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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

0. Basaran 3 , A. Yildirim b , D. Z. Seker 0
a GAP Regional Development Administration, 06680 Cankaya Ankara, Turkey-basaran@gap.gov.tr
b General Command of Mapping, 06100 Cebeci Ankara, Turkey-abyildirim@hgk.mil.tr
c ITU, Civil Engineering Faculty, 80626 Maslak Istanbul, Turkey - dzseker@ins.itu.edu.tr
KEY WORDS: Zeugma, satellite imagery, digital elevation model, information system
It is considered that Zeugma, which is known as the magnificent city of the ancient Mesopotamia, will continue to enrich the cultural
heritage of the world as an open-air museum. Due to the fact that the considerable segment of the Zeugma will be inundated by the
impounding of the reservoir of Birecik dam, which has been constructed in the region, emergency rescue and excavation work had
been carried on during 1999-2000 with the cooperation of Turkish governmental organizations and international foundations. During
this activity, besides archeological work, mapping methods had also been applied for surveying and registration purposes. In this
paper, not only the importance of the Zeugma among the world’s cultural heritage has been emphasized, but also remote sensing and
photogrammetric methods applicable for designing purposes of an open-air museum and an archeological park which surrounds the
museum and has an area of 600 km 2 , and establishing a geo-based archeological information system that will serve for the planning
of the long term future archeological works to be conducted at this site has been discussed.
1.1 Location
The ancient city of Zeugma has been situated on the river
Euphrates, which determines the border of Mesopotamia. It is
near to the village Belkis that is 10 km east of town Nizip in
Gaziantep province (Figure 1). Location that has
uninterruptedly been settled since ancient era owes its
importance to being on the one of the two points that provide
best crossing opportunity on Euphrates. Since the word Zeugma
meant ‘bridgehead’ or ‘crossing point’, probably the name of
the city reflects the strategic position of its own.
Figure 1: Location of the Zeugma ancient city.
Today, the area is covered with 3 to 4-m soil on which pistachio
trees have been planted. Approximately 1/3 of the 2 thousand
hectare area on which the ancient city Zeugma has been settled
is inundated by the Birecik dam reservoir by October 2000.
1.2 History
The city of Zeugma used to be the most important trade center
of the Hellenistic era and was founded in 300 BC by Seleucus I
Nicator, one of Alexander’s generals, as two cities on each side
of the river, Seleuceia and Apamea. Major concern of the
general was to control the critical crossing point of the river
Euphrates. Famous historian Strabon had noted the city as one
of the four major cities of Commagene Kingdom.
The region was conquered by the Roman Empire in 64 BC and
the name Seleuceia was changed as Zeugma. During the Roman
rule, a military legion called Legion IV was seated at the city
and, thus by, importance of the city had been increased. As the
trade develops at Zeugma, considerable art works had been
started up. Nearly for two centuries, the city hosted high-
ranking officials and officers of the Roman Empire. Zeugma
experienced its golden ages during 1 st and 2 nd centuries AD as a
big commercial center and a vital military base.
The art works and the villas that are constructed in terraced
manner to view the Euphrates reflect the reach culture of the
city. 65000 seal imprints that had been found in an archive room
are not only evidently expressing that the city had customs and
was experiencing border trading but also reveals the existence
of a strong communication network and the advanced trade.
In 256 AD Zeugma was captured by Sassanid king Shahpur I
and almost fully destroyed. A subsequent earthquake completed
the unfinished job by Shahpur I and buried the city. From then
on, city never reached to its Roman-ruled age magnificence.
In 4 th century AD, Zeugma settlement became a Late Roman
territory. During the 5 th and 6 th centuries, the city was ruled over
by the Early Byzantine domination. As a result of the ongoing
Arab raids the city was abandoned once again. Later on, in the
10 th and 12 th centuries, a small Abbassid residence settled in
Zeugma. Finally, a village called “Belkis” was founded in the
17 th century.