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Ancient ruins bulldozed

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(29 Sep 2017) LEAD IN:Archaeologists are protesting against the bulldozing of ancient ruins in the Gaza strip.They're the site of a rare settlement predating the pyramids by a 1000 years.STORY-LINEBulldozers assigned by Gaza's Hamas administration are levelling this site, believed to be a Bronze Age settlement. The work is despite an agreed lull following protests by experts and antiquity officials. The leveling at Tel Es-Sakan hill on the southern tip of Gaza City is part of a ten year long process here.Archaeologist Fadel al-A'utul explains the significance of the site."The importance of the place is from the ramparts that we discovered here where we are standing. These are from 3,500 BC. Tel Es-Sakan site is one of the most important in Palestine, 3500 years old, which means 1,000 before the pyramids. We also have discovered camel bones here," he says.Al-A'utul shows salvaged fragments that he used to reassemble two thirds of a jar. He's also found a flint knife blade and camel bones.Hamas is flattening the hill on the southern tip of Gaza City to make way for military bases and construction projects. Al-A'utul fears that the ancient ruins will be completely destroyed if nothing is done to preserve them."If this way of bulldozing, trucks and playing in the place continues, this place will be gone, erased...it will disappear," says al A'utul.The site was accidentally discovered in 1990s when an expedition by French archaeologist Jean-Baptiste Humbert found the fortified settlement hidden in the the 10-hectare (25-acre) hill.The settlement predates pharaonic rule on Egypt by centuries and the pyramids by a 1000 years.In 2002, the French excavations stopped because of a Palestinian uprising in which protesters violently clashed with Israeli military posts.Gaza is home to numerous ancient treasures. But, beyond the hot weather and urban sprawl, Gaza's unique political landscape has long complicated archaeological work.With little open space in Gaza, a fast-growing population and an economy stifled by Israeli and Egyptian blockades, Hamas officials say they have no choice but to develop the area, making archaeology a low priority. Dozens of ancient sites have been found in Gaza and excavations have revealed temples, monasteries, palaces, churches and mosques and mosaics from the Bronze Age and through the Byzantine, Greek, Roman and Islamic eras.But most of these sites have disappeared. UNESCO is struggling to preserve some of remaining ones. "I believe that what is going on and what happened in Tel Es-Sakan, which is also an important archaeological site is disastrous for the archaeology and cultural heritage in Palestine as it's also for its identity, identity of its people. So, it's of course an important concern for UNESCO and we already conveyed this concern to the relevant authorities," says Junaid Sorosh-Wali, a UNESCO official in Palestinian Territories.In 2009 and 2012, the expansion of universities destroyed the western and northern facades of Tel El-Sakan. People displaced during three wars between Hamas and Israel set up temporary dwellings on the eastern side. The southern front remained, but Hamas authorities decided to flatten it. The bulldozer work started in early August. Humbert, with the help of colleagues from Gaza's Islamic University, succeeded in stopping the work for two weeks while theministry and Hamas' Land Authority tried to settle the dispute syrrounding the ruins. Jamal Abu Rida, the ministry's director of antiquities, says Tel Es-Sakan is a protected archaeological site under the auspices of his ministry, but that couldn't stop the more powerful Land Authority from destroying the final 1.2 hectares (three acres) of the site. You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive 4118612 764819f4b3d5f426ce6b6513595c7b5f HZ MEA Archaeology Jean Middle East Egypt North Africa Gaza Gaza Strip Palestinian territories Israel Science General news Social affairs
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