Lost Villages of the Upper Euphrates: A Digital Archive


20 September 2023

The BIAA is delighted to announce our latest digitisation project – Lost Villages of the Upper Euphrates: A Digital Archive has been awarded funding from the Modern Endangered Archives Program (MEAP). This grant will ensure that this collection recording village life is preserved for future generations.

Image from the David French Collection showing aspects of daily life in a village in the Kahta district of Adiyaman Province in 1981. This image was scanned from the original slide.

This project will digitise and make openly accessible approximately 2,400 slides created between 1970 and 1990 in the Upper Euphrates region of southeast Türkiye. The slides form a unique ethnographic record of traditional ways of life in ‘lost’ villages flooded during construction of the Keban and Karakaya hydroelectric dams. Unfortunately, the slides are at risk of deterioration due to their age, so this project will ensure that this important and irreplaceable material is made digitally accessible.

Two slides from the Stephen and Matina Mitchell Collection depicting the process of making a courtyard brush.

The slides form a unique ethnographic record of life in villages now completely lost. They depict villagers engaging in activities such as weaving, embroidering, ploughing, collecting water, basket-making and preparing traditional Turkish food, all prior to modernisation and mechanisation. Some contain valuable architectural detail of village houses and mosques. Notebooks, recording details of village life and explanations of the actions depicted, supplement some of the slides and provide an invaluable source for metadata. 

The process of making a courtyard brush (pictured above) is described in Matina Mitchell’s notebook.

This material forms part of the BIAA’s larger collection of approximately 30,000 images covering a range of subjects.  You can browse our Photographic Collection on the Digital Repository, which aims to store, manage and preserve digital archaeological records for Türkiye and the Black Sea region from the BIAA’s collections.

This project is the second phase in a larger initiative to digitise and make openly accessible the full range of material relating to the ‘lost landscapes’ of the Upper Euphrates region. Phase one focused on preserving, photographing, and digitising more than 4,500 plant specimens, wood samples and charcoal samples collected from the region in the 1970s.