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Next Month The World’s Oldest Place Will Be Destroyed


Hasankeyf Turkey
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We say that we value culture and heritage and history, but we don’t. We value highways and ports and gigawatts. The fakers at UNESCO simply divert our gaze from the destruction that happens each day to the world’s most valuable heritage sites. This is the norm for our era — and pretty much every other. Places that have been preserved through the ages are simply those which are manned by cultures too weak to destroy them.

Hasankeyf is scheduled to be flooded within the coming months.

Hasankeyf is the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world. It is a magnificently unique assemblage of cave homes, ancient religious sites, and some of the oldest structures on earth that survived through the days of Mesopotamia, Byzantium, the Arabs, the Ottomans, and even older cultures that nobody really know anything about yet. I was there in 2010:

The history of Hasankeyf goes back 12,000 years. This is over two times longer than the Giza pyramids and Stonehenge, and makes the glorious civilizations of the Maya and Inca seem as if they were flourishing just yesterday. Hasankeyf is one of the oldest places in the world. But this ten millennium run will soon meet its ending point: the city will soon be flooded by the Ilisu Dam.

The southeast of Turkey has always been the central meeting point of the Old World, the southeast of Turkey is the proverbial X that marks the place where civilization was born and prospered for ten thousand years. Each civilization destroyed and rebuilt the one that came before it. But our civilization is to be the first that will not rebuild. Rather, we will use this area that was once the heart of the civilized world as an industrial backwater. This huge international dam project led by the Swiss will take energy from the squalid guts of Mesopotamia to power the modern cities of the West.

Constructing a dam on the Ilisu river was a sick fascination of the Turks since the 1950s. It would give them a cheap 4,200 gigawatt source of electricity to develop a remote area full of un- subjugated peoples. With much controversy, construction finally began in 2006, and now the waters have risen high enough to start submerging Hasankeyf and hundreds of other ancient sites. The 80,000 people who live there have been given the order to evacuate on October 8th. Their struggle is over. They lost. Now get out of the way.

A mere 10% of the area has surveyed by archaeologists. Don’t worry though, tourists, I can see the “underwater archaeology” SCUBA trips coming already.

Where is UNESCO, you may ask? Just like everybody else, they don’t give a shit.

This is another example of one of the prime reasons to travel in this age: civilization is more powerful now than it’s ever been and, likewise, places are getting destroyed at an unprecedented clip. Visit while you still can.

Photos of Hasankeyf.


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Filed under: Archaeology, Development, Modernization, Turkey

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

3 comments… add one

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  • Lawrence September 18, 2019, 12:02 pm

    Interesting for sure…it definately beats the insular media most people consume.

    What do you think are some other ‘hot topics’ going on in the world right now? You seem to have a finger on the pulse and you found this whole Ghost Cities, development world. I am hoping to get out for awhile in the next few months and was curious what big trends you see. I am so invested in Australian wrestling right now, I don’t know what else is going on….lol.

    Thanks, m8

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    • Wade Shepard September 19, 2019, 11:52 am

      As far as finding hot topics there is one main rule: The USA, China, and Russia are the only countries that matter. Anywhere else only locals give a shit about, and, outside of India, Brazil, or the UK, they are not going to be enough to keep you afloat. So view every topic through the lens of the USA / China / Russia and that will keep you on track. In terms of development, the world is in a bit of a holding pattern in terms of the US / China trade war. It’s getting a little boring. We’re all just kind of sitting around waiting for the next recession to hit.

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    • Wade Shepard September 19, 2019, 11:53 am

      Cool about the Australian wrestling. I’d like to go over and check that out someday!

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