Planning Process

Archaeology in the Planning Process


Still considerably high increase in birth rate and immigration from rural to urban areas with a restructuring process of the economy are the prime causes of dynamism in Turkey which has led to dramatic changes in physical characteristics and other aspects of historic urban areas since the 1970s. The wholesale destruction of ancient buildings and archaeological deposits in urbanized areas, particularly around Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Antalya, Antakya, Trabzon and notably coastal towns with growing sector of tourism, have been effected.

In the Turkish planning experience, urban archaeological remains until now have been considered either somewhat a hindrance for urban development hence to be eliminated,or in a more permissible mood, parts of cities to be ignored and excluded. Recently though, the attitude has changed entirely, so that urban archaeology is commonly evaluated as an important given value in the urban planning process.


 Burgaz Salvage Excavations


Legal framework for Urban Archaeology


In 1983 The Act for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Entities came into force, replacing the previous acts. With this act a new organization The High Board for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Entities (HCNE) and Regional Commission(s) of Preservation for Cultural and Natural Entities (RCNE) were established. Some important concepts have been redefined and as a new type of planning, conservation plans for historic towns has been introduced and adopted in the legal framework for conservation planning. Later on this type of plans gave access to urban archaeological matters. With Act No. 3386 some changes were made on to certain clauses of Act No. 2863; the conservation organizations have been decentralized and spread by means of the local commissions, some 18 in number.

Legal framework per se, as it relates to urban archaeology, does not exist. Yet a series of rules and regulations in this field have been prepared by the Higher Board of Protection of Cultural and Natural Entities. Nevertheless, within the general legal framework, concerning historic preservation, there are some relevant clauses.


Administrative aspects


Administrative aspects are far from being efficient. Archaeology is subject to recording and conservation undertaken by the Ministry of Culture and subsequently the Commissions for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Entities, whereas urban planning is undertaken by the respective municipalities, without having any official administrative unit within the municipal administration.

The key bodies and organizations in Turkey relating to management of preserving sites and monuments are as follows:


  • The Ministry of Culture is responsible for setting the general framework for the protection and preservation of cultural and natural sites and setting forth policies and plans regarding these issues; though, a national research policy, national goals, objectives and a local-based management with institutions which are the basic needs of urban archaeology, still lack in Government programmes. The Ministry is also responsible for both registering and maintaining important sites and monuments scheduled under protection through its central and local agencies.

  • The Higher Board for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Entities whose members are appointed by the Governmental Agencies was set up by the Protection of Cultural and Natural Resources Act 1983. The general duties of the Higher Commission are to secure the preservation of ancient sites in Turkey by advising principles and setting up criteria to Regional Commissions and the Ministry of Culture in relation to applications for scheduled sites, especially in the cases of dispute.

  • Regional Commissions are the bodies having key responsibilities in relation to sites and monuments within their respective control areas. They are responsible to maintain an inventory of cultural heritage and designation of protected areas, which is a crucial role in safeguarding the city heritage and archaeological sites through their development control functions. But most of these regional authorities do not have the necessary expertise to evaluate archaeological issues; therefore, they often ask professional service from local museums. Accordingly, the Local Commission decides the value of remains in question depending on the expertise from local museum.

  • Municipal Planning Office involves development applications through the procedure whereby developers apply to the Regional Commission and the local museum for investigations whether the significance of the archaeological remains recovered is sufficient to preserve. Local governments are represented by Mayors advising their opinions to the Regional Commissions on their own local matters. Master plans, action area plans which are usually prepared by Municipal Planning Offices, are subject to be reviewed and amended by Regional Commissions.

The Higher Board issued criteria for scheduling monuments and sites at different categories in 1984 and restated in 1987. The present schedule of some over 3000 archaeological sites has been registered since the beginning of the1970s. Yet, only a few of these designated areas are associated with historic urban fabric that concerns urban archaeology.


According to a decision made by the Higher Board regarding the classification of archaeological sites, there are three categories of control enabling owners to follow certain specific types of action depending upon the value of archaeological deposits and remains. There are, however, not clear indications to evaluate site's value. The criteria only imply assessment to a wider judgement based on the individual case. It seems that the criterion of survival of site's archaeological potential is particularly important consideration.


Later on, some changes have been made to the third category of archaeological sites and as a new category, urban archaeological area was introduced in the principles issued in 1993 by the Higher Board. The respective regulation itself is, however, very insufficient to put into practice as requiring specialized local institutions in the field.


Thus one cannot speak of a fruitful cooperation between the local administration and the Regional Commissions, subsequently the Ministry of Culture. Hence, as a result good cooperation to produce efficient strategies, remains to be seen.


The contribution and input of archaeological advice to the planning process


Archaeological advice to the Municipality concerning the planning process is procured by the Commission for Protection of Cultural and Natural Entities. This is in the form of a permission for or rejection to the decisions already made or initiated, expressing the specific behaviour of the users of the master plan that is individual property or land owners and the plan makers that is members of municipality.

Subsequently urban archaeological sites and the built environment are not very successfully integrated yet. However, some developments have been achieved in that field. The inter-relationship and mutual impact between the archaeological sites and cultural tourism, particularly in some successful examples of archaeological parks such as in Istanbul and Antalya could be mentioned. But even in those centers having a very outstanding multi-cultural exposed resources, urban archaeology has not become a part of living entity in an urban environment.


Financial support for recording and preservation, public and private


Financial support for recording and preservation of all archaeological sites is provided by the Ministry of Culture's respective departments, of which the working & financing capacity is very limited. The works of archaeological operations in Turkey are generallly financed by the compensations in the general state budget. On-site works of urban archaelogical areas, however, are primarily financed by the applicants who ask for urban development. In those cases, developers have to secure the implementation of archaeological works in accordance with related regulations and clauses of the Act of Preservation.

Innovative models of financing systems are being worked out. In the 90s, new sources of financial support for archaeological heritage in cities have emerged. Non-governmental organizations and some local governments from most urbanized areas of Turkey put in practice new initiatives both in on-site investigations of recording town's past, and site presentation projects. New practices such as exchange of land in designated archaeological areas with those under state ownership, transfer of development rights, etc. have been used for those disputed urban lands under the threat of rapid urban development having very high potential of archaeological heritage underneath.


Staffing in Urban Archaeology


At the present time there is an influx of general archaeologists who are trained in respective university programme of archaeology and qualified as technical personnel like architects and engineers,since there are no university programme with special reference to urban archaelogy.

Most excavations by local museum staff, however, are not conducted in accordance with the 1956 UNESCO recommendations on international principles and standards due to the lack of specialized training for all professionals concerned with and technical shortages. Thus, reports of salvage excavations done by these archaeologists do not conform to the standards for the relevant inventory and evaluation.


Within the Departments of the Ministry of Culture, the number of archaeologist is around 90; whereas, the professional staff in local museums are over 500 in number. In the area of Izmir Museum, one of the most active urban development areas, the current number of archaeologists working in the field is about 26 only. Regarding planning applications in urban areas and various excavation projects the cases of fieldwork conducted in 1994 were 235 and 12 respectively. In the same region, the Museum at Bergama having 4 archaeologists at work took care of 27 fieldwork in urban archaeological area of the town of Bergama. So to speak, for the time being, the number of experienced professionals and specialized institutions is far less than needed.


The balance between preservation and use


The concept of balance between preservation and use is a new issue in the Turkish case. Since more than 90 % of Turkish cities are under the pressure of rapid urbanization, the balance between planning and historic site presentation has become the most crucial issue of sustainable urban development and planning.

After the 1980s public involvement at both national and local levels has started to raise inquiries against land development, construction activities without any proper investigation on archaeological heritage of urban areas. With regard to public debate on urban archaeology, most remarkable cases considered in the agenda of the agencies responsible to the preservation of cultural sites, can be listed as follows: Forum Constantin in Istanbul; Halicarnassus underneath modern Bodrum; the remarkable archaeological-historic site in Side; the Hellenistic/ Roman city inherited in the urban fabric of Bergama; the neglected archaic Smyrna setting and Roman agora in Izmir, and buried archaic city of Phokaia in Foça,etc.


Some outstanding cases of urban archaeology that are appeared recently in the Turkish press and the public opinion concerned have to be mentioned :


  1. The request by the Ministry of Tourism to built a five-star hotel on the Byzantine archaeological site, facing Hagia Sophia has been rejected by the Higher Board. The area in question and the adjacent site is a very sensitive archaeological area having a multi-level of palaces and public structures of Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
  2. The Hacı Bayram square on combination of the Augustus Temple and the early Ottoman mosque of Hacı Bayram. The former housing stock has been opened up to give way to a dramatic town square glorifying the monuments of the Roman and Ottoman eras as well as fulfilling the function of mortuary ceremonies. There the Municipality and the Commission of Preservation acted in collaboration.
  3. The case of Foça, whereby a well defined urban historic site, which overlaps fully with a first degree archaeological site, under the pressure of demand for development and lack of available land for urban expansion. Hence, a series of problems of renewal of the substandard non-registered housing,caused by the building restriction set by the archaeological site underlying the existing urban site.

The Byzantine city, intra-muros in Istanbul has an entire plan of conservation which cannot be implemented because of lack of the so-called balance between conservation and development. Such a dramatic negative result is indicative for non-existence of proper strategies of conservation as well of urban development. Eventually, the Court in Istanbul made a decision that the master plan of the area underneath the city of Byzantium lies, has been suspended due to the above considerations.