Lost Villages of the Upper Euphrates: A Digital Archive

Location Türkiye

Years 2024-2026

Director Nurdan Atalan Çayırezmez

Funding Modern Endangered Archives Program

Research Summary

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. 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 depict 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 invaluable sources of metadata.

The collection comprises approximately 2,000 slides created by David French and Tuğrul Çakar in the Malatya, Elazığ and Adiyaman provinces of southeast Türkiye, along with 400 slides created by Stephen and Matina Mitchell in Aşvan village in 1974. This material forms part of the BIAA’s larger collection of approximately 30,000 images covering a range of subjects, and was prioritised for urgent digitisation due to its ethnographic value and the rapidly deteriorating condition of the slides.

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. The results can be viewed here.

The ‘Lost Villages of the Upper Euphrates: A Digital Archive’ project page on the Modern Endangered Archives Program website can be viewed here.

Research Director

Nurdan Atalan Çayırezmez