Thousands of artifacts have come to light through the “Ilısu Protection Excavation Project” conducted at the mounds located in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır and along the Ilısu River.
Some 19,800 artifacts, including 7,773 allocated for inventory and 12,027 allocated for research, have been uncovered in various mounds located near Diyarbakır’s Bismil district since the excavations first started in 2000.
Özcan Şimsek, the acting manager of the Diyarbakır Museum, said the excavations were not only important for the region but also for the world. “[The excavations] contribute heavily to the world archaeology. It should not be evaluated on a regional basis,” said Şimşek, adding that the Çayönü excavations were a keystone for world archaeology and that the Körtiktepe site was one of the oldest Neolithic centers in the world.
The acting deputy said excavations would continue at four sites this year, as most of the excavations had come to an end in the past years, but he added that new excavations could be conducted in places scientists deemed suitable in the forthcoming years.
“World history is being rewritten in light of the data that comes out from here,” said Şimşek, adding that the area around Bismil was one of the world’s oldest habitation places as well as one of the densest archaeological sites.
“The findings and cultural data that came out are very important,” said Şimşek. “Not only archaeologists but experts from different disciplines like botanists, geologists and pedologists will continue analyzing the results.”
Commenting on the fact that the archaeological sites around Bismil were going to be submerged by the Ilısu dam, Şimşek said though they knew energy and water was really important for Turkey, as an archaeologist he did not wish for a country’s history to be lost under water. Şimşek said if there was no other solution than to build the dam, they should collect as many artifacts and data as they could.
“Therefore we support the idea of carrying out the [Ilısu dam] project, after the excavations have mostly been finalized,” said Şimşek, stressing that cultural assets which lie under water are not as valuable as the assets under soil because they do not give all the necessary information they could have given. The acting manager said because water destroyed and even dissolved puddled-clay and organic material, artifacts made from these materials could not be used, even if they were found.
“A cultural asset that rests under water just becomes soil or rubble,” Şimşek said.
Ilısu Protection Excavation Project
The works under the scope of the “Ilısu Protection Excavation”, which are being conducted with the collaboration of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the General Directorate for State Hydraulic Works and the Museum of Diyarbakır, are slated to protect the areas that would otherwise be submerged after the construction of the contentious Ilısu Dam.
The works conducted around the Bismil district are located at Körtik, Salattepe, Karavelyan, Hakemi Use, Müslüman Tepe, Ziyarettepe and Hırbemerdon. Some of the excavations at other venues such as Aluçtepe, Gre Abdurrahman and Aşağısalat tumulus have already been finalized and important discoveries have been made as a result of these excavations.
Works continue not only in the Bismil district, but also in other cities such as Batman, Mardin and Siirt, and all the areas around the lake.
Hurriyet Daily News. 2013. “Excavations in Diyarbakır unearth with Ilısu Project”. Hurriyet Daily News. Posted: July 27, 2013. Available online: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/excavations-in-diyarbakir-unearth-with-ilisu-project.aspx?pageID=238&nid=51464&NewsCatID=375