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It is one of the longest continually occupied places in the world.

Jess McHugh
October 20, 2017

The more than 10,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf, Turkey will soon be underwater.

With a long history stretching back through the empires of the Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans, Hasankeyf is an archeological treasure that has long attracted visitors to its caves and citadel.

But now the town is being forced to make way for floodwaters from the Ilisu Dam project, and the entire settlement will disappear within years, Agence-France Presse reported.

The city is now home to about 80,000 people, according to The Guardian, and its extensive history makes it one of the most continuously inhabited settlements in the world. Endangered species, including the Euphrates softshell turtle, the red‐wattled lapwing will also be threatened by the rising waters, according to the same report.

The Turkish government has argued that the dam will bring much needed power to the region, and has promised to relocate residents and build a museum for some 300 major monuments from the site. But activists and locals say that might not be enough.

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“The dam will bring only destruction for us,” Ercan Ayboga, a hydrologist at Bauhaus University in Germany and spokesman for the Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive, told Smithsonian Magazine. “We will lose cultural heritage on the highest level, not just local heritage, but world heritage.”

Much of the beauty and historical attraction of Hasankeyf lies in its thousands of ancient man-made caves that cannot be moved along with the rest of the monuments. The Turkish government has already begun filling in the caves to prevent erosion when the floodwater rises.

Plans for the dam were first drafted in the 1950s and finally approved in 2006. The Ilisu Dam consortium was then again forced to freeze financing for the project in 2008 after the World Bank announced that the project did not meet standards for the protection of cultural heritage, according to Smithsonian. The project is now expected to move ahead in the coming years.

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