December 4, 2009

Construction Hold Up For Tunnel Under the Bosphorus

Archaeology Holds Up Construction of Tunnel under the Bosphorus
1 December 2009

Istanbul’s Marmaray Project, which is to connect Asia and Europe through a tunnel under the Bosphorus, is held back as archaeologists excavate a fourth-century Byzantine port and other important remains.

“Archeologists are working around the clock on a huge swathe of land is being taken apart little by little,” a publication by the Voice of America News recently reported. “Eventually it will be the city's new transportation hub. But for now, it is a massive archaeological dig.”

On one side, there is one of the largest engineering ventures in the world of its type – the Marmaray Project, which includes the construction of a tunnel under Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway. When complete, the tunnel will allow subway trains to run the length of the city carrying a million of people a day, thus significantly revitalizing the city’s transport system and easing its traffic problems.

On the other, there are the significant archaeological finds, including a Byzantine port, thousands of clay pots that were used for carrying cargo and at least 34 sunken ships, dating back more than 1,000 years.

The port was built in the fourth century and was used until the eleventh century. It was an international trading port of the time. So much of it is intact that it gives us an insight into the world, Zeynep Kiziltan, head of archeology museums in Istanbul, who is in charge of operations, told the publication.

As the boats and artefacts are being unearthed, they are sent to archaeological centres around the country to be preserved, leaving Turkey’s archaeological community faced with the wealth of the discoveries, the publication noted.

So far, the tunnel’s construction has been delayed by three years because of the archaeological excavations.

We do feel the pressure of time as the tunnel is a project of the state and it has big financial costs, archeologist Kan Ozdemir told VOA News. " So we have to work faster and in the best way we can. But archeology is not a job that you can rush, but we work hard.

For now, according to Kiziltan, the government has promised they can have as much time as they need. But working side to side with the tunnel engineers can give rise to some tension. “We do have quite heated arguments from time to time, as the construction team frequently wants us to give up areas we are excavating before we've finished,” she said. “Massive construction machines are literally over our shoulder waiting for us to finish, which can be intimidating. So sure we do have conflicts. But for now we still have the final say, although I don't know long this will last.”