Turkish Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Institute inaugurates in Gaziantep with the support of the EU
The inauguration of the Turkish Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Institute in Gaziantep, Southern Türkiye – established by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Türkiye, the Municipality of Gaziantep and the European Union – took place on 25 October 2023. The event counted over 100 participants from all over the country. Guy Clausse represented Europa Nostra, at the invitation also of the Delegation of the European Union to Türkiye, which has supported the investment into the Institute over the last few years.
The rich archaeological and diverse other cultural heritage sites both in the Gaziantep region as well as at a national level justify the creation of such Institute, and the support by and the future cooperation with the EU also gives an additional dimension to the Institute.
Gaziantep is the 6th largest city in Türkiye with a population close to 3 million; it increased in the last few years notably because of refugees from nearby Syria and, more recently, people moving into the city after the devastating earthquake in February 2023. The city itself was less damaged by the earthquake than nearby Antioch/Hathay province; still, works are ongoing in the city to repair the damaged old fortress and several mosques, notably the minarets. It is noteworthy that in Türkiye, so far seven foreign institutes have been working, but there was no corresponding national Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Institute.
The buildings where the Institute is now located are themselves of historical value: The “Latin School” was built in 1860 and the “Kendirli Church” next door was built in 1898 as an Armenian Church and later successively became a community centre, an orphanage, a national education directorate office and a cultural centre, before restoration works started in 2018. An adjacent four-floor apartment building is to be torn down and the corresponding space to be added to the already existing laboratory installations.
The Institute has a specialised library, the country’s first “Digital Archaeology Archive” (with 1.4 million documents scanned); it publishes a series of books on archaeology (27 publications so far, partly also in English), and its scientific journal “TARE”. It organises training programmes, prepares archaeological tour routes within and outside the country and has the first Archaeometry Laboratory in the country. For the time being, the Institute has on an interim basis five full-time employees, but it also draws on a large number of experts. A Sub-Director is to be nominated soon and so will be the Director as well as the full team; it is clear then that this Institute can then enlarge its already impressive work.
The inauguration ceremony was well organised and counted over 100 participants from all over the country, including Ambassadors (notably Mr Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Ambassador and Head of EU Delegation to Türkiye), Ministry representatives (notably the Ministry of Culture and Tourism), regional and local authorities, and academic representatives from universities and institutes (e.g. Prof. Felix Pirson, Director of German Archaeological Institute Istanbul).
The programme featured visits to the various laboratories and other infrastructures of the Institute, as well as some visits to other cultural sites in town. During a meeting, the Ambassador Mr Meyer-Landrut and the Mayor of Gaziantep, Ms Fatma Sahin reaffirmed their interest in pursuing their cooperation. To be noted was the strong presence of the EU Delegation in Türkiye, including the Ambassador, Alexander Fricke, Head of Section, Seda Erden, Programme Manager and a press officer.
To be added is the presence of Ms Özlem Basdogan from BIAA (British Institute at Ankara), who underlined their satisfaction at having received a Europa Nostra Award in 2020 for the project SARAT – Safeguarding Archaeological Assets of Türkiye.