Select Committee on Trade and Industry Twelfth Report


Our recommendation and Government response

   66. The Secretary of State's fourth condition was the production of "a detailed plan to preserve as much of the archaeological heritage of Hasankeyf as possible". In our February Report, we considered the issue of Hasankeyf, the only town to be directly affected by the reservoir, and set out in brief the conflicting accounts of the current situation. It has remarkable early medieval remains. The site as a whole is still largely unexplored by archaeologists, who see potential for discoveries of far older remains, particularly in the caves set in the cliffs above the Tigris. We recommended "an independent expert evaluation of the adequacy of the rescue plan [to] be made publicly available before export credit is decided".[28]

67. The Government response agreed with the proposals for independent evaluation and stated that "we will want to see how far this can be provided by the EIAR and by the foreign universities working in association with the Turkish authorities on the archaeological impact of Ilisu".[29] In response to our query later in the year as to progress in considering this recommendation, the Department told us in November 2000 that "Evaluation of the archaeological and rescue plans for Hasankeyf will form part of the EIAR. The World Bank is providing some funding from its Historical Conservation programme. We will be discussing with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport what further assurance might be provided."[30] We find it hard to envisage an environmental impact assessment doubling up as an expert evaluation of an archaeological rescue programme. We are also disappointed that it should have taken a year for the idea of discussing the issue with the DCMS to have arisen, and then in the context of seeking "assurance" rather than objective evaluation.

Visit and briefings

68. We visited the citadel and upper city site at Hasankeyf, and the central excavation area in the Lower Town, the site of the old mosque. We had a most useful private meeting at Ankara University with Professor Olus Arik, who has been associated with the site for many years, having first visited it in 1986. He has published a number of articles on it. He forwarded to us his latest plan and programme for 2001, together with a full description of the site. We have drawn on the illustrated book published in 1999 by TACDAM (see below) covering activities in 1998 in the Ilisu and Carchemish dam Reservoir areas; on a CD-ROM on activities in 1999, which cannot be printed out; and on our discussions and subsequent correspondence with some of those we met in Ankara, including the Director of the British School at Ankara.



  69. Hasankeyf is a breathtakingly beautiful and remote site, with a ruined medieval bridge over the Tigris. It is designated as a site of historic importance, too late to prevent much of the Lower City being built over in the recent past or the construction of a road through the site. The caves, in one of which we had an informal lunch with a large number of local people, are being badly affected by erosion. The castle remains on the rock citadel are also crumbling. The site as a whole is being badly affected by the number of visitors and the use of the citadel for tea houses and restaurants. The local officials' view is that the town will soon be uninhabitable in any event because it cannot be given proper drainage and infrastructure without disturbing the historical remains.

70. All of the lower sites and most of the citadel would be covered by the reservoir; those parts remaining above water would inevitably crumble away swiftly as the stone below absorbs water. We were told that "sealing" the flat sites to be submerged is not a realistic option.


  71. In the early 1990s GAP had initiated some exploratory excavation, but for most of the decade the security situation had rendered it impossible to carry out any serious work. Two assistants at a nearby site were indeed murdered. In 1998 a team of 20 professionals and students and 100 workmen funded by the DSI undertook a campaign of excavation of the central excavation area. In 1999 Professor Arik had sought further funding but had only received half of his requests. More or less the same happened in 2000. His latest plan seeks 900 billion Turkish lire over the next three years, based on a full programme of survey and documentation, and eventual transfer of finds.

72. We would not seek to judge the extent to which Professor Arik's programme deserves funding on the scale he seeks. What matters is whether the Turkish administration can meet the Secretary of State's condition. "Preservation" of the heritage in the context of the threat of inundation can only mean removal of some artefacts and full recording. Little can be moved. The Government's first response to our Report suggests that the improbable prospect of relocating buildings from the lower town and conserving the Citadel was taken more seriously than it should have been in Whitehall, and that it was believed that "teams" of archaeologists from foreign universities were working in the area. The fact has to be faced that the Ilisu dam would mean the end of Hasankeyf and the loss of that part of the Turkish national heritage, and that future funding will at best be directed to rescue. We sense that if classical remains were thus threatened there would be more concern. We reiterate our view that ECAs should commission some independent assessment of the adequacy of the Turkish administration's funding of plans for Hasankeyf.

Tigris valley

73. Following our visit and the briefings we received, our principal concern on the heritage issue is not with Hasankeyf, which has been the centre of attention, but the archaeological heritage of the rest of the area to be flooded. This aspect was overlooked in our earlier Report. It was also an unfortunate omission by the ECAs involved, including the ECGD. The Turkish authorities are funding rescue archaeology in the Tigris valley and its tributaries, through a specialist Centre of the Middle East Technical University at Ankara, TACDAM, headed by Professor Numan Tuna. Professor Tuna briefed us at our meeting at DSI headquarters and subsequently talked to one Member and the Clerk at greater length and in greater detail at his Institute. In response to our request, he also forwarded details of the TACDAM Ilisu Salvage project plans for 2001, and a list of the sites identified.

74. An extensive survey of the Tigris and Euphrates areas likely to be inundated by dams in prospect, including Ilisu, was carried out between 1987 and 1990 by Professor Algaze of the University of California at San Diego. The results have been published in several articles in archaeological journals. Professor Algaze identified and numbered over 200 sites of archaeological interest in the Ilisu reservoir area. For the next eight years the security situation rendered further work impracticable in the eastern areas along the Garzan and Botan tributaries.

75. In the last three years, the main focus of rescue archaeology has understandably been on the Euphrates projects, in advance of the completion of the Birecik and Carchemish dams, and in particular on the rescue of the Zeugma mosaics with substantial last minute funding from the US Packard Foundation. TACDAM have now reclassified, re-evaluated and prioritised the Algaze list. Some of the sites identified by Algaze have been damaged by agriculture or destroyed, notably in the western areas. Work on some other sites is under way, with the promise of transfer of effort from the Euphrates in 2001 and beyond.

76. The three Ilisu projects other than Hasankeyf recorded as having begun in 1998 are at Gre Dimse, Salat Tepe and Ziyaret Tepe. The 1999 report, which is far briefer, identifies two projects starting for the first time in 1999: Boz Tepe and Talavas Tepe, and a survey of the upper Tigris. The results of the 2000 campaign are not yet available to us. We understand that a few further teams have been active, including one under the leadership of a British archaeologist based at the University of Munich, an Israeli team and one or two Turkish teams hitherto working in the Carchemish area. There seems to be no UK funded involvement, nor any UK academic institution involved: a matter deprecated by several of those we met. Funding of such involvement would of course present major problems to UK institutions and individuals. TACDAM cannot directly fund foreign projects, although it may be possible to provide technical assistance of various sorts in kind and the definition of what constitutes a site may be flexible . The Director-General of DSI, who was evidently personally committed to assisting, noted that if it was established that the dam was clearly going to go ahead, funding would be easier.



  • a mound 2 kms south of the main highway. In August 1998 a team from Bilkent university, Ankara, under the leadership of Dr Norbert Karg, a German archaeologist, spent two days on the mound. They were unable to hire workmen. We understand that the team had a difficult time with procuring the necessary permits. They record that they were able to use the University of Delaware dig house in Batman. In July 1999 the team resumed digging, and discovered what may be the first recorded complete early Iron Age painted vessel.


  • a mound near Bismil. In October 1998 Professor Tuba Okse of Haceteppe University, Diyarbakir, began a survey of the site. In 1999 work continued. The mound spans the time period from the 5th millennium BC to the medieval period. The pottery found suggests that this was an important centre controlling the Tigris valley.


  • this large multi-period mounded site has been the subject of survey and excavation since 1997 by Dr Timothy Matney of the University of Akron, Ohio, funded from several non-governmental sources. Ziyaret Tepe is a predominantly Late Bronze and Iron age settlement, possibly one of the three Assyrian-period border towns along the Tigris river. In 1998-99 the lines of the city walls were identified and they were due to be excavated in 2000. The site was described to us by one expert as a "national treasure".


  • these two sites between Bismil and Batman were explored in the summer of 1999 by the Upper Tigris Archaeological Research Project by a team under Dr Bradley Parker of the University of Utah. The excavations and surveys carried out suggest a long history for both sites, and suggest that Talavas Tepe was home to an indigenous culture which flourished prior to Assyrian intervention.


  • Dr Eyyup Ay of Kirikkale University carried out in a period of 12 days in 1999 a survey of over a dozen sites between the Batman river and Bismil, with the intention of further work in later years.

77. There is no difficulty in producing plans for Hasankeyf and for the archaeological sites in the reservoir area. The professional archaeologists at TACDAM have identified a number of priority sites for work: a few scattered red squares on the map, surrounded by red dots for sites which have little or no prospect of exploration before inundation. The difficulty lies elsewhere —

  • funding: there are limits to the funding which DSI makes available for rescue archaeology, however sympathetic. The expenses beyond the actual " digging" are significant, including recording and publication. It is also not easy to get such funding from overseas agencies. The rules on Turkish funding of foreign teams could usefully be more flexible.

  • priorities: although there is no reason to quarrel with TACDAM's work in seeking to identify the sites most deserving of further work, the process of triage is of course a chancy one and involves the potential that a major site may be lost or only discovered at the last moment. There is also a delicate balance between the funding of work at Hasankeyf, which has by now become the symbol of Ilisu abroad, and the possibly more archaeologically interesting but less immediately appealing sites.

  • uncertainty: for those seeking to block the reservoir, pressing too hard for funding of rescue archaeology may look like admission of defeat; conversely, those willing to help fund such work, such as foreign contractors, may not wish to be seen to prejudge the outcome.

  • staffing: the supply of appropriately qualified specialists within Turkey is naturally limited. Those within the international archaeological community anxious to take part do not always find it easy to get permits from the bureaucracy.

78. We are entitled to see a realistic archaeological plan as required in the Secretary of State's announcement of December 1999. We still await the Government's proposals for a review of that plan. We consider that the condition should be extended to cover the whole of the reservoir area and land affected by it, and that a "detailed" plan must by definition include costing.

HC 200, para 27 Back

29  HC 482, page vi Back

30  HC 109, Ev, p 23  Back

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