Saturday, August 27, 2011

I decided to officially archive this blog on the day my DPhil was confirmed. But I have waited for the electronic publication of my thesis, Interrogating Archaeological Ethics in Conflict Zones: Cultural Heritage Work in Cyprus, to announce the archiving. From now on, I will blog at Conflict Antiquities.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kiledar: warred village, resettled

[Thanks to Dave S's comment on the Evretou photo blog, I will try to give each site photo blog a proper introduction; until then, I'll cross-post the introductory posts from Cultural Heritage in Conflict (or samarkeolog).]

I've just finished uploading photographs and largely descriptive notes on them to a new personal page on a resettled warred village, Kiledar: cultural heritage and community.

Based on the information I have, it [Kılıdar/Kiledar/Kileder] was 'evacuated' by the Turkish military in (1993 or) 1994; subsequently, nearby villagers were displaced by an earthquake and resettled themselves and rebuilt upon the ruins of the old village.

I don't have a research permit for Turkey, so I can't work in or on these places; I took time out for a negative heritage tour of northern Kurdistan/south-eastern Turkey.

Even having visited them on a - particularly grim - holiday, they will inform my work in Cyprus; but, I wanted to do something for them in themselves, so I'm borrowing the format I'm using for displaying negative heritage sites in Cyprus and putting them online.

(I'll put up the other warred villages' and other negative cultural heritage photos later. Kiledar's page and the others' colours may be unsympathetic or clash for a while, as I'm trying to find different suites of colours for my personal and work pages.)

In his Abnormal Interests, Duane Smith has recalled an archaeologist's statement that, 'One stone in a row does not make a wall' and queried, 'how many stones in a row do I need before I can call a collection of stones a wall? And do I need any other evidence besides a sufficiently long row of stones?'

They're important questions when the sites being inspected have been so ravaged that they're questions at all. (Aydın Örstan's blog on Snail's Tales has a post presenting the statistics underlying uncertainty in the interpretation of an ambiguous sample.)

At Clioaudio, Alun Salt wrote a post responding to Creationist theory and epistemology. Examining the theory of intelligent design, he posited that:
If I find a series of blocks on top of each other in rows, I'd conclude it was a wall. The reason I'd think it was a wall is that I've seen people build walls and I've built walls but I've never seen a natural process that can regularly create what would appear to be a Roman villa.
In warred villages, however, the sites are damaged or destroyed to the point of being unidentifiable or invisible on the surface; it is difficult or impossible to 'find a series of blocks on top of each other in rows' in order to 'conclude it was a wall' or anything else.

Frequently, all that remains above ground is a vaguely suggestive alignment or a scatter of stones; it could have been created by a 'natural process'. Victims will not be able to prove what happened, nor viewers to understand and the Turkish army will be able to disinform or deny.

In the warred villages, the challenge is not to identify a wall's deliberate construction, but its deliberate destruction. The question then becomes, 'how many stones not in a row do I need before I can call a scatter of stones a ruined wall? And do I need any other evidence besides a sufficiently wide scatter of stones?'

The search becomes one for the absence of evidence, for evidence of the destruction of the evidence of construction.

[Updated on the 30th and 31st of May and on the 1st of June 2007.]

Don Thieme commented that,
Even though you do not have a permit to excavate, it seems like you could write a very interesting study up about the implications of this sort of "abandonment" for the archaeological record.

I suppose that the fact that one might be able to infer a forced or sudden abandonment from the fact that all of the structures are affected equally by the colluviation and other natural formation processes that followed their abandonment.
I didn't try to acquire an excavation licence, but when I was trying - informally - to talk to archaeologists about the boycott of the Ilısu Dam Project - because it was one of the ethical dilemmas that inspired my research - some of them told me they couldn't talk to me if I didn't have a research permit; when I asked about one, I was told I needed to be registered with or supervised by a Turkish academic.

The situation in northern Kurdistan/south-eastern Turkey does tie in with archaeological ethics, as the local community is oppressed by the state and state-run or state-backed archaeological work or lack of it is a part of this process.

This is particularly visible in the dam projects, which may destroy evidence of past and contemporary crimes.

As Maggie Ronayne (2005: 14) observed in the report on the cultural and environmental impact of large dams in Southeast Turkey:
The reservoir areas contain a number of evacuated villages, which constitute material evidence for village destructions during the conflict in the 1990s....

Submergence of any possible evidence of such graves without independent investigation may well render the dam builders complicit in concealing any crimes committed.

It is highly unlikely that archaeologists and other forensic scientists could undertake an independent investigation to confirm or deny the existence of such evidence, given the prevailing security conditions in the region.
Ronayne (2005: 80) later noted that:
A number of mass graves were found accidentally about two years ago [2003].... İHD Batman went to investigate, made records and subsequently sent photographs of the skeletons to the prosecutor's office.

Their president was sued as a result and no investigation of how the bodies got there has taken place to date.
I don't know whether they were within or outside one of the areas to be destroyed by flooding, but there is a recent, instructive example of what happens to mass graves that the state cannot submerge beneath a dam.

In the village of Kuru/Xirabêbaba near Nisêbin/Nusaybın/Nüseybin village, villagers digging a grave ended up finding one, thought to be a Roman grave later used as a mass grave for Armenian and Assyrian genocide victims from the village of Dara/Oğuz.

Despite an agreement to a preliminary survey by the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation and the Turkish Historical Society, hoped to be followed by a forensic mass grave investigation, the site was destroyed by the Turkish military.

And the Turkish Historical Society provided them with an alibi by fabricating a false interpretation of the grave itself and by fabricating a false explanation for the 'natural' destruction of the evidence.

So, there is both a wealth and a dearth of material for research into archaeological ethics: there are many rich, grotesquely fascinating case studies; but, the things that were done were so clearly wrong that it removes nuance, limits analysis, blocks insight.

What can archaeologists learn from the case of the mass grave in Kuru? Don't be a genocide-denying nationalist. Don't willingly collaborate in the destruction of forensic evidence, the obstruction of justice.

I am interested in the 'implications of this sort of "abandonment" for the archaeological record', but its outside my area of expertise and outside the scope of my PhD, so I can't look at those implications, either.

(I know the basics, but will be reading up on the archaeological evidence for and study of abandonment and destruction.)

Actually, I don't know how much I could do with the abandoned villages in northern Kurdistan/south-eastern Turkey within my work, but I have the opportunity to visit some more old and recent sites of the destruction of community and I'm going to take it.

In Cyprus, however, the archaeologists have engaged in work with destroyed cultural heritage sites, most prominently political campaigning about the destruction of cultural heritage in the Other area, whichever that is for them.

They (and others) have published work that eschews context for conviction (in both senses of the word) and that explicitly excludes destruction of cultural heritage by nationalists within their own community.

So (amongst others), the North has (journalist) Hasan Karaokçu's (2003) the present conditions of Turkish Cypriot villages in south Cyprus and (administration) the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus's (1986) cultural heritage of northern Cyprus: its protection and preservation.

And the South has (administration) the Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office's (1997) Flagellum Dei: the destruction of the cultural heritage in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus and (archaeologists and historians) the Committee for the Preservation of the Cultural Heritage of Cyprus's (2000) Cyprus: a civilization plundered.

These, I can work with: I can visit the alleged sites of damage and destruction, confirm, revise or deny the allegations, present the destruction of each community's cultural heritage together from a non-nationalist, humanist persepctive and explore those archaeologists' responsibilities in work on conflict archaeology in contemporary conflict zones.

[This was originally posted on samarkeolog on 30th May 2007. I've inserted paragraph breaks to make it easy to read in a blog post.]

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kiledar buildings 13: the masses of stones used to be part of home, pen or terrace wall structures; natural formation processes are now burying them. After these sites' destruction by the Turkish military and the village's resettlement by farmers driven from their homes by an earthquake, they became (or returned to use as) grazing grounds for herds of goat or flocks of sheep.

I'm not sure how damaging the gambling of goats is (although in one abandoned village in southern Cyprus, I was told that they were gradually kicking down the few remaining courses of the dry-stone walls), but natural formation processes are disguising this site. Between the downhill erosion of soil, the animals' excrement and the grass and shrub growth (and even further ecological succession), these stones are millimetre by millimetre being buried.
Kiledar buildings 12: these former buildings' walls can be seen being covered by soil eroding downhill onto them. The building half-way up on the left displays the flat roof that I think used to be on top of the central building in the photograph of Kiledar buildings 5, before it was destroyed by the Turkish military.
Kiledar buildings 11: these ruins are becoming part of the hillside; some of them must already be submerged, invisible.
Kiledar buildings 10: the stone wall in the centre, running up the photograph is clearly visible, as is its connected wall running to the right. Just visible is the earth mound developing around and disguising the walls; in time, all of these ruins will disappear.
Kiledar buildings 9: further up the hill on the far left and further down the hill on far right of the photograph, just above the centre, are two identifiable stone walls. In the centre of the photo is a pile of stones (surrounded by stone scatters); whether the stones fell in or whether they were pushed down, they are there and not standing because the site was destroyed by the Turkish army.
Kiledar buildings 8: there is a clearly identifiable stone wall just above the centre of the photograph and on the far left about half-way up; the tumbles and scatters of stones seen most clearly in the bottom right quarter of the photograph but also seen elsewhere on this hillside are all remains of structures destroyed by the Turkish army.
Kiledar buildings 7: the stone structure in the centre of the photograph was the wall of a building; the building now more closely resembles a pit.

The lines of stones in front of it, forming three sides of a square, are all that remains of a building; the lost fourth side on the left presumably bore the brunt of the assault. I don't know how much higher up that building was beforehand, but whatever space there was within the walls has since been filled in; that is what the central structure behind it will look like in a few years.

The near and right side lines of stones are becoming less visible; they are between the period before ecological succession, when they are clearly visible and the period after, seen elsewhere in this village, when they are unidentifiable or invisible.

Around both the central structure and the stone lines in the foreground are hillocks, which as I understand it are entirely submerged remnants of features; they may have been the corners of buildings, which better resist demolition, or the piles of stones of smashed or collapsed buildings.
Kiledar building 6: the square space defined by the edge of the ground on the far side and on the left and by the grasses on the right and near side, was the foundations for a home, before it was destroyed by the Turkish army; the small square near the right corner of the near side was presumably the point of entrance.

In a few years, the soil washed or blown onto here will be seeded by grasses; in a few more, it will probably be unidentifiable; ecological succession will finish the job of the Turkish army and erase any surface trace of this family's former life and their persecution - and of the very crime itself.
Kiledar buildings 5: this old building was severely damaged by the Turkish military, the entire roof and most of the walls on (from the point where the photograph was taken from) its right side gone. The stones on the grass in front of the ruined wall may be tumble from it.
Kiledar buildings 4: the foundations of this home destroyed by the Turkish military are only really distinguishable from the soil by their regular structure; it shows how easily they may become entirely invisible.
Kiledar buildings 3: this is the corner of old foundations with a new home built on top. The old building was destroyed by the Turkish military. Its foundations' concrete is broken, but I don't believe that was a by-product of the destruction, as the new building's front wall has followed the concrete underneath it and pulled away from the side wall.
Kiledar buildings 2: the stack of stones in the centre of the photo was the corner of a house destroyed by the Turkish military. The foundations of the prefabricated building to the right and perhaps the main foundations of the one to the left (i.e. not of its wood-and-plastic extension) are apparently the foundations of old homes destroyed by Turkish military. New buildings were built over the old foundations by villagers displaced by an earthquake.
Kiledar buildings 1: according to some sources, there used to be a building besides that stone-and-mudbrick well(?), the only remains of which are the scatters of stones. There's a possibility that the five relatively large stones that appear to be in a vertical line in the middle of the near ground are related, from the building's wall, but I'm not at all convinced of that alignment; then again, when the extent of confirmed destruction is seen in other photographs, it appears to remain a possibility.