The site of Karkemish is indeed in an oddly situated location between the borders of present-day Syria and Turkey. And more than just geographical whimsicality, the environment has the unfortunate tag of being politically charged and militarily afflicted, with the area being just meters away from ISIS-controlled territory. In spite of all these seemingly negative aspects, a few archaeologists continue to do their job by unearthing various historical objects from the site; some of which date from 9th century BC.
The excavation project is being carried out on the Turkish-side of the border, by historians from both the University of Gaziantep and Istanbul, headed by Nicolo Marchetti, who is a professor of archaeology and art history at the University of Bologna. As for the findings, the archaeologists have been able to uncover various sculptures and engraved orthostats (an erect structural slab) from the palace of King Katuwa, who reigned over the city of Karkemish circa 900 BC. In fact, the name Karkemish stems from ‘Quay of Kamis God’ – who was a northern Syrian deity; and as such the settlement has shown impressive ancient extant specimens ranging from sculptural works, hieroglyphics to even 60-ft high defensive walls.
Interestingly (yet rather unsurprisingly), this is not the first time archaeologists have been in danger while digging in the Karkemish site. To that end, various excavation projects had stopped even during the early 20th century – with one notable situation occurring in World War I, when Turkish nationalists faced off against the French colonists, and both parties set up machine gun nests along the historically significant zone. However, on the other hand, the area has attracted historians and adventurers alike for almost 100 years, with the first significant unearthing project being carried by British Museum teams, that included eminent personalities like Lawrence of Arabia.
As for the current state of affairs, around one-third of expansive 90-hectare (or 900,000 sq m) site lies in Syria, which is under ISIS control, and thus off-limits for the experts. In any case, the Turkish government has provided for security arrangements for the present archaeologists (since 2011), with over 500 soldiers, along with tanks and artillery.
Image Credits: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda