous for its unique features and rich variety across Turkey.
The Hatay Metropolitan Municipality now plans to share the province’s tastes with the rest of the world through promotional projects that will help Hatay cuisine become a global brand.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Hatay Mayor Lütfü Savaş said the province has been at the center of trade for centuries at the junction of Anatolia and the Middle East.
“We live in a very important region located on ancient pilgrimage routes. Thirteen of the 23 world civilizations have lived here. We have a historical past, cultural values and civilization accumulation. Here, many food cultures have lived in peace with each other, not conflicted but inspired by each other. And today we are talking about a region that has over 600 dishes. It is unthinkable to not share them with the rest of the world,” Savaş said.
He added that they have been working since 2010 to make Hatay “the world’s gastronomic city” and noted that the province was included in the Creative Cities Network by UNESCO last year.
Savaş said they promoted the tastes of the city by organizing “Hatay Days” across Turkey, which they will now take elsewhere in Europe and the Middle East.
“We organized promotional events during the ‘Hatay Days’ in Ankara, Istanbul and İzmir. We will now share this with the world too. We want to glorify the Hatay brand,” he added.
Sedat İnanç, the Chairman of the Association of Hatay Cooks, said the region’s cuisine took inspiration from the Arab world, Anatolia, Central Asia and Europe.
“Turkish cuisine is something separate from Hatay cuisine. Here we have over 250 types of breakfast … We want to gather them all in a book, including forgotten dishes. As fast food has become more popular, these traditional dishes have been forgotten,” İnanç said, adding that people across the world are now seeking new tastes.”
“There is great interest in Hatay dishes but we still don’t have skillful cooks or facilities to serve them. But if we manage to overcome this problem, I believe that Hatay cuisine will reach the renown that it deserves,” he added.
Source: Hürriyet Daily News
Note: Hatay is also known as Antakya, in ancient times, the city of Antioch
We had a three-day holiday to celebrate the end of the Ramadan month of fasting. Left alone, I did some wandering around less frequented parts of the old city.
Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest mountain, is home to Anatolian ground squirrels and other extraordinary wildlife.
Various bird species, predators, mammals, reptiles and many rodent species are also living on Mount Ararat.
Mount Ararat has a snow-capped peak that towers over eastern Turkey, Iran and Armenia. It is where the Bible says Noah landed his ark after the flood.
Thanks to its flora and fauna dotted on thousands of acres of land, the mountain provides a unique living environment to wild animals, some of which are still unknown to science.
Anatolian ground squirrels, which live in the region but are rarely seen, have been drawing great attention.
Iğdır Forestry and Water Affairs Director Mete Türkoğlu said, “This species is generally found in the region from the Caucasus to Iraq, Syria and even Palestine. In Turkey, they live across the eastern provinces of Kars, Erzurum, Iğdır and Ağrı as well as in the Central Anatolian region,” he said.
He said the squirrels had many reasons to choose Mount Ararat and its vicinity. “They generally prefer dry lands; places far from water and moisture, but where people are. The reason why they are seen especially during these months is that they spend half of the year sleeping.
The 13th Istanbul Tulip Festival opened on April 3 at the Emirgan Park with the participation of Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin. As part of the festival, the Istanbul Municipality has decorated many parts of the city with tulips. The festival will continue with various events throughout April.
Whistled language? What? That’s fairly interesting!
“A group of Turkish academics have launched a project to create an alphabet for the whistled language, which is spoken in northern Turkey’s Black Sea region. Around 10,000 people, mostly in the district of Çanakçı in the Giresun province, currently use and understand the language, according to UNESCO.
The language, Kuşdili (bird language) as locals call it, was listed by UNESCO as being in urgent need of protection last year. It was developed to allow people to communicate across steep mountain valleys but has been dying out, as mobile phones reduce the need for new generations to learn the language.
Prof. Musa Genç, the dean of the Tourism Faculty at Giresun University, told Anadolu Agency the project aims to “pass on this cultural heritage to future generations.”
”To do that, we have formed a working group to create the alphabet of the whistled language,” Genç said.
He said a group of academics, including musicians as well as linguists from Giresun University, will visit Kuşköy village and begin creating the alphabet for the language. According to Genç, records of the language will first be turned into notes and later into letters.
“When the project is finalized, the whistled language, which is used for communication by locals in the region, will become a more common and internationally used language,” he said.
He said the language had been used in Giresun for around 500 years and it was also used in other parts of the world as a communication tool. The human voice can travel up to 500 meters in normal conditions, Genç said, adding that the whistled language allows the voice to reach up to 30 kilometers in good weather conditions.
The practice is one of the dozens of whistled languages used around the world where steep terrain or dense forests make communication difficult over distances, such as North Africa’s Atlas Mountains, the highlands of northern Laos or the Amazon basin in Brazil.
Since 1997, the Bird Language Festival has been held in Kuşköy to promote its use. The district has also provided training programs to primary school pupils for the last three years. However, despite these efforts, UNESCO found that “the whistled language may soon totally disappear unless essential safeguarding measures are undertaken using an integrated approach.”
Source: Hürriyet Daily News