Roman Archaeological Site in Turkey under threat

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Our attention has been drawn to the campaign to rescue Allianoi, an important Roman thermal bath-house site in Turkey, 18 miles from the city of Bergama (Pergamum).
Chief among the campaigners is Europa Nostra, the European federation for cultural heritage. They are busily raising awareness of the planned construction of an irrigation dam, the Yortanli Dam, that will flood the 2nd century site, adjudged to be a Class A archaeological site.

The matter has now become urgent since the dam is likely to be completed in November 2005. The process of inundation would then begin, covering the site with some 12-15m of water. However, the dam is not large and, according to archaeologists, could be sited in a different spot close at hand. This would still create a lake for irrigation purposes but would save Allianoi. Saving the site could increase the income of the wider region through tourism: visitor numbers could feasibly run into the 600,000s per year, suggests concerned site director Dr Yaras. Indeed, there is already a visitor centre and a carpark. And despite the lack of official support, over 35,000 of those visiting the site have signed a petition requesting that the site be preserved.

Allianoi was first settled in late Hellenistic Times, but was transformed into an important site by a major building programme during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138). The site’s archaeological importance derives from the fact that a large part of the complex is preserved to a height of two stories. It features a courtyard with six columns and beautiful, well preserved floor mosaics. A second fine colonnaded courtyard belongs to what was probably a healing complex. Since excavations began in 1988, archaeologists have also identified a number of installations for the production of glass and pottery, paved streets and a cult site sacred to Demeter. The presence of a thermal bath site in the countryside is a rarity since most Roman baths were situated in towns. A nearby Roman bridge is still in use.

To get involved and help save this precious site, please visit Europa Nostra’s website, www.europanostra.org, where there is an on-line appeal for Allianoi, encouraging people to write a letter to Turkish Minister of State, Mr Ali Babacan, responsible for EU Relations.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 13. Click here to subscribe

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