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Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, History, Culture, Museums & exhibitions, News

Turkey’s underwater cultural heritage in danger

From Hürriyet Daily News:

Underwater cultural heritage is being damaged by urban resorts, industrial development and sport divers, according to a number of Turkish experts, who complained about the ineffectiveness of legal measures on the matter during a Monday meeting.

“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,” Dr. Ufuk Kocabaş, head of Istanbul University’s Department of Marine Archaeology, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Kocabaş, who is also in charge of the recent Byzantium shipwreck excavations in Istanbul’s Yenikapı district discovered during the construction of the Marmaray tunnel, was one of a number of experts attending the Regional Meeting on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, held at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum.

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.

During the Yenikapı excavation project, which has been continuing for five years, 35 shipwrecks dating back to Byzantium were discovered. Kocabaş said they had completed the conservation of 23 of the ships and noted that a team of 600 workers, 50 archaeologists from the Istanbul Archeology Museum and 30 academics from Istanbul University cooperated in the endeavor.

Asked whether the Marmaray project had damaged the ruins in any way, Kocabaş said it would have been hard for them to find the financial support to carry out such an extended study without help from the authorities undertaking the massive transportation project.

“We couldn’t have found the financial support without the benefit of the Marmaray budget. Even though this is called a salvage excavation, we have the privilege of determining our own deadline,” said Kocabaş, noting that conservation takes a longer time.

What is unique about the excavation is the discovery of Byzantine galiots, or warships, Kocabaş said, adding that researchers learned that technique applied was the opposite of what is currently used.

“In contemporary ship construction technology, the skeleton of the ship is first prepared and the outer coat is applied later. But, the Byzantine galiots were designed completely in reverse,” Kocabaş said, adding that nobody knew how a galiot was constructed before the discovery.

Thanks to this discovery, academics focused on the ship construction of the period, including the time span between the sixth century A.D. and the 11th, said Kocabaş.

Within the scope of the project, a museum where the findings will be displayed will be created. “Yenikapı and the Golden Horn are some of the candidate areas for the museum to be located,” said Kocabaş.

Replicas of the ships will be also designed so that people can enjoy the feel of being on an ancient ship.

From Hürriyet Daily News.

Filed under: Archaeology, Heritage, , , , , , , , ,

Colosseum to open gladiator tunnels to public

From Telegraph:

The dark stone tunnels in which gladiators prepared to do battle in the Colosseum are being opened to the public for the first time.

But archeologists are concerned about the impact that millions of tourists will have on the subterranean maze of tunnels and galleries as they seek to experience their very own Gladiator moment, re-enacting scenes from the Ridley Scott blockbuster starring Russell Crowe.

From next week, visitors will be able to venture into the bowels of the amphitheatre, the largest ever built by the Romans, exploring the cells and passageways in which wild animals such as lions, tigers, bears and hyenas were corralled.

They were forced into cages and raised with a system of winches and pulleys to just beneath the floor of the sand-covered arena, emerging from rope-operated trap doors to do battle with other animals or with gladiators.

The largest animals – elephants, rhinoceroses and hippopotamuses – were too big for the hoists and would have entered through a gate directly into the arena.

Tourists will be able to see the remains of a sophisticated sewerage system which provided the Colosseum’s enormous crowds with dozens of drinking fountains and lavatories and even enabled the arena to be flooded for mock naval battles involving hundreds of gladiators on ships.

Roman bricks still line the floors of the dungeons and tunnels and stone stairways connect the two underground levels.

An underground passageway, which still exists, linked the Colosseum with a nearby gladiator barracks, the “ludus magnus”, the remains of which are also still visible.

Gladiators – who were mostly common criminals, slaves and prisoners of war – would emerge into the arena to the applause of 50,000 spectators.

Those that were killed in combat were carried out of the amphitheatre through the Porta Libitina – the Gate of Death.

“You can imagine being a gladiator and listening to the roar of those 50,000 people coming through the floorboards – that is what is magnificent about being down here,” said Darius Arya, the director of archaeology of the American Institute for Roman Culture.

“The animals would have been prepared for slaughter, or slaughtering: there were bears, boars, lions, tigers, even crocodiles. People would have been working on hoisting 20ft tall stage sets into the arena – there was more backstage pressure than for a Broadway show. The smell and the heat would have been incredible, especially in summer, and it would all have been done by candlelight.”

Opening up the underground area is intended to relieve crowding at one of Italy’s most popular ancient monuments – an average of 20,000 people converge on the Colosseum each day. Until now, only about 35 per cent of the vast stone-built stadium has been accessible.

The newly opened areas will be open to guided tours of a maximum of 25 people at a time.

“It is the first time people will have the chance to go down into the places where games and shows were organised,” said Rossella Rea, the director of the Colosseum.

However, Dr Arya said: “It’s great that these new areas are open but I’m concerned because there’s going to be a lot more traffic and a lot more wear and tear.

“They need to make sure that it is not trampled on. The conservator in me asks what guarantees are there that the place will still be in good shape in five or 10 years’ time.”

Visitors will also be able to access, for the first time in about 40 years, the third highest of four tiers of seating, which in Roman times was reserved for poor citizens, freed slaves and foreigners.

The Colosseum was started by the emperor Vespasian in AD70 and completed 10 years later by his son, Titus, who held a 100 day inauguration festival in which 9,000 animals were killed.

From Telegraph.

Filed under: Archaeology, Heritage, , , , , , , , , , ,

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