KARKEMISH, TURKEY — The Syrian civil war is not the first conflict to complicate Professor Nicolò Marchetti’s efforts to turn Karkemish, an ancient city site on the banks of the Euphrates, on Turkey’s southern border and inside a restricted military zone, into a public archaeology park.
Before his team started digging, under the watchful eyes of armed Turkish soldiers, he had to make sure that land mines planted in the 1950s had all been cleared away.
Mr. Marchetti — a tanned and lanky version of Hollywood’s Indiana Jones, who teaches Near Eastern, or pre-classical, archaeology at the University of Bologna — has led excavations at Karkemish on and off for two years after being granted the first access allowed to anyone in decades. Read more.
The discovery of archaeological remains predating 8,000 years ago in the North Sea and English Channel suggest that the Arabian Gulf also has a similar potential for the favourable survival of sites or organic deposits, Qatar National Historical Environmental Record Project co-director Richard Cuttler told Gulf Times.
QNHER is being developed as part of the Remote Sensing Project, a joint initiative between the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) under the guidance of head of antiquities Faisal al-Naimi, and the University of Birmingham, where Cuttler is a research fellow.
The Arabian Gulf is a fairly shallow sea and during the Last Glacial Maximum, which occurred about 18,000 years ago, sea levels were more than 100 metres lower than today, explained Cuttler.
This meant that up until 8,000 years ago much of the Gulf was an open landscape with large lakes and a river which was formerly the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Read more.
Anti-government protests gripping Syria have forced archaeologists to abandon excavation work on ancient ruins on the banks of the Euphrates, with the little-explored sites now at risk of being lost forever when a planned dam floods the area.
Construction on the Halabiyeh hydropower dam begins next year, despite opposition from cultural and environmental experts, leaving a narrow window before many Bronze Age, Roman and Byzantine sites disappear beneath the waters. Archaeologists working on the Byzantine-era fortress of Zalabiyeh say they were on the cusp of finding out why the citadel was abandoned in the 8th century, but as the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad gathers pace and the regime unleashes its forces to crush it, the experts have been forced to pull out.
Dr Emma Loosley, an archaeologist and art historian with the University of Manchester, was invited by Syria’s Department of Antiquities to work on the site. She said Zalabiyeh overlooked the narrowest point in the Euphrates, and was on a vital trading route. Read more.
The first non-Iraqi archaeological investigation of the Tigris-Euphrates delta in 20 years was a preliminary foray by three women who began to explore the links between wetland resources and the emergence and growth of cities last year.
“Foreign investigations in Iraq stopped in the 1990s,” said Carrie Hritz, assistant professor of anthropology, Penn State. “Iraqis continued research, but because their work is unpublished, we are unsure of where they surveyed.”
The marshlands in Iraq and Iran were drained between 1950 and the 1990s. While initial explanations were that Iraq needed the land for agricultural uses, more often than not, politics played a role. After the first Gulf war, Saddam Hussein drained the areas between the Tigris and Euphrates to control and punish Shia dissidents among the Marsh Arabs. Read more.