MACHU NEWS (Managing Cultural Heritage Underwater)













Archaeology  slows down building of Europe-Asia tunnel


Turkey has undertaken a big infrastructural project that will link Europe to Asia; the Marmaray project.The project includes a 13.6 kilometres Bosphorus crossing and the upgrade of 63 kilometres of suburban train lines to create a 76.3 km high-capacity line between Gebze (on the Asian side) and Halkalı.(on the European side). The project started  in 2004, and will consist of 37 (partly new) surface stations, 3 underground stations and a tube tunnel under the Bosphorus. And all that in a seismographic very active region. Technical and geological problems concerning the building of the tunnel were expected and anticipated on.

One of the main types of work before the actual constructing phase was: “Surveys and investigation work needed to obtain additional information about the physical conditions, where the Project is to be constructed, that influence design and construction.”* Regrettably the Maritime Cultural Heritage was not a part of the preliminary surveys and  investigations.   

The Marmaray Project includes the world's deepest immersed tube tunnel (Source wikipedia)

The Marmaray railway project

Surprisingly because: Istanbul (Constantinopolis) was not only the capital of the Ottoman empire from 1453 AD but also the capital of The Roman - and Byzantium empire  from 330 AD.  For more than a thousand years Constantinopolis was the biggest and most prosperous city in the world and was situated at the crossroads; from Europe to Asia and from the Mediterranean - to the Black Sea.

In 2005 the engineers who were building the tunnel on the seabed of the Bosphorus struck on an archaeological goldmine. They were surprised by  the discovery of the remains of one of the main ports (Portus Theodosiacus) of ancient Constantinopolis. The Port was one of the biggest ports in the world during the Late Roman and Byzantium period (ca. 330-1453 AD).
It became instantly clear that this was a important nautical archaeological find. Archaeologist were excited engineers were frustrated. Because of the important find the Marmaray project is more then two years behind schedule and the costs are  exceeding.

This is an example of  problems that can arise when Underwater Cultural Heritage is not being considered (enough) in big construction projects on the seabed. Fortunately the notion to protect UCH  worldwide is growing among planners, politicians and the general public, however, unfortunately not at this project. Turkey has signed the Valletta treaty of 1991 in which is stated that  preservation of archaeological remains in situ is the best option.  If preservation in situ is not possible excavation is the next option. When considered in advance this will be for the benefit of UCH as well as for the constructor.   

The Marmaray example illustrates the significance of a database were data about  Underwater Cultural Heritage is being collected (the known resource), and information is available were important UCH can be expected (the unknown resource). So that it can be a useful tool in the decision making process. The MACHU project is aiming at just that. MACHU is developing a GIS and database of shipwrecks and other archaeological sites on the seabed. It can especially serve as a tool for policymakers and planners as a decision-support system to know in advance if and what one can expect on the seabed in respect of Cultural Heritage.

Underwater Cultural Heritage can be – just like sites on land - managed in a pro-active way. Much of the resources are not situated in certain areas by accident. Their presence can be predicted on the bases of e.g. geological, archaeological and historical data.
The delay and problems that were caused by the finds of archaeological remains during the Marmaray project are a good example of the necessity of an (international) operating database and GIS that can act as a warning and decision system for policy makers and planners. 

Istanbul in 1453


*  The project requirements are given on the official Marmaray project website

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