Heavy equipment invades İstanbul excavation site, harming Neolithic ruins
An archeologist examines a human skeleton found during construction in İstanbul's Pendik district. (Photo: AA, Şebnem Coşkun)
Heavy equipment belonging to a construction firm that is working on the long-expected Marmaray project -- an undersea commuter train connecting İstanbul's Asian and European sides -- invaded an excavation site in Yenikapı and has damaged remnants dating back to the Neolithic Age.
Archaeological excavation started in 2004 at the Yenikapı Marmaray construction site, reaching 8,500 years into the history of İstanbul. Skeletons, chapel remains, water wells, footprints, the world's best-preserved shipwreck and a merchant vessel, whose contents and wooden parts are in exceptionally good condition, have been uncovered by archaeologists so far. The excavations are still going on at the site, but the Marmaray construction firm interrupted the work when its heavy equipment invaded the excavation site on May 11, not thinking of any possible damage that it might cause to objects as yet unrevealed.
According to a Radikal daily report on Monday, without considering the warnings and concerns of archaeologists, the management of the construction firm insisted on continuing their work at the Neolithic site, which carries great importance in terms of shedding light on the history of world civilization. The construction firm started its activities at the site without informing the Cultural and Natural Assets Conservation Board and the İstanbul Archaeology Museum. Now, archaeologists, universities and nongovernmental organizations have called on state officials to stop the heavy equipment that might eliminate their chances of finding new artifacts.
Archaeologists working at the site have released a written statement to attract public attention to the incident. “An excavation has been carried out in Yenikapı as part of the Marmaray Subway Project for eight years as ordered by the Fourth Regional Board of Protection of Cultural and Natural Assets. The importance of the contributions that this excavation has made to the cultural life of İstanbul is already well known by the public. This excavation has been defined by world authorities as one of the most important excavations made during the century. The ongoing excavation activities do not block the construction of the Marmaray project because the work is being conducting at a place that is planned to be a parking lot. This excavation is the site of the Port of Theodosius, which dates back to the fourth century. The site is also in a residential area dating back to the Neolithic Age. On May 11, 2013, bulldozers went onto the site and started to destroy these historically important remnants. This is a crime under the current Constitution's Article 63 concerning the conservation of historical, cultural and natural wealth, and this is against international agreements signed by Turkey,” they said.
Article 63 of the Constitution states: “The state shall ensure the conservation of historical, cultural and natural assets and wealth and shall support and promote measures towards that end.”
The archaeologists ended their statement with a call on all national and international nongovernmental organizations and the Turkish state to stop the activities of the construction firm at the site.