Art & Architecture + Turkey

Near East: Reliefs in Mersin fall victims to treasure hunters
The walls of the Şeytan Deresi Canyon in Mersin are home to some of the most unique reliefs in the world, but a lack of formal protection has resulted in treasure hunters damaging the artwork despite the lack of any valuables in the area.

Reliefs in Mersin fall victims to treasure hunters
Funerary reliefs in the Şeytan Deresi Canyon
in Mersin [Credit: DHA]

“Treasure hunters dig these places for nothing and damage the reliefs. People carved their reliefs there in ancient times but established their graveyards in ... different parts of the valley that have yet to be discovered,” said Mersin University Archaeology Department Professor Serra Durugönül regarding the Adamkayalar (man-rocks) reliefs, which consist of 11 men, four women, two children, a mountain goat and an eagle.

The reliefs, which dates from the second and third centuries BC, are located in such a difficult location that even mountain goats experience difficulty in accessing them.

Despite all the difficulties, the Adamkayalar region has been looted by treasure hunters for years even though no historical artefacts have been found there.

The professor said she had first seen the region in 1980, noting that its situation was better then than today.

“People living in that era established their graveyards in a variety of different places to protect them from robbers. Actually, it is impossible to find the places of these graves,” Durugönül said. “Nobody has so far succeeded in finding anything there because they can’t. There are similar geographical and topographical valleys like this one, but they don’t have such rich reliefs. It is possible to see various graveyards and reliefs while walking through the Şeytan Deresi Canyon but all of them have been damaged.”

Durungönül said they had made some proposals to the Mersin Governor’s Office for the protection of the region.

“We made an official application to the Mersin Governor’s Office years ago. We suggested a project for the establishment of a walking trail there as well as a platform for people to walk there easily, along with security cameras. The best solution is to post a guard there. This guard could oversee the entrances and exits and also give information to visitors about the region like a tourist guide. The governor’s office leaned toward our proposal and informed the ministry about the issue, but we are still at the same point,” she said.

“Forget about Turkey, no place in the Mediterranean region, or even Europe, has such reliefs that are related to each other. The Adamkayalar were not finished at one time; they were finished one after the other and the earliest example dates back to the second century, and the last one dates back to the third century. People buried the dead for 500 years and then came back to commemorate them,” the professor said.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [December 31, 2015]