Moving an Ancient Town to Higher Ground

The town of Hasankeyf, Turkey, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world, with evidence of people living there as far back as 12,000 years ago. In a matter of months, most of the ancient town will be abandoned—flooded by a reservoir rising behind the Ilisu Dam, one of Turkey’s newest and largest hydroelectric projects. The controversial project will affect 199 upstream settlements along the Tigris River, as the water level rises up to 60 meters. Despite objections from international and local groups over the displacement of thousands, the loss of archaeological sites, interference with nomadic groups, environmental impact, and water-sharing issues with downstream Iraq, Turkish authorities quietly began filling the reservoir this summer. Residents of Hasankeyf were provided with a “new” town to move to—700 new houses and supporting buildings built three kilometers up the hill from the old town. Some of the centuries-old monuments and mosques from the old town were relocated to the new town as well. The Turkish government has given residents until today to evacuate.

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