Turkish Mesopotamia (South-Eastern Anatolia), which became a disaster zone overnight as a result of a powerful earthquake, has unique monuments of ancient history and culture, in including from the UNESCO World Heritage List, which attracted numerous tourists. What about these monuments now, have they survived?
After a devastating earthquake of magnitude 7.7, the epicenter of which was located in southeastern Turkey, between the cities of Kahramanmarash and Gaziantep, international organizations, as well as archaeologists and historians around the world, immediately had questions about how the natural disaster affected the state of historical monuments in South-Eastern Anatolia (Mesopotamia).
Especially world-famous, such as Mount Nemrut with its gigantic stone sculptures of the Hellenistic period (near Adiyaman), and the oldest religious complex in the world – Neolithic temple in Göbekli Tepe (near the town of Sanlıurfa).
It is known that the cities near which these ancient monuments are located were seriously damaged. In total, according to the AFAD report, more than 21 thousand people died and more than 85 thousand people were injured as a result of the earthquake in Turkey on the evening of February 10 alone. 6.5 thousand buildings were destroyed. Every hour, the numbers of casualties and destruction are rising….
UNESCO issued a statement the day before and expressed concern, noting that the archaeological sites inscribed on the World Heritage List in Turkey “could have been damaged by a devastating earthquake” .
“Our organization will provide assistance within its mandate,” said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, who raised concerns about Turkey's historical monuments as well as historic structures in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Reuters reported.
In TURKEY TOLD ABOUT THE STATE OF HISTORICAL SITES OF MESOPOTAMIA AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
The General Department of Cultural Heritage and Museums of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey responded quickly enough, noting that UNESCO made its statement without a prior request from the Turkish side. The ministry told how things are with the historical sights of Mesopotamia now.
Mount Nemrut (Nemrut Dag)
The Hellenistic sanctuary and mausoleum of Antiochus I, the ruler of Commagene, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, are located here kingdoms in the 2nd century AD. This unique place with gigantic stone statues of Greek and Persian deities has always attracted many tourists.
Gigantic stone heads of the gods on Nemrut Dag. Photo: piqsels.com
After the earthquake, officials from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism made active efforts to get to Mount Nemrut from Adiyaman. The initial inspection of the snow-covered territory did not reveal any damage to the ancient statues – they are all in their place and intact. So, after the situation in the region normalizes, tourists will be able to return here.
Göbekli Tepe, the oldest mysterious temple in the world
The fact that one of the first centers of ancient agriculture is located in Mesopotamia (the second one is in China), and that the first states arose here, we remember from school. But here is the zero point of reference for all religions. The oldest temple on Earth is located right here – on the Göbekli Tepe hill, 40 km from Sanliurfa.
The excavated site of the world's oldest temple in Göbekli Tepe. X millennium BC.
This is a very mysterious place that attracts tourists who love secrets, mysticism and riddles. An incredibly ancient temple with a complex structure, stone steles to unknown gods (or the only God – no one knows for sure), obelisks and bas-reliefs depicting males of 26 animal species in poses of aggression was built back in the Neolithic, 12 thousand years ago, in the pre-state and pre-ceramic era .
Mysterious images on the stones of Gobekli Tepe – they are 12 thousand years old. Photo: ATOR
Göbekli Tepe is much older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids. How its creators at that time managed to drag and process stones for several kilometers, some of which weigh more than a hundred tons – without cranes, armies of slaves, metal tools, is still incomprehensible.
It remains a mystery why the people who created the temple did not just leave this place for some reason, but carefully covered the temple with earth tones before leaving, as if hiding. And archaeologists still do not have an answer to the question of what people could build this complex and what language they could speak.
A canopy and observation deck over the oldest temple complex in the world. Photo: ATOR
Employees of the Turkish Ministry of Culture examined Göbekli Tepe after the earthquake. The ancient temple complex (which, by the way, has not yet been fully excavated), according to the first reports and videos, was not affected by the elements. The ancient sacred stone stelae did not collapse, unlike many houses in the villages and towns nearby. A truly magical place.
The archaeological site of Arslantepe, included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, is located near Malatya, a city that was seriously affected by the earthquake.
A 2.5-meter-high adobe palace and a temple of the capital of the ancient state in Anatolia (IV -III millennium BC) with thousands of priceless finds – frescoes, thrones, seals, the first metal weapons, etc. Ancient buildings, adobe walls and terracotta and stone statues are in surprisingly good condition.
Archaeological site of Arslantepe. Photo: Turkish media
According to the General Department of Cultural Heritage and Museums of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey, no serious damage was recorded in Arslantepe. However, small landslides of adobe walls and partial collapses of the roofs of modern canopies over the sites of museumified excavations were noted. That is, restoration work will be easy.
Arslantepe. Photo: Turkish media
A monument of medieval architecture, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic center of Mardin is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkish Mesopotamia.
Streets of old Mardin. Photo: ATOR
Quaint stone narrow streets, ancient buildings climbing the hill in tiers, cozy restaurants and amazing views of the sunsets from the roofs of hotels – all this has survived after the earthquake and will be available to tourists.
< /p> Mardin stands on a hill. Photo: piqsels.com
According to the Mayor of Mardin, not a single building was damaged in the old city, not a single person was killed or injured. Surprisingly: 500-800-year-old buildings withstood the blow of the elements with honor, but modern ones did not.
Sunset in Mardin, Turkey. Photo: ATOR
Giant walls built of black basalt encircle the historic center of Diyarbakır. The Diyarbakır Fortress is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
These are the widest and longest fortress walls in the world after the Great Wall of China. Most of them were built by the Roman emperor Constantius II in the middle of the 4th century. AD, then the fortress was completed, strengthened and rebuilt by the Seljuks in the Ottoman period.
Fortification walls of Diyarbakir. Photo: ATOR
It is reported that after the devastating earthquake on February 6, partial (relatively minor) collapses of battlements and scree of stones of the upper part of a row of towers were found on part of the walls of the Diyarbakır fortress, and a gap was also formed in one of the walls. But in general, the Roman ancient fortress survived, it has no serious damage. The ancients knew how to build.
The walls of Diyarbakir are very wide and long. They encircle a vast territory, many times larger than the Kremlin in Moscow. Photo: ATOR
The Armenian church of St. George (3rd century AD) was also damaged in Diyarbakir, but the masonry of the walls of the entrance group partially collapsed. But the building itself is also standing.
The fortress of the city of Gaziantep, the main part of the walls and towers of which dates back to the reign of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I (VI century AD, repeatedly rebuilt during the Ottoman Empire), suffered very badly.
Gaziantep Fortress before the earthquake. Photo: piqsels.com
After the earthquake, some towers of the eastern, southern and southeastern parts of the fortress perimeter collapsed down the hill. However, according to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the museum, located inside the fortress itself, was not badly damaged.
Gaziantep Fortress after the earthquake. Photo: Turkish media
The dome and the entire eastern wall of the most beautiful historical Shirvani mosque (XVII century), located near the Gaziantep fortress, also collapsed.
But the ancient Hellenistic city of Zeugma near the Nizip district in Gaziantep survived the earthquake without damage. According to preliminary data, the Gaziantep Museum with the world-famous Zeugma mosaics was not seriously damaged either.
The famous “Gypsy Girl” mosaic from Zeugma. Photo: ATOR
Sanlıurfa is not so devastated. The fortress of Urfa suffered little damage, cracks, shedding. The famous Balıkly Göl complex escaped, in general, with a slight fright – some porticos and mosques received minor cracks and damage to the facades.
Balikly Göl pond in Sanliurfa before the earthquake. Photo: ATOR
But the water itself in the ponds where the sacred carps swim, alas, has become opaque, dirty brown. Obviously, something happened to the source from where water enters the reservoir. It is not known if this will improve over time.
Now the water in the Balikly Gol pond is like this. Photo: Turkish media
Here are the biggest losses, both human (in fact, half of the city has been wiped off the face of the earth), and historical.
Alas, but the oldest mosque in Turkey, Habib-i-Najar (638 AD), built in the city of Antakya (ancient Antioch) by the Arabs immediately after the conquest of these lands by them, collapsed as a result of tremors.
Turkey's oldest mosque in Antakya, Habib-i-Najar. Photo: Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. View before destruction.
Unfortunately, not only this historical monument, but also the vast majority of the buildings of the historical center (old mansions, fountains, mosques, churches, synagogues) – the Sheikhali district, are almost completely destroyed.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey reports that that part of the Hatay Archaeological Museum in Antakya, which houses unique Hellenistic mosaics and carved marble sarcophagi, as well as statues of Hittite kings, including the world-famous statue of King Suppiluliuma, was also damaged. The security of the building was strengthened, because. these exhibits are simply non-transportable.
The famous statue of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I in the Hatay Museum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The building of the Majlis (parliament) of Hatay, one of the symbolic buildings of the city, built by the French architect Leon Benju in 1927 as a cinema, also collapsed. Here, in 1938, the state of Hatay was proclaimed, and in 1939, a decision was made to join Turkey.
All that remains of the Hatay Majlis building. Photo: Turkish media.
The historic building of the cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Antioch was also seriously damaged: the roof and some walls of the building completely collapsed. And in Iskenderun (a port in the province of Hatay), a historic building of a Catholic church was destroyed.
Other historical and archaeological museums of Mesopotamian cities
The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism reported that no damage was recorded in the museums of Kahramanmarash, Elbistan, Adiyaman, Malatya, except for minor cracks. There is no serious damage to the collections of these museums.
“However, given the possibility that the buildings located around the Kahramanmaras Museum may pose a danger, part of its collection was moved to safer museums,” the ministry said.
Minaret The historic Envar-ul-Hamit Mosque, built in 1890 in the city, was destroyed and damaged.
The beautiful new Malatya Mosque in the city center is very seriously damaged. By a sad irony of fate, this central mosque of the province was built and opened only last year on the site of the ancient mosque of Haci Yusuf, which was destroyed by the earthquake of 1984.
ASSESSMENT OF DAMAGE TO HISTORICAL MONUMENTS OF TURKEY CONTINUES
The statement from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism underlines that detailed investigations into the damage caused to registered historical buildings and museums, affiliated or not affiliated with the Ministry, located in 10 earthquake-affected southeastern provinces of Turkey, will continue.