Boost for Turkey’s Gobeklitepe as UNESCO adds ‘ground zero for human history’ to World Heritage List

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On Sunday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Turkish archaeological site Gobeklitepe to the World Heritage List. (© DAI, Göbekli Tepe Project)
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On Sunday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Turkish archaeological site Gobeklitepe to the World Heritage List. (© DAI, Göbekli Tepe Project)
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On Sunday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Turkish archaeological site Gobeklitepe to the World Heritage List. (© DAI, Göbekli Tepe Project)
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On Sunday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Turkish archaeological site Gobeklitepe to the World Heritage List. (© DAI, Göbekli Tepe Project)
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On Sunday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Turkish archaeological site Gobeklitepe to the World Heritage List. (© DAI, Göbekli Tepe Project)
Updated 03 July 2018
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Boost for Turkey’s Gobeklitepe as UNESCO adds ‘ground zero for human history’ to World Heritage List

  • On Sunday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Turkish archaeological site Gobeklitepe to the World Heritage List
  • The site, located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa, was recently reopened to tourists following extensive restoration work

ANKARA: Few people were aware of Gobeklitepe before the start of the excavations there by researchers from Istanbul and Chicago universities in 1963.
On Sunday, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added the Turkish archaeological site, considered the “ground zero for human history,” to the World Heritage List.
The site had been on UNESCO’S so-called Tentative List for five years before the decision was taken, at the 42nd UNESCO World Heritage List Committee meeting held in Bahrain’s capital Manama, chaired by the country’s pioneering lawyer and diplomat Shaikha Haya bint Rashed Al-Khalifa. Turkey now has 18 cultural heritage sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Gobeklitepe, which translates as Potbelly Hill, is the world’s oldest known megalithic structure in Upper Mesopotamia. It dates back 12,000 years and is considered to be the world’s oldest temple. It is also among the oldest archaeological ruins in the world, featuring massive carved stones and T-shaped pillars that predate the invention of agriculture.
The site, located in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanliurfa, was recently reopened to tourists following extensive restoration work.
Professor Klaus Schmidt, a German archaeologist and pre-historian, led the wide-ranging excavations at Gobeklitepe from 1996 until his death in 2014, contributing through his research much that helped to rewrite the early history of civilization.
“We, as the archaeological team excavating the site, congratulate Turkey for this inscription into UNESCO’s world heritage list and are thankful for the unique opportunity of doing research at this important site,” said Jens Notroff, a researcher at the German Archaeological Institute and member of the Gobeklitepe research project.
The research team issued a statement saying: “The significance of the site for our understanding of the Neolithic transition in this key area of the Fertile Crescent can’t be stressed enough.
“But it’s not only an important site for us archaeologists. It’s a crucial site in world history and its inscription on the World Heritage List will underline this fact.”
Gobeklitepe is located at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent, an area often described as the “Cradle of Civilization” that covers the Middle East from the Arabian Gulf to Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
The addition of the site to the UNESCO list is expected to boost tourism at the site, which is in a region where visitor numbers have significantly declined because of the conflict in nearby Syria and the refugee crisis.
Sanliurfa, also known as Urfa and the City of Abraham, is renowned for its historic buildings with Arab-influenced architecture.
The population of the city is mainly a mixture of Turks, Kurds and Arabs. It is believed that Prophet Abraham was born and thrown into the fire in this city.
“Despite the negative effects of the nearby Syrian conflict and refugee crisis on tourism at the site, there is still a considerable number of tourists visiting the area,” said Isil Acehan, a post-doctoral fellow at the Foundation for Religious Sciences John XXIII in Bologna. “The coverage of the site by international news outlets and channels attracted more tourists.”
Acehan said that no matter how significant a site such as Gobeklitepe is to world history and heritage, not only must it meet certain criteria to merit being added to the World Heritage List, but so must the government responsible for it.
“For example, nominating states must clearly demonstrate their commitment to preserving the site,” she added.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Mechtild Rossler, the director of the Division for Heritage and the UNESCO World Heritage Center, said addition of Gobeklitepe to the World Heritage List is a great recognition of the scientific research at the site and the efforts to protect its outstanding heritage.
“This inscription will further raise awareness about this unique heritage globally and may also attract tourists and visitors and could be a motor for local and regional sustainable development,” she added.


Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

Updated 25 April 2019
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Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

  • The bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen
  • Govt forces detained the bird on suspicion that the attached GPS tracker was a spy device for Houthi militants

SANAA: Griffon vulture Nelson crossed into war-torn Yemen in search of food but ended up in the hands of Yemeni fighters — and temporarily in jail for suspected espionage.
The sand-colored bird came down in the country’s third city of Taiz, an unusual move for a young vulture that can soar for long distances across continents in search of food and moderate weather.
Nelson, approximately two years old, embarked on his journey in September 2018 from Bulgaria, where his wing was tagged and equipped with a satellite transmitter by the Fund for Wild Fauna and Flora (FWFF).
But he seems to have lost his way, eventually coming down into Taiz — under siege by Houthi rebels but controlled by pro-government forces, who mistook Nelson’s satellite transmitter for an espionage device and detained the bird.
Forces loyal to the government believed that the GPS tracker attached to the bird may have been a spy device for the rebels.
Hisham Al-Hoot, who represents the FWFF in Yemen, traveled from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Taiz to plead with local officials to release the helpless animal.
“It took about 12 days to get the bird,” he told AFP.
“The Bulgarian foreign ministry reached out to the Yemeni ambassador, who in turn contacted local officials (in Taiz) and told them to immediately give the organization the vulture.”
Hoot said that the bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen — where the FWFF lost track of the bird.
Nelson was MIA until April 5, when the conservation group received hundreds of messages from Yemenis concerned about the creatures’ welfare.
Today, the locally-famous vulture is being properly fed and getting stronger every day.
“When we first took him, he was in very bad condition,” said Hoot, adding that the bird was underweight.
Smiling, he puts on gloves and carefully handles the majestic creature — blowing it a kiss.
Hoot said the bird will be released in two months when he believed Nelson will have regained his full strength and his wing — broken somewhere during his journey — will have healed.
“We thought at first it would take six months for him to heal, but now we don’t think it will be more than two months,” he said.
Hoot said that Nelson was not able to find any source of sustenance in Yemen.
“They can eat carcasses of dead animals, but now there is no more with the current situation of war.
“This is what forced him to come down and stopped him from completing his journey.”
The four-year conflict in Yemen has unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with millions facing famine.
The war escalated in March 2015 when a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened to bolster the efforts of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Since then, at least 10,000 people — most of them civilians — have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization. Other rights groups estimate the toll could be much higher.