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Living Amid the Ruins: Archaeological Sites as Hubs of Sustainable Development for Local Communities in Southwest Turkey

Principal Investigator: Dr Lutgarde Vandeput, The British Institute at Ankara

June 2018 update

Dr Vandeput and her team have created a video of their research:



June 2017 update

The Living Amid the Ruins project builds upon the BIAA’s on-going work in the ancient region of Pisidia, located in Southwestern Turkey. The Pisidia Heritage Trail - the primary outcome of this work - is a 350 km long trekking route that connects archaeological sites and their nearby villages to each other, making it possible to promote this region as a single destination. The aim is to use archaeological heritage as an engine for sustainable development, offering both social and economic benefits to the local communities. These communities, residing in the mountain villages of Pisidia, are moving away from their home towns to the big cities mostly in search of jobs but also due to other social reasons. Thanks to the BA Sustainable Development Programme grant, we are able to shed more light on their motivations, to offer ways of reversing this phenomenon, and to create ways of using their archaeological heritage as a solution to these contemporary problems.

While the anthropologists are out in the field collecting this valuable information through face-to-face interviews with the villagers, many promotional activities aiming to increase the number of visitors to the region are being undertaken. As part of these activities, at the beginning of May 2017 we were accompanied by a photography team and drone to put this spectacular region - and the joy of visiting it - on film. We also used the chance to go and experience some parts of the trail with the BIAA team. Below is the lively description of this expedition by Jamie Redfern, the current BIAA research scholar!

The Pisidia Heritage Trail Diary - 3/5/2017-10/5/2017

Day 1

Pisidia Heritage TrailWe started the week by heading directly to Termessos from our hotel on the outskirts of Antalya, after which we climbed up to the tomb of Alcetas overlooking the ancient city. We then headed for the necropolis situated on a neighbouring hill and, after reaching its peak, meandered through the sarcophagi until we reached the ancient road to the city, passing through one of its three gates along the way. After we had reached the end of the preserved areas of this road we descended the remainder of the mountain and met with our van for lunch.

After lunch we headed to another trail that spanned four large hills and meandered through an agricultural valley, past aniseed fields and empty livestock enclosures. At the head of the valley we reached the farm to which these belonged as the light was beginning to wane. The goats were returning home from across the mountainside and greeted us with a chorus from the cliffs. We then continued past the farm and, after navigating some precarious cliff sides, reached an expansive, open field littered with stray trees where we pitched our tents.

Day 2

Once we had woken up in the campsite we walked on to the village of Akkoc via a quaint, scenic path that wound its way around crumbling farmhouses and looming trees in whose shade local women sat to knit, before meeting with the van and leaving for Ariassos.

After employing the drone that had arrived that morning, we explored the rest of the site before lunch. From the top of the necropolis we could see the arrival of the van bringing pide, so we raced back down through the archway and had our lunch in its shadow. The plan for the afternoon had been to walk a trail a few miles down the road, but after arriving and setting up, an ominous thunderstorm rolled over the hillsides. We thought it best to film a few choice aspects of the path with the assistance of the drone, and then call short the walking before the worst of the rain began. We decided against camping given the weather, so instead headed to a hotel on the outskirts of Antalya.

Pisidia Heritage Trail

 Day 3

The next morning we set out with the van to film a part of St Paul’s trail that overlaps with the Pisidia Heritage Trail. After a quick Turkish coffee in a ruined Seljuk trading post we set out along the path. Once we reached the crest of the hill that the road passes over, an as-yet unidentified site presented itself, referred to as Döşeme Boğazı at present (‘paved passage’). After walking down the opposite side of the hill we met with the van again for lunch and then headed for Sia.

The site and the forest are inseparable from one another: where soaring fortification walls end, pine trees maintain the skyline of the ruined city. The monumental works of architecture remain extremely well preserved, so the photographers attempted to weave the drone between the trees to film as much of them as possible.

After filming had finished we took a quick diversion to drop off two who were leaving us before heading to a nearby restaurant and then to a hotel in the town of Bucak.

 Pisidia Heritage Trail

Day 4

After a quick breakfast, we trialled a new route that wound through brightly coloured meadows, noting down potential campsites along the way for inclusion in the guidebook, and stopped around midday in the yard of a farmhouse under the shade of a mulberry tree.

The trail then led down into a valley alongside a broad river that, where it met a thick concentration of trees, became a large marsh. As we ascended the side of the canyon and passed above the marsh, a chorus of frogs sang up to us from below. After walking the rest of the valley we stopped for a brief siesta in a meadow under the shade of an orange tree. Eventually we continued our walk and, after crossing a rickety wooden rope bridge that echoed with the sound of the flute player sat at its far side, we met with the van and had a late lunch.

When we had finished our lunch we left for Pednelissos and the nearby village of Kozan. We had a short walk to two large pools supplied by waterfalls, humbly named the ‘kings ponds’. The second pool then fell off into a large waterfall over the side of the cliff, which the drone set about recording whilst we enjoyed watching the distant sun set behind the mountains. Sunset on the Pisidia Heritage Trail

Day 5

Waking to the sound of cockerels we soon set out for a trail that passed an abandoned village whose only remaining inhabitants were a pair of wild horses tending the garden. After filming it with the drone and recording more footage of us strolling through meadows, we pressed on until lunch time when the walk took us back to our cabins. We then had a lunch of delicious chicken soup, and set out in the van for the site of Pednelissos.

The walk to Pednelissos was similar to Sia in that both the site and the trail that one must take to reach it are densely forested. The site itself, however, is much less compact, and as a result we had to cover a fair amount of ground to see the most noteworthy of its remains. Whilst impressive, it was perhaps not as striking as the others that we had visited up until that point - a view no doubt influenced by the ever encroaching rain that set upon us as we reached the ruins. 

Day 6

The next morning we began to walk through a forested trail that wound its way along the side of a range of hills, on the far side of which sat the ancient city of Selge. We crested the headland and continued towards the city, all the while tracing the steps of the people who built it by using their road. After more camera work in the agora of the ancient city, we followed the trail through the theatre and stopped for lunch in the village that abuts the ancient site.

When we had finished our lunch we set out for an area named ‘little Cappadocia’. This trail was again evidence of the classical presence in Pisidia, as the huge paving stones that had once constituted a busy trade route facilitated our arrival at the campsite. Pisidia Heritage Trail

Day 7

On the last day we set about climbing a nearby mountain, topped by a plateau that spawned canyons in every direction, their brightly coloured limestone etched into by the passage of water over millennia.

We then began the descent to a farmhouse located in a clearing that was visible from the summit - the only blemish in an otherwise pristine carpet of forest. After a short ride in the bed of a local farmer’s pickup truck, we were reunited with our van and continued on our way. Pisidia Heritage Trail

Having only a few hours before our flights departed we quickly headed for a second look at Termessos before heading to the airport. After a quick wash and some hastily ordered food we left back for Ankara with tired feet, full cameras, and beautiful memories of an enthralling experience.





Introducing the project

The British Institute at Ankara (BIAA) - one of the British International Research Institutes (BIRI) that are largely funded by the British Academy - has been running a major project in cultural heritage management since 2013. One of the focus points of this project has always been to understand what the archaeological sites mean to the local communities that live near them and the ways in which this relationship can be improved.

 “Living Amid the Ruins” (LAR) is part of the research leg of the BIAA’s on-going project and is adopting an innovate approach to the use of archaeological heritage in Turkey. Concentrating on southwest Turkey, more specifically on the ancient region of Pisidia, where the cultural heritage management project of the BIAA is taking place, the proposed research is tripartite: 

- Investigating the relationship that people living by the archaeological sites have with these places;

- Building capacity through creating social and economic benefits and sustainable growth for and in dialogue with the local rural communities;

- Intensifying the relationship between the archaeological site and the local communities in their vicinity so as to secure a better future for the cultural heritage itself.

It does so through the newly established long distance trekking route, the Pisidia Heritage Trail. The 350 kilometers long trail connects archaeological sites that were investigated by archaeologists affiliated with the BIAA, Prof. Dr. Stephen Mitchell and Dr. Lutgarde Vandeput, over a period of ca 30 year. The accumulated scientific information is now being shared with visitors as well as the local communities. 

Pisidia is very rich in terms of archaeological assets and it also has beautiful mountain villages where the traditional lifestyle has been preserved up to a level. However, the younger generations are leaving their villages in search of better life standards and as a result the population is decreasing and ageing. The importance of LAR stems from this fact as it actively searches for ways to contribute to reversing this trend.








LAR enabled the BIAA to have a social anthropologist conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the Pisidia region. This part of the work is now being undertaken and its results will feed into the strategies relating to different ways of promoting sustainable development of this region.

LAR contributes to a new methodological approach to protection, presentation and interpretation of archaeological heritage, and is also using this heritage as a resource for local development. The project fills the much needed research component in this framework.

Many experts from different backgrounds are working with the Principal Investigator, Dr. Lutgarde Vandeput and Co-Investigator, Dr. Işılay Gürsu on this exciting project, including Dr. Güldem Baykal Büyüksaraç (social anthropologist), Ümit Işın (tourism expert and archaeologist), Dr. Gökhan Deniz (botanist), Melike Gül (director, Antalya Regional Conservation Council) and Dr. Paul Burtenshaw (expert in economic development through archaeology). 

Below are some other images from the project:

Community day at Sia

Trekking in Ariassos

Community day at Sia



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