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13 May 2013
40,000 boxes of Neolithic artifacts locked in Turkish warehouse

Marmaray Metro Project consists of the construction of an undersea rail tunnel under the Bosphorus strait in Turkey as well as the modernization of rail lines along the Sea of Marmara from Halkalı on the European side to Gebze on the Asian side. The archaeological excavations started in 2004 to accommodate the project are still uncompleted, while about 40,000 boxes of historical findings are under serious threat as they have been locked in depots.
     Though the 8,500-year-old historical artifacts from the Neolithic period drew worldwide interest, the excavations were stopped due to lack of funding. About 40,000 boxes of artifacts found in the excavations, which were carried out with the sponsorship of the Transportation Ministry State Ports and Airports Authority (DLH), were locked in depots and sealed.
     After an initial report that the objects had been sealed, Culture Minister Ömer Çelik announced that Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım had said an additional budget had been allocated to continue the excavations and the objects would be unsealed soon. Though three months have passed since that announcement, the seals on the depots have not been removed. The excavations have not been restarted and the dismissed archaeologists have not been rehired. The museum authorities said they were currently waiting for the budget to restart the excavations. DLH authorities, on the other hand, said they had provided the additional budget but they did not yet fulfill the conditions of the contract.
     The current condition of the artifacts is not known since they have been locked in depots for three months. A protocol made with DLH assured that financial support would be provided until they obtained full results from the excavations. As the discoveries of artifacts kept the Marmaray Project from being completed by the end of 2010, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in 2011, "Is any of this stuff more important than people?"

Edited from Hurriyet Daily News (4 May 2013)

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