Work to clear mines at the ancient site of Karkamış, located in Gaziantep province and bordering Syria, is nearing completion, according to a statement from a local culture and tourism official.
Salih Efiloğlu, director of the Gaziantep Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate, told the Anatolia news agency that the mine-clearing project, which began on March 29, 2010, after a tender was completed in 2009, was nearing completion.
Efiloğlu noted that archeological digs at Karkamış, a site that is expected to bring new waves of tourists to the region, are set to begin in the spring. “Following the mine-clearing operation, a serious and long-term archeological dig will take place at the site of Karkamış,” he said.
Efiloğlu noted that while the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has yet to decide about who exactly will carry out the archeological digs at Karkamış, both Turkish and foreign experts can be expected to take part together.
Efiloğlu also pointed to the touristic potential in the ancient site and its surroundings, saying: “The contract bidding, which took place at the Gaziantep Special Provincial Administration office, came with the expectation that the mines, laid down since 1957 on over 670 acres of land, would be removed by hand. This work was to take place over 300 days. Aside from some minor slowdowns, the job is almost complete. And along with the completion of this operation, the archeological digs necessary to bring tourism to this ancient site will start.”
Karkamış, recognized as a significant site in terms of the late Hittite period, is very important for tourism potential. Next to the archeological site itself is the Karkamış dam, which itself brings much to the region in general. Another historic site near all of this is the German-built railroad bridge in Carablus.
Efiloğlu also noted that it is hoped that research and archeological work to be done in Karkamış would confirm assertions that the famous epic of Gilgamesh was based here, and whether or not the Treaty of Kadesh, believed to be the first recorded treaty in history and on permanent display at the İstanbul Archeology Museum, was originally made here. Efiloğlu said work was already under way to make sure that there would be no problems providing sufficient workers for the upcoming projects, noting that the Gaziantep Public Education Center had opened a course and trained 170 people, with certificates confirming adequate training being handed out to those who complete the course.
Mining dogs used in first stages of operation
The bidding, held by Gaziantep Municipality, was ultimately won by the Nokta company, whose CEO Murat Keklik confirmed that the land has been cleared of mines and is now at the point of being turned over to the city.
Noting that the project had been very difficult, Keklik said: “When working to clear mines from the ground, any mines found are destroyed on the spot. But because we were working around archeological remains, we transferred the mines we found to another spot and then detonated them under controlled conditions. We cleaned the area of mines in a way that was in accordance with United Nations mine clearing standards. We also used two mine-sniffing dogs brought over from Bosnia and Herzegovina especially for this kind of work. These dogs, very sensitive to mines hidden in the ground, contributed much to our work.”
Karkamış is located in Gaziantep province on the western banks of the Euphrates River. It also borders Syria. The first documents that refer to the Kingdom of Karkamış are thought to date from around 1700 B.C. Large stone blocks taken from the site in the 1940s and which depict religious motifs and pictures are now on exhibit at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara.
The site of Karkamış is located at a central point that links Anatolia, Mesopotamia and Egypt, and is thus accepted as one of the most significant ancient residential sites in eastern archeology.