The terrible loss of life and infrastructure in Turkey and Syria due to the recent massive earthquake, and the ongoing rescue efforts and delivery of humanitarian aid to survivors, are undoubtedly the most important priorities at this stage of the post-disaster period. However, given the historical importance of many archaeological sites in the area – and the obvious fragility of many of them due to their tremendous age, in an earthquake that destroyed many modern buildings – there has also been much concern about the possible damage may have been caused to them as well.
It is a tiny glimmer of good news then, amongst a deluge of terrible news, to hear word from the Turkish Ministry of Culture that many of the archaeological sites in the region – and museums holding excavated relics – appear to have survived intact, including Göbekli Tepe.
According to Google Translate, the statement from the Ministry is as follows (Turkish speakers, feel free to send me any corrections):
In the earthquake that took place on 06.02.2023 and affected ten provinces, our Ministry has been carrying out necessary studies from the first moment on the health of our personnel, the safety of our museums and archaeological sites, the condition of our museum building and artifacts, and the protection of our cultural assets.
No damage occurred in our Gaziantep, Şanlurfa, Kilis, Osmaniye, Diyarbakır and Adana Museums, which were affected by the earthquake. In our Kahramanmaraş, Elbistan, Adıyaman and Malatya Museums, no damage has occurred except for minor cracks. No serious damage has been detected in the collections of our museums.
However, considering the possibility that the buildings around it may pose a danger, the portable collection of our Kahramanmaraş Museum has been transferred to a safe museum.
Damage occurred in a part of our Hatay Archeology Museum. Our Ministry provided the fastest and most comprehensive personnel reinforcement to this museum in line with our emergency action plan. In addition, solar-powered camera systems have been installed in our museum in order to prevent power cuts from creating a security weakness.
In Malatya Arslantepe, one of our World Heritage Sites, it has been determined that there are slight slips from the mudbrick walls and some collapses in the temporary roof cover, but no serious damage has occurred in the area.
It is seen that there are light spills in a limited part of Diyarbakır city walls, St. It was determined that there were minor spills at the entrance of St. George’s Church. No adverse events were detected in other world heritage sites such as Sanliurfa Göbeklitepe and Adıyaman Mount Nemrut.
Detailed studies are continuing on the damage to the registered historical buildings and museums in the aforementioned cities, especially Gaziantep Castle and Malatya Yeni Mosque, whether or not they are affiliated with our Ministry.
Obviously, these are still early days in a time of crisis, and the efforts to save human lives will no doubt be taking precedence over assessing historical sites, so initial reports therefore may not turn out be entirely accurate. And some historical sites do appear to have suffered catastrophic damage, such as the 2000-year-old Gaziantep Castle.
For those wishing to provide assistance to the people of Turkey and Syria, German archaeologist Jens Notroff – who has worked at Göbekli Tepe – has suggested on his social media accounts that you could make a donation to Doctors Without Borders or the Red Crescent, or one of these other groups suggested at the Global Citizen website.