Saturday, 27 August 2011

I decided to officially archive this blog on the day my DPhil was confirmed. But I have waited for the electronic publication of my thesis, Interrogating Archaeological Ethics in Conflict Zones: Cultural Heritage Work in Cyprus, to announce the archiving. From now on, I will blog at Conflict Antiquities.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Kuru: warred village, resettled

[Thanks to Dave S's comment on the Evretou photo blog, I will try to give each site photo blog a proper introduction; until then, I'll cross-post the introductory posts from Cultural Heritage in Conflict (or samarkeolog).]

The personal page for the resettled, warred village of Kuru/Xirabebaba is now up at Kuru: cultural heritage and community.

I had originally visited the village to inspect the destroyed mass grave of victims of the Armenian Genocide, but during my visit I was also able to view the ruins of some of the homes destroyed by the Turkish military, as well as the palimpsest of features that have developed in the landscape and given it its character (which, sadly, now include that destruction).

[This was originally posted on samarkeolog on 20th June 2007.]

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Kuru building 5g: this gives some idea of the extent of the building or complex (and the build-up of soil and vegetation within it).
Kuru building 5f: here, the collapsed rubble from the ruins is disappearing through ecological succession, with grasses, shrubs and trees growing up through and over the former walls and floors.
Kuru building 5e: this shows the walls - still at about half-height - and a pile of stones that must have fallen in through some process of collapse, perhaps caused by an earthquake.
Kuru building 5d: on the inside face of the entrance shown in the background of photograph Kuru building 5c, there is a graffito; these graffiti tags were written together, presumably by a group of friends:
Kuru building 5c: here, two interior entrances can be seen (there may not have been doors, but these were the points of entry to and exit from the interior spaces); the ruins' massive stone walls are still at maybe half of their original height.
Kuru building 5b: this was the (side?) entrance to the ruins.
Kuru building 5a: this was the first view I had of the ancient ruins in the distance that locals called a church.

[Updated on the 21st of June 2007.]

Blogian considered that it could have been an '(Armenian or Assyrian?) church'.
Kuru buildings 4c: the sagging floor of the former home in Kuru buildings 4b is still visible, but behind it is a still-standing, stone-built home and another, plastered, which give an idea of the kind of places destroyed by the Turkish military and the character of the village landscape prior to that destruction.
Kuru buildings 4b: here, the concrete floor is damaged and sagging, the exterior walls, ceiling and roof destroyed by the Turkish military; the interior plan of the former home can now be seen from the ground.
Kuru buildings 4a: this shows the violence unleashed upon the village by the Turkish military, showing the destruction that the civilian community has to live among and upon, gradually erasing the evidence of that very violence.
Kuru buildings 3e: at the base of one of the stone terraces I was walking by on my way to some ancient ruins on the outskirts of the village, I saw this line of stones in the soil, though I'm not sure whether it's the base of the terrace, gradually being submerged, or a spill or tumble of stones from the top, now being grown over by grasses and pretty purple wild flowers.
Kuru buildings 3d: here, you can see the many, dry-stone terraces and walls that run through the landscape and the erosion that is leading to the disused ones in the background slowly disappearing into the long grasses.
Kuru buildings 3c: this is a hand-made cave, with seven top-down "ceiling" entrances cut into the rock, which, if I remember rightly, villagers believed was a tomb.

Kuru buildings 3b: the second feature I noted was this stone basin-type object, which may have been a basin of some form, or, I think, may have been part of an olive or wine press, although I can't remember which of olives or grapes couldn't have been grown in this area in the climate that prevailed at the time this object was in use and I don't have the photographs of the press I saw in Ani, because my camera was lost/stolen with those photos on it.
Kuru buildings 3a: this shows a palimpsest - a build-up of features produced at two or more distinct times - in the landscape; here, you can see the field terraces and walls established on top of the natural bedrock and, in the distance, the ruined remains of one or more now-unidentifiable buildings.
Kuru building 2d: this photograph again shows the few remaining bones, but its most important feature is an absent presence - dozens of skulls are missing, which the Turkish Historical Society claimed was caused by natural conditions, like rain, when it was the result of deliberate, human intervention.

In my fieldwork notes and analysis of the skulls' disappearance, I considered that,
all of the diagnostic bones from the top of the stack in the centre had gone; only a few long bones and one jaw fragment appeared to have remained.

If it were natural factors that had reburied or degraded "all" of the remains after the reopening of the tomb, it [they] would have to have been exceptional conditions, to have covered the material on top without covering the material beneath that, or to have been such caustic rain, etc., to have decomposed the material on top entirely without leaving any identifiable wear or residue on the material beneath.
So, some diagnostic material has been removed.
I later concluded that, even if the Turkish military and/or Turkish Historical Society had not actively interfered with the material, but had allowed it to be destroyed passively (by villagers robbing the tomb of its human remains and grave goods and so on), that
would have been sufficient to cause concern and to challenge the state's narrative: after all, if it were not a mass grave, why not protect it, excavate it and prove that it were not a mass grave?
Elsewhere, I've collated sources on the story of the mass grave's destruction and examined the excuses given when it was covered up. The other annotated photographs are available here: 2a; 2b; 2c.
Kuru building 2c: this photograph shows the bones left behind after the destruction of the mass grave by the Turkish military.

In fieldwork notes and subsequent analysis, I observed that:
In the very poor light available, the few remaining bones looked very greyish-black; some villagers attributed this to the Turkish army's use of chemicals on the site, although that's wholly unconfirmed.
Before, I could only go on what I'd seen during the flash of the camera; now I've been able to upload and look at the photos. Some of the bones are greyish-black, others brown, while some of the long bones have new breaks in them (clearly visible because of the contrast between the brown or greyish-black exterior and the cream interior).

The newly-broken bones could have been trodden on by anyone and their presence cannot do anything apart from confirm some form of disturbance. The brown bones may be covered in or stained by dirt, soil, etc. and we cannot infer anything from their mere presence; scientific analysis could have told us something - if only that they were stains from the soil - but that is now impossible. The only greyish-black bones I've seen have been exposed to fire, burned.
Elsewhere, I've collated sources on the story of the mass grave's destruction and examined the excuses given when it was covered up. The other annotated photographs are available here: 2a; 2b; 2d.

Kuru building 2b: this is the new, disturbed surface layer of the ancient tomb/mass grave.

In my fieldwork notes from the visit, I stated that:
There was new soil inside the entrance that had fallen in since its reopening, however, the floor inside was different, quite soft soil, only compacted by trampling.

There was one pocket of saturated and subsequently hardened soil - a solid mud puddle - but that was in the far left corner (as approached from the current entrance), the other side of the few remaining bones.
Analysing the Turkish Historical Society's theory that the human remains in the mass grave had been destroyed by heavy rain, I concluded that,
the surface layer sounds much less like mud formed by rain and much more like 'the mass grave was dumped with soil by the Turkish military'.
Elsewhere, I've collated sources on the story of the mass grave's destruction and examined the excuses given when it was covered up. The other annotated photographs are available here: 2a; 2c; 2d.
Kuru building 2a: this photograph shows the empty rock-cut graves of the original Roman tomb; I'm not displaying its entrance.

This tomb was reused as a mass grave, where Armenians killed in 1915 were dumped: before, I collated the most relevant and informative English and Turkish-language sources on the planned forensic excavation of the mass grave and its destruction by the Turkish military; and after, I visited the site, photographed it and examined the indefensible excuses offered by the Turkish Historical Society in their attempt to cover up the Turkish military's destruction of the site. The other annotated photographs are available here: 2b; 2c; 2d.
Kuru building 1b: this is the interior of the possibly Roman ancient tomb on the outskirts of the village (the entrance of which is shown in Kuru building 1a); it may have been robbed out in antiquity or more recently and there has certainly been rubbish dumped in it recently, but it hsan't been treated or reused the same way the other tomb I visited there was.
Kuru building 1a: this is the entrance to an ancient tomb - possibly Roman - on the outskirts of the village.