I recently visited Çorum with a group of friends to see and to learn about the history of Anatolia. But this time I returned from Çorum, which I have visited countless times before, with sadness.
Çorum and its vicinity was the homeland of the Hattis around 3,000 B.C. It then became the center of the Hittites around 2,000 B.C. Our travel route included the capital of the Hittites, Hattusha (Boğazkale), which was the first empire in Anatolia, neighboring Arinna (Alacahöyük) and Şapinuva (Ortaköy), as well as three museums in the region.
The magnificent Hattusha, where the German Institute of Archaeology had worked since 1906, is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Tourists have stopped coming to Çorum
Over 25,000 foreign tourists have come to Çorum to see these unique historical sites. But last year the number of foreign tourists fell to 2,000, amid the wider struggles of the Turkish tourism industry. Hotels and restaurants were empty and many employers in these facilities have been dismissed.
No permission for Germans
Last year the Culture and Tourism Ministry did not give permission to the GermanInstitute of Archaeology, which had carried out the excavations and restorations in Hattusha (Boğazkale), amid ongoing diplomatic tension between Turkey and Germany.
Acquaintances who have been working on the excavations at Boğazkale told me about the sad state of affairs at the site.
“Every year, three people were used to work in the excavations over 12 months. Some 55-65 people worked during the excavation season for around three months, and up to 15 were working on restorations. All workers were registered staff. The Germans who worked here spent up to 900,000 Turkish Liras here every year. Obviously the area benefited greatly from this money,” one said.
Destruction in the fortification wall
Dr. Jurgen Seeher, who previously worked as the head of Hattusha excavations, in 2013 started restoring a 65-meter section of the 6.5-kilometer walls. The restoration has been ongoing for three years, but bureaucratic obstacles and the bilateral tension brought it to a halt this year.
“We will abide by the methods used by the Hittites. They built the palace using adobe. The big stone in the foundation was made of adobe bricks and there was a seven-meter-high wall. We will make a first in the world in the field of experimental archaeology and show visitors the Hattusha of those years,” Seeher said.
Seeher was succeeded as head of excavations by Dr. Andreas Schachner, who stressed the difficulty of the restoration.