Monday, 31 August 2015

2015 Excavations, Hiatus or Termination of a Fractious Relationship

Is it possible that Prof Şahin and the archaeologists from Uludağ University have given up on the Myndos excavations at Gümüşlük?

A press article earlier this month may suggest that they could have moved on to pastures new:
Maybe Prof Şahin and the UU Archaeology Dept have finally decided to give up on Gümüşlük and its public & political machinations and move to a site where their efforts will be better appreciated.  

Initially there was a good relationship between the archaeologists and the residents, businesses and the Municipality but by 2007 the excavations had been suspended. When excavations recommenced in 2009 the official line was that the majority of the ancient city identified in 2005-2006 was on private land, and Rabbit Island was the only publicly owned land available to continue the research.

An alternative view could be that the locals, who originally thought that the archaeology may have been a way to boost the tourism, became concerned when they realised the extent of the remains and the consequences that increased protection orders would have on any plans for developing the area, considered Rabbit Island to be a safer bet. After all none of the historians and antiquarians who had previously visited the area e.g. G E Bean, J M Cook, W R Paton, C T Newton etc had ever suggested that there may be anything of interest on the island, other than the remains of a much later fort. I doubt even Prof Şahin envisaged the extent of the archaeological remains he was to uncover in the subsequent 5 years.

However the success of the excavations and the publicity regarding this previously little known period of the village’s history brought about a further rift in the relationships between the archaeologists and the residents.

For years people had been wading across to the island having heard of the local legend of the “Kings Road” and tales of King Mausolus and his Queen crossing to watch the sunset from the island. Residents associated with the tourist industry must have been rubbing their hands as the press covered stories of burials, skulls with nails driven in to them, the remains of a previously unknown early Christian church, a pre Christian temple and a dedication to a Roman Emperor. But unfortunately all that greeted the visitors was a barbed wire fence and keep out signs.

Whist it is understandable that the archaeologists needed to protect the exposed features, (and the open trenches and excavated structures such as the cisterns would be a public liability nightmare), I do think that more effort could have been made to provide information boards with photographs, perhaps even a small exhibition of some of the finds. 

In 2013 an association was launched by Turkish film star Salih Güney, with Prof Şahin as president, to promote and protect the ancient city of Myndos. This was a short lived alliance which ended acrimoniously after approximately 12 months. This time the disagreements were centred around the perceived slow rates of the excavations, disagreements over the protection of tombs and the alleged failure to secure funding for the excavation of the theatre. Reports in the Turkish press appear to suggest that Mr Güney referred to the Professor as the Mole of Myndos, digging little holes everywhere; in his reply Prof Şahin apparently likened Mr Güney to the adventure film character Indiana Jones.

The reasons for this year’s cancellation are unclear but the animosity between to the two sides cannot be helping the situation. Let’s hope that they can kiss and make up, and that this is just a temporary suspension of activities in Gümüşlük

Links to reports describing some of the disputes


  1. The basilica at Lake İznik was listed in the Archaeological Institute of America’s top 10 discoveries of 2014.

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