Cultural heritage is fundamental to identity and human dignity of communities and, additionally, an integral part of every landscape that has been studied archaeologically. Although Ephesos is one of the most important archaeological sites of Turkey and was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2015, a comprehensive analysis of the cultural heritage management in entirely lacking at this site.
State of scholarship
Regarding Ephesos, the existing studies are limited to touristic aspects while for other world heritage sites – for example Angkor Wat and Petra – already in-depth analyses of the heritage management exist. However, every individual archaeological site features particularities, especially in the area of conservation, sustainability or inclusion that justify them being investigated as individual case studies.
The manner in which the public in general and the various stakeholders in particular are tied into the activities of management and protection of cultural heritage greatly influences the quality of the relations to these interest groups. Positive relationships aid in creating a more efficient and sustainable basis for both the scientific research as well as for the participation of the public. Thus, the creation of an analysis of the cultural heritage management for all archaeological sites is recommended.
All monuments surrounding Ephesos are part of a larger and broader historical ensemble. The site management should, therefore, concentrate on the sustainability of the entire inventory and less on the conservation and restoration of individual monuments or find sites. In order to meet this goal the content of this research project is to develop a precise course of action and strategy for the site management. Since multidisciplinary investigations in the field of sustainability management of cultural heritage sites, such as Ephesos, are lacking this can only be attained through a separate research project. The corresponding analysis mainly focuses on the role of the excavations in Ephesos and the presence of the World Heritage Site in the daily life of the local population. It examines the impact of cultural heritage on the development processes of local identities as well as the importance that is attributed to the sites in the public perception. A project goal is to gain more insight into the existing site management and to create a comprehensive data basis.
Why is cultural heritage important?
Closing the existing data gap will significantly contribute to facilitating the development of projects in the area of community engagement. Through the collaboration of archaeology and tourism, the local population will be empowered to contribute, in particular, to the ways in which the archaeological site is integrated into future narratives and management strategies. Therefore, the research will also deal with the influence of mass tourism. World heritage sites are increasingly attracting the attention of tourists as is demonstrated in the increase in visitor numbers. Ephesos is a typical case for this as it counted around 2 million visitors per year even before it was awarded world heritage status. The economic benefits of the tourism industry are offset by the negative influence on the state of preservation of the ruins. In order to steer the growing tourism industry, guiding strategies are necessary as is continuous dialog with all stakeholders and constant monitoring of the throngs of visitors.