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Lost Roman Treasure

Damming the Past

 

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Turkey: Ancient Kurdish town revealed at Hasankeyf
Two hundred and sixty miles east of Zeugma, the Turkish village depicted in the NOVA program "Lost Roman Treasure," lies another village steeped in Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman history. It is called Hasankeyf. This ancient Kurdish town is still occupied today, with some of its residents living in 5,000 cave dwellings carved more than 2,000 years ago. (Some of the caves now sport satellite dishes.) Hasankeyf also bears the ruins of two small castles, an Assyrian-era temple later transformed into a mosque, and a now-dilapidated 12th-century bridge over the Tigris that was once regarded as the grandest in the region. Only two sites have been explored at Hasankeyf, both in 1991, leaving thousands of years worth of important structures and artifacts still lying beneath the village. Excavations at other villages nearby have revealed items dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.

The Turkish government is proposing to begin construction in 2002 of the Ilisu hydroelectric dam, which will create a 200-square-mile reservoir and flood Hasankeyf. (The project is part of Turkey's multibillion-dollar Southeast Anatolia Dam Project, which includes no fewer than 22 dams.) The dam will displace roughly 60,000 people and destroy archeological sites and artifacts not salvaged before the dam's scheduled completion by 2007. Local non-governmental organizations and archeologists from Turkey and abroad have actively protested the dam, while a group of Turkish archeologists has begun excavations at Hasankeyf.

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A 12th-century bridge at Hasankeyf lies in the path of inundation.

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Greg Berberian is the intern and Lexi Krock the editorial assistant of NOVA online.


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