During the construction of a new business and cultural complex in Antalya, workers inadvertently discovered a number of ancient graves and historical artifacts, which have now become the site of extensive excavations that have revealed important new information about the history of the southern city but caused a rift between a local museum and university.
Following the destruction of a festival bazaar in the Doğu Garajı district of Antalya by the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, construction began on the Doğu Garajı Business and Culture Complex. Kadıahmetoğulları Construction undertook the project after obtaining the contract for construction March 15, 2008. But when workers discovered that the area was in fact an important cultural site, construction halted and excavations began.
The excavation of the site is being carried out by Antalya City Museum under the academic supervision of professors Nevzat Çelik and Havva İşkan Işık of Akdeniz University along with two associate professors and a team of 30 others from the university. After a delicate investigation, the ancient graves, covering an 8,000-square-meter area, were found to date back to Roman times.
City 200 years older
Supervising the excavation work on the site, the team from the Akdeniz University said the newly found graves and artifacts are of great importance as they indicate that the city of Antalya is 200 years older than was previously believed.
"We also came upon findings dating back to the Hellenistic Period in the third century B.C., besides the ancient graves pertaining to the Roman and Byzantium times," said Işık.
"The discoveries tell us that the Antalya district had been used as a residential site well before the time of Attalos, the Pergamon King, who was regarded as the founder of the city," the academic added.
New hotspot of Antalya
Visiting the site, Antalya Mayor Menderes Türel made changes to the building plans for the site -- originally allocated for a pedestrian mall -- with the aim of exhibiting the historically important site to tourists visiting the city.
"It is highly important for us to protect our historical artifacts and to pass them onto future generations. Upon the completion of this excavation, which I respect a lot, Antalya will gain a new hotspot. This will highly contribute to the international reputation of the city as well as to the growth of other sectors," said Türel, highlighting the importance of Antalya as a city of cultural and historical significance.
"We will have the opportunity to exhibit the ancient graves of thousands of years to domestic and international tourists by turning the excavation site into an open excursion area," noted Türel, who added that the business and culture complex would include a folk bazaar reminiscent of the building it replaced, complete with fish restaurants and trading and shopping centers.
Work progressing slowly
The excavation work in the district has caused a rift between Akdeniz University and Antalya City Museum, though they had initiated the "rescue excavations" together.
"We undertook the academic consultancy of the Doğu Garajı excavations as the sole university in the city. We worked with a team of 30 people and four professors, and found 38 ancient graves on the site," Nevzat Çevik, chairman of the archeology department of Akdeniz University, told the Turkish Daily News.
"According to our agreement with the Antalya City Museum, we would conduct the excavations for one-and-a-half months, which would be followed by a break for one month," noted Çevik. "The museum wanted to go on with the excavations despite our absence, which was of course unacceptable for us. We could not undertake the academic consultancy of a project which we were not involved in."
"Antalya City Museum created the conditions that forced us to abandon the project," emphasized Çevik, adding, "The museum told us that the works are progressing slowly since the excavation is too scientific. I see Antalya as a rather unlucky city for having such an understanding by one of its most important foundations."
"University opted to abandon project of own will'
"With the permission of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, we started the excavation works on May 12, 2008 with the aim of protecting our cultural heritage as well as preventing any attempts to steal the historical artifacts," Mustafa Demirel, acting director of Antalya City Museum, told the TDN.
Excavation work is continuing on an area of 22,000 square meters, with five archaeologists assigned by the museum, noted Demirel, adding: "Akdeniz University assigned their team to other excavation work in Kaş' Patara district and Kumluca's Rhadiopolis district between July 12 and September. However, the permission for the Doğu Garajı excavations has been given up to the end of 2008 by the ministry. In other words, we need to go on with the works with or without them in order to get the best output within the shortest possible time."
Emphasizing that Akdeniz University abandoned the project of their own accord without any demand from the museum, Demirel added, "The works are going on with great care and the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality is supporting us in this project with some technical aids."
Wow ... this is utterly silly.