A stork wheels over the ancient mosque, flying solo in a sky of seamless blue. Circling lower it executes a seemingly impossible landing on a nest precariously perched atop the minaret. Far below, the Tigris is flowing lazily towards Iraq, its sparkle extinguished by the lengthening shadow cast by cliff and citadel. This is Hasankeyf, fortress of rock, in Anatolia, Turkey’s far east. Dug into the southern slopes of the Raman mountains, the small town has for millennia guarded the river crossing, though perhaps not for much longer. “It is a jewel of history,” says my guide, Remzi Bozbay. “Soon it will become sunken treasure.”
Archaeology often has a lot to do with politics – the current argument between Germany and Turkey is a prime example. Hermann Parzinger, head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, last December accused Turkey of displaying “almost chauvinistic behavior.” In reply, the Turkish culture minister Ömer Celik told German news magazine Der Spiegel that he demanded an apology, and he asked for five ancient objects to be returned that are currently shown in museums in Berlin. He claims they were taken out of Turkey illegally. Parzinger rejects any accusations of illegality for three of these objects: In December 2012, he said that the torso of the Fisherman of Aphrodisias, the sarcophagus from the Haci Ibrahim Veli tomb and a 13th-century prayer niche were all acquired legally.
Read More: Archaeology Strains German-Turkish Relations
The tomb of Nasreddin Hoca, known throughout the Middle East for his pithy stories that usually end, like Aesop’s Fables, in the teaching of a moral, is believed to have been discovered in Eskişehir’s Sivrihisar district by a researcher from Anadolu University.
Excavations continuing as part of the project to pedestrianize Taksim have revealed two water outlets 80 centimeters in diameter from the late Ottoman period, halting work in the area. Istanbul Culture and Tourism Director Ahmet Emre Bilgili issued a statement that the historical remains were 60-70 meters below the asphalt, adding that he and Istanbul Archaeology Museums Director Zeynep Kızıltan inspected the excavation area.
Turkey has been accused of cultural chauvinism and attempting to blackmail some of the world’s most important museums in the wake of its demands for the return of thousands of archaeological treasures.
Read More: In Pursuit of Its Archaeological Treasures