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Nadire Aslan

Turkey

Nadire Aslan is a PhD student at Middle East Technical University since 2021. Completed master’s degree at Hacettepe University in 2019 on “The relationship between courtyard and cultural identity in Roman residential architecture: Ephesus, Priene, Aphrodisias, Kremna, Sia, Zeugma”. She accomplished her undergraduate education at Ankara University Classical Archaeology Department in 2013. She participated in Salamis Ancient City Excavations between 2010-2012 excavation seasons and Alexandria Troas City Excavations in 2011-2012 as an intern archaeologist. She took part in 2013 Arykanda Ancient City and 2016 Aspendos Ancient City Excavations as an archaeologist. Also, she has been working as a volunteer manager at the Sharing Circle Association/Paylaşım Çemberi Derneği, a non-profit organization focused on the rights of human, animal, and inanimate beings since 2019.

Aspects of Cultural Heritage: The Intrinsic Value of Archaeological Sites

The concept of cultural heritage defined by laws can be questioned in many ways. Some would be if the national or international laws always act on an inclusive and protective line? Can the practices for the protection of cultural heritage take a position when there stands an overriding public interest? Archaeologists’ ethical stance must be evaluated as well as their right to immunity and inalienability, as outlined in many national and international laws. The rights that people assign to the existence and continuity of other beings are weak in preventing violations of rights. Here, a second framework that can be evaluated with the concept of human’s assignment of rights is human responsibility towards other beings. Being able to define this responsibility leads us to take action in the face of a violation.

Current practices for protecting archaeological sites, which are accepted in the world and in Turkey, do not seem sufficient and pave the way for destructive practices in many areas. Searching for answers to these and similar questions, and evaluating current practices, legislation and destructive examples will contribute to identifying problematic approaches and suggesting solutions for the problem. Regrettably, today’s decision mechanisms have anthropogenic nature. That means, humans are at the center of everything. When different areas of rights conflict, there lies a tendency to make decisions for the benefit of the people. The concept of benefit is abstract and depends on the profits of decision mechanisms. At this point, it is important to establish a counter-mechanism that can control these decision mechanisms and impose sanctions. One of the first attempts that can be suggested is the recognition of the “intrinsic rights” of other living species and inanimate beings, that are deemed within the capacity of environmental rights today. Adapting this methodology to the concept of archaeological heritage and discussing it with archaeologists and stakeholders will be the first step toward solving the problem.

I would like to debate the ongoing practices with two examples from Turkey. In the cities of Allianoi and Hasankeyf, a dam was built on the existing settlements, which are considered as firstdegree archaeological sites, when it comes to overriding public interest. In the process, many legal and ethical discussions were handled by both the local people and various research groups. However, the construction of these dams could not be prevented. Many factors, such as the changing and inappropriate policies of the administrative authorities, the handling of the idea of cultural heritage through anthropogenic paradigms, and the lack of ethical stance of archaeologists and other stakeholders to this destructive effect, played a perfunctory and unethical role for both examples. While rights are a phenomenon deemed only for humans, the ill will towards anything other than humans still exists and the approach mentioned above needs to be more holistic in that they include inanimate objects as well. These concepts have been defined in many legal mechanisms. Unfortunately, this approach is not universally valid. After defining the problem, that is, understanding anthropocentrism, ethical approaches to the rights of inanimate beings will offer a resolution for the problem.

Therefore, the study will aim to evaluate mentioned challenges through different angles and address the issue of theoretical concepts that could lead to a paradigm shift.