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Turkey: Roman Ruins Lost amid Economic Development

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The approximately 2,000-year-old Roman-era bridge will be totally submerged when the flood waters finish rising.

Standing at one end of a half-submerged ancient bridge, Abdullah Sengul reflects on the years he spent guarding the treasures now lying beneath the rising water around him.

For 10 years he was a night-watchman for one of Turkey’s most controversial archaeological digs: the exploration of the 1,800-year-old Roman spa complex of Allianoi. The complex’s submergence earlier this year beneath the waters of the Yortanli irrigation dam signaled the end of a decade-long battle between defenders of the country’s cultural legacy and those who believe sacrifices must be made for economic progress.

“Damn Romans, I gave my life to this place,” said Sengul, adding that his guard dog was killed by would-be looters.

In September last year, the ruins were covered in sand and on December 31, the waters began to rise. Eventually, they will lie under some 30 metres of water.

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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, where he writes for the Times. Jonathan Lewis is a freelance photojournalist based in Istanbul.

Turkey: Roman Ruins Lost amid Economic Development

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