Carved walls, bas reliefs, sculptures and friezes dating back to 900 B.C. make up the priceless treasure trove that has come to light at the Carchemish archaeological site in south-eastern Turkey near the Syrian border, where a joint Italo-Turkish mission has been under way since 2011, resuming excavations following mine clearing operations.
Marchetti, “a sensational discovery”
An emotional Nicolò Marchetti, mission leader and director of the University of Bologna’s School of Specialisation in Archeological Treasures spoke of “a discover such as has not been seen in 50 years”. He and the mayor of Gaziantep, Fatma Sahin, University of Istanbul professor Hasan Peker announced this year’s extraordinary results to the press on Saturday. Involved for 10 years now in excavations in the country’s southeast, the professor, who was reached by telephone, described the “legendary site”, where even Lawrence of Arabia worked, as “a place between two nations – 55 hectares in Turkey and 35 in Syria – with the railway and border demarcation cutting the ancient city in two”.
Military base on the site, ISIS militias across the border
Precisely as a result of its strategic location, by 1920 the Turkish armed forces had already built a base on the site that is still operational, complete with barracks at the top of the acropolis and tanks lined up along digging areas. A presence that does not go unappreciated given the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS) on the other side of the border, who have thus far not created problems for the archaeological mission, except for one occasion last year when gunfire erupted at the border. “We have never had contact”, Marchetti confirms, otherwise engaged in the “frenetic developments” of the mission, whose staff of 35 includes archaeologists, architects, photographers and preservationists from the Universities of Bologna, Gaziantep and Istanbul. “A sensational discovery, were we deeply moved”, he confesses, describing “carved walls, bas reliefs, sculptures and friezes dating back to 900 B.C”.
Archaeological park opening planned for May 2015
“From the operational viewpoint it’s a paradise, even though our isolation is destined to end”, he adds, illustrating the ambitious plans for the area, with the creation of an archaeological park already in the advanced stages. Marchetti is a firm believer: “we want this region to have the benefit of the economic development that tourism brings, it seems right and ethical”, the Italian professor says, pointing out the area’s “many attractions, from food and wine to trekking”.