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23 August 2010
Construction vehicles threaten ancient Turkish settlement

After a man was killed by a falling rock at the ancient city of Hasankeyf (southeastern Turkey), the subsequent investigation has revealed that construction vehicles working in the area have brought the ancient settlement close to collapse.
     Archaeologist Ercan Alpay, a member of the committee formed by the 'Initiative to Revive Hasankeyf' to investigate the death of a man killed July 13 when a rock fell from a tower in the area, has stated: "It is a crime by law to enter protected areas with heavy-duty vehicles. Before the rock broke, there were cracks but the necessary precautions were not taken."
     The road to the ancient bazaar and tents located near the Tigris River were closed to vehicle and passenger traffic after the fatal incident. "Excavating with vehicles in a historical site has nothing to do with scientific research," Alpay said, adding that such work can do untold damage to a fragile site such as Hasankeyf. The committee, which is made up of archaeologists, architects and building and geology engineers, reported that caves used as dwellings as early as 800 B.C. had suffered damage. Its findings concluded that the ancient city is at risk of collapse. "In the areas that are at high risk of falling rocks despite the strengthening work, the construction of new dwellings or roads should be prohibited," nother expert from the committee, building engineer Murat Ekinci, said.
     However, the head of the Hasankeyf excavation team, Professor Abdüsselam Uluçam, denied the committee's allegations and said in a written statement that the vehicles were not used in excavations but for removing debris afterward. He also mentioned that the Culture and Tourism Ministry will establish a scientific commission to investigate areas of risk and the stability of rocks in the area.
     Approximately three million tourists visited Hasankeyf in 2008, but this number fell to 2.2 million in 2009 due to the economic crisis. The first six months of 2010 saw 1 million visitors, but tourism has again dropped off as a result of the rock accident and the subsequent closure of the historical area. The entire Hasankeyf area is expected to be flooded once construction of the Ilisu Dam is completed.
     
Source: Daily News (12 April 2010)

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