A 12,000-Year-Old City Is About To Be Washed Away On Purpose

The Hasankeyf citadel has, at different times, been a part of the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Mongol, and Ottoman Empires.

Hasankeyf Castle

Wikimedia Commons

A new major infrastructure project threatens one of the most impressive ancient sites in the world.

The Hasankeyf citadel in southeastern Turkey has been standing since the Middle Bronze Age and is some 12,000 years old. At different times, Hasankeyf been part of the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Mongol, and Ottoman empires. Replete with caves, spires, and ancient buildings, Hasankeyf remains a beautiful connection to a distant past.

However, The Guardian reports that construction of the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River is on the verge of raising water levels in the area and flood the citadel and 80% the city it was once part of.

This dam, part of the larger Southeast Anatolian project, has been in planning since the 1950s, but recently Turkish authorities have begun to demolish nearby cliff faces around the ancient city for “safety reasons.”

Beyond the damage to this landmark, as well as countless other unexplored historic sites the dam is projected to flood, this dam will displace around 80,000 people, most of them Kurds, who still live around and in this long-standing city.

Hasankey Ulu Camis

Wikimedia Commons

The dam will also severely change the delicate microclimates of the Tigris river basin, throwing the many endangered and threatened species that reside there in danger of extinction. This environmental damage will not stop at the Turkish border, and will have catastrophic effects on the biosphere of other nations that the Tigris runs through, cutting off their access to the free-flowing waters.

Zeynal Bey

Wikimedia CommonsHistoric mausoleum in Hasankeyf.

News of the ecological and historical damage that this dam will cause has already lead to numerous countries withdrawing funding for the project, including Germany, Austria and Switzerland who pulled their funding in 2009.

The Ilisu Dam will undoubtedly cause devastating ecological, communal, political and historical damage to the area.

Nevertheless, the Turkish government is going through with the project in the pursuit of creating this large hydroelectric dam. Officials claim it will bring vital industry to a neglected section of the country, but many independent estimates believe that the dam my cause a net negative for the region, with the societal and economic costs of the mass displacement of the regions inhabitants.


Next, read about how scientists have uncovered the living descendants of the ancient Canaanites. Then, check out the world’s oldest ‘smiley face’ that was found on an ancient jug in Turkey.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.
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