News Column

Magazine builds bridge between archaeology and society

May 8, 2014

ISTANBUL (CIHAN)- A boring field of science; a lecture from college years; the title character of the "Indiana Jones" franchise; searching for historical artifacts; and so on. If you have other suggestions for this list of what archaeology means, then it is high time you purchase an issue of AktÜel Arkeoloji magazine.

Available in English in 45 countries spanning from America to Japan, the independent quarterly magazine introduces Turkey's cultural heritage and changes the stereotypical perception of archaeology with articles and images that cover a wide range of topics. It is published bi-monthly for Turkish-speaking readers, and is the country's first archaeology magazine.

While flipping trough the pages of the most recent Turkish issue, you can find a mosaic-style photo of Roma girls playing volleyball, an article about the Persians of Anatolia, information about Iron Age civilizations such as the Urartians -- known for their mining activities -- and a news announcement featuring photographs of archaeological research conducted on an ancient site.

"What we would like to do is contribute to the appreciation of the cultural differences and contrasts on the lands of Turkey and increase awareness about archaeology in general," said Murat Nagis, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, to Sunday's Zaman in an exclusive interview at his office in Istanbul's Beyoglu district.

= 'There was a lack of archaeological magazines in Turkey'

Nagis, along with the magazine's executive editor Ayse Tatar and editor Mehmet Bezdan, decided to launch the magazine in Turkish in 2007 after realizing that there was a lack of archaeological publications in Turkey that appealed to the public. "It meant that there was a big contradiction between the number of such publications and the archaeological richness of Turkey, and highlighted that there had been scientific archaeology [underway] in the country for nearly 100 years," he noted, adding, "What we needed to was to maintain a connection between society and archaeology and write about it as a science that could be liked."

However, Nagis admitted that they sincerely had not expected the magazine to attract attention at first, and that the distribution company had even told the editors not to expect a high sales volume. "The first Turkish issue came out with 6,000 copies, 3,000 of which were sold. We were all amazed when we learned that half of the copies had been purchased; that really encouraged us to concentrate on our work more intensely," Nagis said.

Nagis and his team had also been enthusiastic about publishing AktÜel Arkeoloji in English since the first issue of the Turkish magazine hit the shelves, but they had to put off doing so until 2012 due to technical and financial problems. The first issue of AktÜel Arkeoloji in English -- "Actual Archaeology" -- was published in spring 2012. The English magazine focuses on topics that are covered in previously published Turkish editions.

Feedback on AktÜel Arkeoloji from foreign countries has been positive to date, and it has even been used as reference source. "With the magazine being published in other countries, we realized that the cultural richness of Anatolia has not been sufficiently introduced to the world. We have heard that some of the magazine's readers are curious or suspicious about the places we write about in the publication. Some of them do not believe that they exist in Turkey."

= 'Anxieties about Turkish geography lessened'

According to Nagis, some of the land within the borders of modern Turkey was not truly believed to belong to the state, as the state feared that Greeks or others who lived on these lands would come and lay their claim. He maintains that this fear dates back to before the 1980s. "With neoliberalism, Turkey started to overcome this problem, and such anxieties began to diminish from that point onwards. But it has only been in the last decade that we have truly become aware of our cultural heritage."

The editor-in-chief also pointed out some inconsistencies between the number of cultural heritage sites in Turkey and the number of cultural heritage sites listed on UNESCO'sWorld Heritage List before the 2000s. "This was another contradiction. Either we were not promoting Turkey sufficiently or we were not embracing our cultural heritages genuinely," he explained.

In tackling these and other similar issues within Turkey, Nagis sees archaeology as an important field of science: "Archaeology is a part of history. In Turkey, we [have] understood it as being confined only to excavation sites. However, it is connected with etymology, epigraphy and many other branches of science. We should not only dig under the earth but also understand what is beyond the earth."

= 'We are not allowed to write and speak in different languages'

In order to achieve this aim, the team behind the publication tries to follow the Turkey's cultural and political affairs to determine what to cover in each issue of the two magazines. For instance, the latest issue of AktÜel Arkeoloji is devoted to the lost languages of Anatolia in attempt to draw attention to the institutionalized intolerance of multilingualism in Anatolia, an attitude that runs contrary to how it was in ancient times. "We are not [currently] allowed to write and speak in different languages. We know of ancient cultures through the remains of their written records. Nowadays, however, everything is written on CDs or computers and we are dependent on technology. Future generations might not know about us if a disaster were to hit the world."

The most recent issue of AktÜel Arkeoloji turns the spotlight on mosaics and features articles about the lives of ancient people, with images of preservation projects on archaeological excavation sites. The issue also introduces a campaign that calls for the return of 22 mosaic fragments to Turkey; the pieces were removed from the ancient town of Zeugma in 1960, illegally trafficked to America, sold to Bowling Green State University in 1965 and are now on display at the university's Wolfe Center for the Arts.

The English edition of the magazine will also feature articles on mosaics, but the next issue of AktÜel Arkeoloji, scheduled for publication this summer, will be about Istanbul's archaeological treasures. The issue on Istanbul aims to introduce people to lesser-known parts of the city by highlighting that the city's history is not confined to Sultanahmet Square or Istiklal Street.

= 'The magazine does not have advertisements'

Nagis underlined that one of the magazine's biggest obstacles is financing. AktÜel Arkeoloji's only sponsor is Turkey's leading oil distribution company, Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation (TÜPRAS), and it is published with support from Kadir Has University's Rezan Has Museum in Istanbul.

"We have problems receiving [funding from] advertisements. Most people think we serve a specific sector related to the appreciation of archaeology. Thus, it is tough for us to survive as an independent magazine." However, the magazine's readership varies widely -- medical students, fashion designers, the elderly and the youth -- as the publication does not just provide a scientific approach to archaeology.

In evaluating the magazine's development from the time it was first launched to today, Nagis says what started as an amateur passion has turned into a professional business. The magazine's team and professionals from other sectors organize photography contests and provide education about archaeology under the roof of an institution called Akademi Arkeoloji. "We never expected that a drop of water could grow into a lake," Nagis shared. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)


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Source: Cihan News Agency (Turkey)

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