Turkey’s archaeological reserves are endless and often endangered. Whether by dams or industrial development, the nation’s cultural heritage is consistently threatened. Archaeologists now bemoan that its underwater artifacts are also at risk. Whereas Lebanon’s divers face muddy waters devoid of life, Turkey’s divers often discover treasures. Turning discovered bounty over to the appropriate authorities would ensure their addition to the historical record, but sport divers are bagging them instead.
When the Marmaray tunnel project was first commissioned, authorities helped fund a gargantuan underwater excavation and conservation initiative.
“During the Yenikapı excavation project, which has been continuing for five years, 35 shipwrecks dating back to Byzantium were discovered,” according to Hürriyet Daily News.
The paper added that 23 of the ships have been preserved with help from 600 workers, 50 archaeologists from the Istanbul Archeology Museum and 30 academics from Istanbul University.
“What is unique about the excavation is the discovery of Byzantine galiots, or warships,” the head of Istanbul University’s Dept. of Marine Archaeology, Dr. Ufuk Kocabaş told the paper, adding that “researchers learned that technique applied was the opposite of what is currently used.”
But sport divers are still finding underwater jewels.
Dr. Ufuk Kocabaş explained that the law designed to protect against pilfering Turkey’s cultural heritage is ineffective.
“When you examine Law no. 2863, it is satisfactory from the perspective of protecting underwater cultural heritage, but the official sanctions are not sufficient. When a sport diver at 30 meters deep finds an amphora [a type of ceramic vase with two handles], he considers that a huge success and wants to keep it.”
“Sport divers collecting amphoras makes work difficult for archaeologists, said Kocabaş, adding that an awareness of protecting culture should be fostered in the public through education,” according to HDN.
More on Turkey and its historical heritage:
image via bazylek100