Treasure hunters destroy ancient lake in northeastern Turkey 

Two people, including a ruling party official, in search of a treasure have caused Turkey’s Dipsiz Lake, a 12,000-year-old glacial lake in Turkey’s northeastern Gümüşhane province, to dry up.

A district chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Fatih Sözen, is one of the two people who applied for a permit to search for a treasure, Turkish daily Hürriyet reported on Sunday.

The Gümüşhane governorate’s culture and tourism directorate had approved the permit for the excavation, which was carried out under supervision of the Gümüşhane museums director and officials from the province’s gendarme. 

The lake was drained to search for treasure believed to have been left behind by one of the largest legions of the ancient Roman Empire in the Anatolian peninsula. Efforts ended after five days when no treasure was found.

Turkish law allows for permits to be issued to treasure hunters if the area to be searched does not have protected status and spans less than 100 square metres.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry issued a statement that said an inquiry had been launched into the matter and those responsible had been suspended.

“A primitive and unscientific treasure hunt approach has destroyed the lake,” Geophysics professor Ahmet Ercan told Hürriyet.

Upon public outcry, the Gümüşhane governorate announced efforts to rehabilitate the lake.

Landscape architecture professor Ertan Düzgüneş said the lake ecosystem had evolved over 12 thousand years, and could not be artificially restored.

Chamber of Environmental Engineers Chairman Baran Bozoğlu called for new legislation on treasure hunting.