Turkish government shuts down important archaeological dig, apparently to punish Austria

Note by DDP: Ephesus was one of the greatest centers of the ancient Greek philosophy, of the ancient Greek theater and politics. Also Ephesus was the homeland of Heraclitus a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, who was one of the founders of the ancient Greek philosophy and of dialectic.

By Erik Stokstad

A major archaeological project in Turkey that involves about 200 researchers has been shut down early, an apparent victim of international politics. The Austrian Archaeological Institute (AAI) in Vienna was notified last week by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism that its project at the ancient city of Ephesus near Selçuk, Turkey, would have to end immediately.

“This is a major shock,” says Sabine Ladstätter, AAI director and head of the excavation. A smaller excavation that AAI runs at Limyra, Turkey, was also ordered to shut down. The future of the projects remains in question.

The decision was reportedly made by Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No reason for the closure was given, but Austria’s chancellor, Christian Kern, had antagonized the Turkish government in August by saying the country was not fit to join the European Union. In a sign of the deteriorating relations, Ankara recalled its ambassador from Vienna on 22 August. The revocation of AAI’s two permits for fieldwork in Turkey appears to be the latest blow. “I regret this decision very much because it mixes politics and science, and is inconsistent with the partnership that we have fostered in Ephesus for many years,” Austrian science minister Reinhold Mitterlehner said in a statement to the media on Sunday. “With this step, the freedom of science is continuing to decline.”

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