|17 September 2005
Turkish military bulldozes 8,000-year-old site
Recent reports that the Turkish Cypriot armed forces have bulldozed away an 8,000-year-old Neolithic site at the of the Karpas peninsula to make way for a flag pole was confirmed by both official and non official sources earlier this week. The site, known as Kastros, is situated 4km north of the Monastary of Apostolos Andreas that sits atop a steep hillside. The Monastary, was once known as the ‘Lourdes” of Cyprus, and was served by a group of volunteer priests and laymen. The remains of the monastery, if they have survived, now lie under a military road.
"The Neolithic settlement was on the side of a small hill leading to a plateau. The security forces built a road to the plateau which, it seems, has destroyed some or all of the Neolithic site," head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Famagusta Hasan Tekel told the “Cyprus Mail”. He added, however, that the road would have to be dug up before he could comment on the extent of the damage to the ancient settlement.
Tekel's statement came soon after the North's Economy and Tourism Ministry made a short statement saying it had only recently learned that the site had been bulldozed to make way for a road leading to a platform upon which the flags of Turkey and the 'TRNC' were placed. The flags were allegedly erected on July 18. The statement said, "Since receiving the news experts from the Antiquities and Museums Department have carried out inspections at the site and have now presented a report to the ministry of Economy and Tourism. The Ministry and the security forces are working together to do whatever is necessary."
News of the desecration of Kastros came out in an article published in the North's outspoken daily Afrika. The paper claimed the army had bulldozed the site without gaining permission from the authorities to do so. Tekel later confirmed to the Mail that the army had indeed neglected to contact any branch of the North's authorities for permission to build the road.
The Karpas Municipality was also implicated, in what has been described as an act of desecration, with its head Arif Ozbayrak admitting it was he who lent the Army a bulldozer and a digger to clear the area. Ozbayrak however denied responsibility by saying, "We didn't do it. The military wanted the equipment, so we gave it to them."
Kastros is said to be of immense archaeological importance. One source told the Cyprus Mail that the remains were as old as Chirokitia, which is believed to be the site of the earliest evidence of human existence on Cyprus and where evidence of handmade pottery was produced from the last period of the Neolithic Age II (3500- 3000 BCE). Nearby is Limassol, the Island’s largest seaside resort. In the Middle Ages, the Crusaders held Cyprus under the rule of Richard the Lionheart. It’s also been known to ancient traders of wine and sugar cane. The same source claimed to have information that the Turkish Cypriot security forces had simply bulldozed the remains away and "threw them as debris into the sea" and that the site had been "completely destroyed". However, a source at the North's Ministry of Economy and Tourism told the Mail they did not believe the military had destroyed the site out of malice. "I am very upset about what has happened, but I don't believe it was done knowingly. To anyone other than an expert it would have looked like so much rubble."
Formal excavations at Kastros began back in 1970 under the leadership of French archaeologist Alain LeBrun, but were put on hold after the Turkish invasion. A source told the Mail said that LeBrun had visited the site since the road had been built and was said to be "devastated".
LeBrun's excavations in the early 1970’s revealed a number of round dry-stone dwellings around 2.5 metres in diameter dating from the 6th millennium BCE. The Turkish Cypriot security forces refused to comment on the matter.
Source: Cyprus Mail (14 September 2005)
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