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to safeguard, record or preserve cultural
property,” as per an amendment to an international convention on protecting archaeology and heritage in conflict zones. “We do
not feel that the on-going excavations [at
Akanthou] reflect any of the above categories,”
the director of antiquities for the Republic of
Cyprus, Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou,
said in a statement to Science. She says
research excavations should only resume
when the island is politically reunited.
For now, few archaeologists besides
Şevketoğlu work in the north, which has
no academic archaeology programs and a
rudimentary antiquities service. Potential
international collaborators are often scared
off by northern Cyprus’s controversial status,
and funding is scarce. Many of Şevketoğlu’s
colleagues and former students have moved
overseas; some of those who have stayed in
Cyprus work for the Committee on Missing
Persons, a U.N.-backed team of archaeologists
from both sides of the island who recover
bodies of the disappeared from the conflicts in 1963–64 and 1974, Şevketoğlu says.
Ironically, their work is often less politically
charged than archaeological research.
Şevketoğlu argues that the freeze harms
Cypriot archaeology and fuels mistrust.
Samuel Hardy, an antiquities trafficking
researcher and adjunct professor at the
American University of Rome, agrees: He
investigated the ethics of heritage work in
northern Cyprus for his doctoral dissertation
at the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K.,
and concluded that the Greek-Cypriot stance
has prevented basic preservation work.
Such work is needed. In the late 1990s,
Şevketoğlu documented another coastal site
at the village of Agios Amvrosios, where a
construction project was slicing through
artifact-rich layers. She conducted a rescue
excavation in 2012 and found something
rare for Cyprus: continuous settlement over
thousands of years. The site was turned into
a monument only after it was damaged.
Near here, even sites labeled as monu-
ments have been destroyed by development
before archaeologists ever got the chance
to look at the material, Şevketoğlu says. In
2005, the Turkish army bulldozed Kastros,
a fishing settlement dating to perhaps
8000 years ago, to make way for massive
flagpoles and a road. Still-buried pre-
historic settlements are especially vulner-
able because they are not as visible as Byz-
antine churches and other monuments.
Greek-Cypriot archaeologists have acknowledged that the imbalance in research
threatens to skew the archaeological record. Despina Pilides, curator of the Cyprus
Museum in Nicosia, is spearheading a project
to digitally preserve and study artifacts from
12 prehistoric sites in the north. But because of the political limitations, she can
only document sites and artifacts known
before the 1974 conflict. “It is a unifying
force for the people of Cyprus to understand that there was one island, and that’s
how we should look at it,” she says.
Both Şevketoğlu and Hardy note
that some collaborative projects have
succeeded, and think northern and southern
archaeologists could find ways to work together. A committee of southern and northern civil engineers and heritage experts
already restores derelict monuments on
both sides of the island, without relitigating
the causes of damage or neglect.
“We cannot say that we did not encounter any challenges,” concedes Ali Tuncay, the
Turkish-Cypriot community’s representative
for the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in Nicosia. But he hopes the project can
expand to include archaeological sites.
There is room for even small steps toward collaboration. The two sides could encourage observational studies in the north
without changing existing policies, says
Andrew McCarthy, a fellow at the University
of Edinburgh who recently stepped down
as the director of the Cyprus American
Archaeological Research Institute in
Nicosia. “I find it frustrating that a tourist with no archaeological background or
knowledge can go to the north, take photographs of archaeological sites, post it on
Facebook, do what they like, but a trained
specialist can’t,” he says.
Back at Akanthou, Şevketoğlu estimates
that she’s only revealed 1% of the site. She
was able to get the Turkish-Cypriot community to protect the three surrounding hectares for now, but she worries about its future.
To secure it, she envisions an Akanthou
archaeological park with a visitor center, a
tent over the trenches where archaeologists
could dig all year, and nine replica Neolithic
roundhouses for tourism and education. “We
have to do something that’s going to be self-sufficient and supporting itself,” she says.
The local mayor is on board, and
Şevketoğlu has already built one replica
house out of timbers, mudbrick, and plaster,
using only local materials and prehistoric
methods. The earthy monument stands out
from the nearby road, staking out space for
what might otherwise be hidden history.
Şevketoğlu has spread more logs on the
ground, ready to build the next one. j
The skull of an imported Persian fallow deer, a woman’s jaw bone, and a carved picrolite token (bottom, left to
right) testify to the ancient occupation of Akanthou in northern Cyprus (closed excavation, top).
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