How can cultural sites be saved after the Türkiye-Syria earthquakes?
When an earthquake strikes, the priority for rescue teams is to save as many lives as possible.
But there is also the need to preserve historical heritage. And the way in which ancient buildings survive can also provide many lessons as authorities look to rebuild.
According to many international experts, ancient historical buildings have shown a surprising capacity to withstand the devastating earthquakes on 6 February, far exceeding the modern constructions built in Türkiye in the last three decades.
An example is the Roman-Byzantine fortress of Gaziantep, which is in the heart of the earthquake zone.
There is no precise confirmation about the degree of destruction suffered by the Roman-Byzantine fortress of Gaziantep. Yet despite the damages suffered, the 2,000-year-old military citadel has not been completely razed by the quake.
Syrian historical sites seem to have suffered much heavier damage than Turkish ones, especially in the area of Aleppo.
Aleppo is a major historical site, inscribed on the World Heritage List since 1986 and also on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 2013 because of Syria's civil war.
According to UNESCO’s first assessments: “The Western tower of the Antakya Gate at the ancient walls of Aleppo has collapsed, while the old Souks al-Hamediyya, al-Mahamas, and al-Haddin have been partially damaged.”
The post-earthquake treasure hunt
As soon as the Civil Protection's first aid engineers establish that a damaged building is accessible, mixed staff teams are created. Fire fighters, explorers and heritage experts team up to examine the damage and decide what kind of intervention should be carried out to save the structure. They also recover paintings, statues, ancient furniture and jewels.