One of the oldest known human settlements is about to be swallowed whole
Oct. 3, 2019
HASANKEYF, Turkey — Ask shepherd Ramazan Agalday how long his family has lived in the ancient city of Hasankeyf in southeastern Turkey, and his rheumy eyes cloud over.
“I am 80 years old and I was born here. So were all my ancestors before me and their ancestors before them; it’s been a long time,” he says, tapping his walking stick while catching his breath after the steep climb to the man-made caves in the limestone cliffs where he keeps his flock.
For up to 12,000 years, the Tigris River has sustained the people of Hasankeyf, one of the oldest known human settlements. Now time is running out for the ancient town. Soon a controversial dam project will swell the Tigris until its waters swallow the city whole.
Then, this historic crossroads of empires and cultures and one of the cradles of human civilization will disappear.
Today, after decades in limbo battling to save Hasankeyf, residents have been told they must leave by Tuesday, when the dam will close and the water begins to rise.