Salvaging extremely well-preserved Roman mosaics: cultural property and 'Europe'
Eisuke Tanaka (Fukuoka Jo Gakuin University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will explore how the importance of historical objects marked as 'cultural property' is elaborated and articulated in relation to the category of 'Europe', by focusing on extremely well-preserved Roman mosaics found through the rescue excavation at Zeugma, south-east Turkey.
Paper long abstract:
This paper will explore how the importance of historical objects marked as 'cultural property' is elaborated and articulated in relation to the category of 'Europe' by focusing on a case from Turkey, a country which has a lot of material remains that present 'European' pasts (i.e. classical antiquity) rather than 'Turkish' ones and is actually applying for an EU membership. Discussions concerning cultural property suggest that cultural manifestations are considered to belong to two collective or communal entities i.e. 'heritage' of a particular community (i.e. a nation or an ethnic group) and 'common heritage' or 'heritage of humanity.' The importance of protecting cultural property is articulated from these two points of view. Notably, the protection of cultural manifestations as 'common heritage' is often claimed by those from 'Europe.' The EU funded conservation programmes for 'common heritage' in the Mediterranean regions, and some European non-governmental organisations that are concerned with the protection of cultural property often protest against development projects outside 'Europe,' which would affect historical and archaeological sites considered 'heritage of humanity.' One such case is that of Zeugma in Turkey, where in 2000 rescue excavations found extremely well-preserved Roman mosaics. Turkish media attention to this issue was stimulated by international (including 'European') media coverage. Analysing the controversy over the rescue excavation project conducted at Zeugma, this paper will examine what it means for different groups involved in this case, 'European' media and institutions concerned with the protection of cultural property, Turkish state agencies, Turkish and foreign archaeologists, and locals, to 'protect' things considered 'cultural property'; and how in each case they claim importance of protecting Roman mosaics found at Zeugma both in relation to the idea of 'heritage' of a particular community (i.e. a nation or an ethnic group) and that of 'common heritage.' It will suggest that the importance of the mosaics as 'world heritage' mainly claimed from 'Europe,' is adopted and adapted by those involved in Turkey to formulate their arguments to protect Turkey's important cultural property.
Neither here nor there: locating and identifying Europe