One month after the quake - cultural properties damage assessment

Monumental statues on Mount Nemrut - luckily undamaged by the recent earthquake
Monumental statues on Mount Nemrut - luckily undamaged by the recent earthquake

Almost precisely one month has passed since the deadly series of earthquakes hit southeastern Turkey and north-western Syria. As we are writing, more than 52,000 deaths have been confirmed, including around 46,000 in Turkey alone. The terrible events that affected some 14 million people were accompanied by widespread destruction in the area. Below we will look at the effects of this earthquake on Turkey's historical heritage, including buildings and archaeological sites such as Arslantepe, Antakya Archaeological Museum, and Gaziantep Castle.

In the area affected by the earthquake, there are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are: Mount Nemrut, the city walls and gardens of Hevsel in Diyarbakır, Göbekli Tepe, and the archaeological site of Arslantepe.

Göbekli Tepe, a 14,000-year-old archaeological site and ancient religious site near Şanlıurfa, survived the earthquake intact. The same applies to Mount Nemrut - the mausoleum of King Antiochus I, the ruler of the Kingdom of Commagene from the 1st century BCE, where, despite the difficult weather conditions prevailing in winter, it was confirmed that the monumental statues were not destroyed. However, some structures were damaged, and some parts of the mountain completely collapsed. Moreover, the 10-metre column with Greek inscriptions in the Karakuş Tumulus area, located near Mount Nemrut, collapsed in the earthquake. The huge rocks at the Arsameia, the summer capital of the Commagene Kingdom, were shattered by the devastating force of the earthquake and slid down into the valley below.

Less fortunate were the monuments in Diyarbakır, where the basalt defensive walls partially collapsed. At the archaeological site of Arslantepe, a place inhabited since the Uruk period and the administrative centre of the kingdom of Isuwa in the Bronze Age, the roof protecting the ancient buildings collapsed and fragments of walls made of adobe bricks collapsed.

In addition, the castle in Gaziantep, dating back to Roman times that recently underwent a major renovation, was severely damaged. A huge blow to the country was the destruction of the Habib-i Neccar Mosque, one of the first structures of this type in Anatolia. The Orthodox church in Antakya was also seriously damaged, as its roof and part of the walls collapsed.

As for the museums in the disaster area, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced that the Antakya Archaeological Museum was damaged, but the museums in Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Kilis, Osmaniye, Diyarbakır and Adana remained intact.

Meanwhile, several artefacts from the Kahramanmaraş Museum, the damaged Elbistan Museum, the Necmi Asfurolu Archaeology Museum, and the City Museum in Antakya were transported to the secure museums in the nearby provinces as the damage assessment of cultural properties continues.

A particularly painful loss for us is the collapse of the New Mosque (tr. Yeni Cami) in Malatya, our favourite city in Turkey. This mosque was one of the most recognizable symbols of the city and a place where we rested and took pictures.

If you have not already done so, we strongly encourage you to support the victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, for example by donating money to the Polish Humanitarian Action.