5 more cultural assets from Turkey added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List

Sculpture from Karatepe-Arslantaş archaeological site
Sculpture from Karatepe-Arslantaş archaeological site

Five new historical places located in Turkey were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List on April the 14th of 2020, increasing the number of objects on this list to 83. The five new places are: historical town of Beypazarı in Ankara Province, the historical harbour city of Izmir on the Aegean coast, Karatepe-Arslantaş archaeological site in Osmaniye Province, Koramaz Valley in Kayseri Province, and the Zerzevan Castle and Mithraeum in Diyarbakır Province. Moreover, the list of Fortifications on Genoese Trade Routes from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, first registered in 2013 was extended by the addition of two places: Çeşme Fortress and Güvercinada Fortress in Kuşadası.

Beypazarı was a crucial junction point on the road route connecting Istanbul to Ankara from the Middle Ages to very recent period. It was also among the main centers of the production of sof, i.e. a kind of clothing made from mohair wool, especially in the Ottoman period. The town developed around the neighbourhoods consisting of the traditional houses that surround the historical trade center and were mostly built in the late 19th and early 20th century. They clearly display the practices of the Ottoman urban system in a rural town with its religious, social and commercial structures.

Old Smyrna was located on a small peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus at the northeastern corner of the inner Gulf of Izmir, at the edge of a fertile plain and at the foot of Mount Yamanlar. This settlement commanded the gulf. Today, the archaeological site, named Bayraklı Höyüğü, is approximately 700 metres inland, in the Tepekule neighbourhood. New Smyrna developed on the slopes of the Mount Pagos and alongside the coastal strait, immediately below where a small bay existed until the 18th century. Smyrna-Izmir has remained a continuous settlement site to date, still bearing the traces of the Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Principalities (Beyliks), and Ottoman periods.

The date of the construction of the Karatepe-Arslantaş fortress has been the subject of debate among scientists for a long time. Currently, most of them date it back to the late 8th or early 7th century BCE, on the basis of the known inscriptions. It means that Karatepe-Aslantaş is one of the latest archaeological sites where the Luwian language inscriptions have been discovered. By the 8th century, the Hittite Empire with the capital in Hattusas, had collapsed, in the turmoil of the so-called Sea Peoples invasion. It left behind a series of smaller kingdoms, scattered in the area of southeastern Asia Minor, mainly around Gaziantep, Malatya, and Osmaniye.

Koramaz Valley with its volcanic landscape, convenient structure for agriculture, freshwater bodies and the soft structure of rocks has been a living space for different civilizations. It accommodates a wide range of cultural heritage elements with their different characteristic features that have a history of thousands of years. The alteration and development of civilizations and the change in the architecture can be seen in all layers of the valley. For instance, the columbaria in the valley were initially built in the period of Emperor Augustus. The columbaria built after Augustus gained advanced functions and those built after Tiberius evolved into the above-ground structure.

Zerzevan Castle's location was at a strategic point on the way from Amida (Diyarbakır) to Dara (Mardin), from Edessa (Şanlıurfa) to Nisibis (Nusaybin) in the ancient times. The existence of a castle named Kinabu on the edge of the ancient road which was used for commercial and military purposes is first asserted in the Assyrian Period. The route was of great importance in the times of the Roman Empire when the Sassanid armies marched this road during the western campaigns of 359, 502 and 604 CE and captured Zerzevan Castle. The hinterland of Zerzevan Castle, which formed the extreme eastern border of the Roman Empire, witnessed great struggles between the two great powers of the time, Rome and Parthians/Sassanids, who wanted to dominate the region economically, politically and militarily. Mithraeum, the most important structure of Zerzevan Castle, was built on the north end of the walls by carving the main rock into the underground.