One of the most important Roman archaeological sites in Turkey will soon be underwater.
The Roman spa town of Allianoi will be submerged beneath a reservoir once the nearby Yortanli dam becomes operational. The town was built in the second century AD near Bergama (ancient Pergamon) and has remained remarkably preserved. Archaeologists have uncovered baths, sculptures, artifacts, and elaborate mosaics that are giving them insights into Roman medicine and culture.
The site has become a battleground between archaeologists and European Union cultural officials on one side, and the Turkish government and farmers on the other. Local farmers are eager to see the dam finished because it will irrigate almost 20,000 acres of land. The EU has weighed in on the controversy because Turkey hopes to become a member state, yet the construction goes against both EU and Turkish heritage preservation laws.
Ironically, the site was only discovered because of an archaeological survey conducted in anticipation of the dam’s construction.
Only a quarter of the town has been excavated so far. Workers are currently burying the site in sand in order to protect it when it gets inundated.
[Photo courtesy Cretanforever via Wikimedia Commons]