Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP), which aims to transmit the Azerbaijan gas to Turkey and Europe, is the most important part of the Southern Gas Corridor. Among the priority targets of TANAP has been to protect the country's cultural heritage and archaeology along its pipeline route.
Anatolia has been home to many civilizations and a bridge between western and eastern cultures. Provinces of Ardahan, Kars, Erzurum, Erzincan, Bayburt, Gümüşhane, Giresun, Sivas, Yozgat, Kırşehir, Kırıkkale, Ankara, Eskişehir, Bilecik, Kütahya, Bursa, Balıkesir, Çanakkale, Tekirdağ and Edirne, which are known for their rich cultural and archaeological heritage, are crossed by the pipeline route of TANAP that runs ca. 1850 km across the country.
During the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and engineering design of the TANAP Project, 106 new archaeological areas that were not previously recorded in the inventory of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey were discovered within the scope of archaeological and cultural immovable assets identification. Besides these, 55 sites previously registered by the Ministry are located along the pipeline route.
A total of 48 new archaeological sites such as necropolis, tumulus, and various archaeological settlements, and ca. 1000 archaeological artifacts were identified in the course of 5 years of construction works. Many of the identified areas have been registered by the relevant Cultural Assets Preservation Regional Boards and protected accordingly. In overall, 25 salvage excavations conducted at different locations on the pipeline route have made significant contributions to our knowledge regarding the cultural heritage and archaeology of Turkey.
In the vicinity of the TANAP pipeline corridor, important settlements dating back to 2nd millennium BC are known to exist. Among these, eponymous Karaz Höyük is located near Kahramanlar village, Ilıca district, Erzurum. The “Khirbet Kerak” culture, which is associated with this mound, continued its existence over Northeastern Anatolia to whole Eastern Anatolia extending to a large region reaching Palestine in south between 3,250 and 2,000/1,750 B.C.
Alaybeyi Archaeological Site was discovered as a chance find during the construction works carried out at kilometer point (KP) 335 of the TANAP pipeline route. The archaeological site presents findings that will rewrite the history of the region's archeology with its multi layered structure including the Khirbet Kerak culture. Numerous tombs and tomb gifts were unearthed along with the architectural structures during the excavations. According to the carbon (C14) analysis results carried out in TÜBİTAK laboratories, the oldest settlement in Alaybeyi Archaeological Site dates back from 4720 B.C. to 4553 B.C. (i.e. Chalcolithic Period). In anthropological examinations made on bones the presence of a population of Mediterranean origin, which widely suffered from Mediterranean anemia (a.k.a. Thalassemia), was determined. These results show that Alaybeyi Höyüğü is the “oldest settlement” discovered to date in Northeast Anatolia.