How have Turkey’s world heritage sites fared in the earthquake aftermath?
Two earthquakes that rank among the most destructive in modern history struck Turkey in the early morning on February 6. The death toll is currently reported at over 20,000 people though this figure is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
The earthquake hit in a region historically known as the “Fertile Crescent” in upper Mesopotamia. This area of the world has been home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations and retains landmarks of that time.
While some historic sites, such as the Gaziantep Castle, partly crumbled in the earthquake, others remain. According to Al-Monitor, Gobekli Tepe or “potbelly hill” in English, is one of the world’s oldest known places of worship, dating back to the 10th millennium BC. It is among the oldest megalithic structures discovered in the world. Drawing a significant number of tourists to the region, Gobekli Tepe is also included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
A UNESCO spokersperon reports that, “According to a preliminary damage assessment undertaken by the national authorities, the World Heritage site of Gobekli Tepe does not seem to have been damaged.”
The medieval tourist attraction of Arslantepe Mound, another World Heritage Site, was partially damaged though it still stands. At Mount Nemrut, home to statues of ancient Greek and Persian goddesses that were commissioned by King Antioches I of Commagene. Authorities have not been able to detect any damage. The fate of a Cenovesean-era watchtower and the Vespasianus Titus Tunnel remain unknown.
Other structures have not been so fortunate. Some buildings at Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens have collapsed, though the UNESCO heritage site is not entirely demolished.
The city of Hatay is among the hardest hit in the earthquakes. Known as an “open-air museum” for the variety of its multireligious and multiethnic landmarks, buildings, and historical sites, many of Hatay’s heritage now forms part of the earthquake wreckage. The historical Habibi-I Najjar Mosque has been destroyed while the main synagogue for the Jewish minority in Antioch has been damaged. In Hatay’s Iskenderun district, the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and the Cathedral of the Annunciation, both centers of worship dating back to the 19th century, have sustained severe damage.