An assessment and re-identification of the rural heritage site of Santa (Dumanlı köy, Gümüşhane)

Abay, Pelin
Since the Industrial Revolution, rural landscapes, the product of the mutual relationship of human beings and nature, have witnessed a process of depopulation throughout the world for a variety of reasons. The Population Exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923 (1923 Türkiye-Yunanistan Nüfus Mübadelesi) – one of the reasons for the depopulation of rural areas in Turkey – had major repercussions on both the immigrant Turks and emigrant Rums, as well as on the rural settlements and landscapes. These rural areas underwent substantial transformations as a result of the Population Exchange and now face the risk of losing their rural identity as living systems. The rural settlement site of Santa is one of the most outstanding examples of the Pontic rural heritage in the Eastern Black Sea Region: it lies in the Province of Gümüşhane within the borders of Dumanlı village. Following the Population Exchange, it has undergone a significant alteration affecting both its built environment and socio-cultural composition. Over time, such transformation led to the identity of Santa’s qualities as a settlement becoming hard to define and saw the emergence of threats towards its sustainability. The deterioration of the traditional buildings in Santa began in 1921, with the armed conflict between the Turks and the Rum inhabitants. With the Population Exchange, the majority of the structures was abandoned and gradually became ruins. As a result of the current appearance of the built environment, the site was named ‘Santa Ruins’ (Santa Harabeleri). The seasonal use of Santa as a highland settlement (yayla) by the new population introduced with the exchange of people has prevented a comprehensive understanding of the original and present socio-cultural characteristics of the site. Furthermore, the designation of the site as a ‘3rd degree archaeological site’ by TKTVKK has led to a misunderstanding of the settlement’s original qualities. As a result of these definitions, Santa has begun to be interpreted as a ‘ghost settlement’ or an ancient city. This thesis aims at elucidating the challenges and threats leading to the misunderstanding (and misinterpretation) of the site’s identity. It also seeks to reveal the various values and qualities of the site in light of international charters and documents. Based on this assessment, it is argued here that the rural settlement site of Santa, currently (mis)named as ‘Santa Ruins’ and defined as a ‘3rd degree archaeological site’, needs to be re-identified. In order to properly do this, the theoretical part examines the concepts pertinent to Santa's identity as well as the international charters and documents, and national legal regulations concerning these concepts. Accordingly, Santa can be identified as a ‘continuous cultural landscape’: a settlement where traditional methods of life are merged with modern demands and where evolution continues due to the existence of a local community, although seasonal. The site can also be defined as a ‘historic rural landscape’, which is one of the most prevalent types of continuous cultural landscapes. To underline the rural character of the site, Santa needs to be also classified and treated as a ‘rural conservation area’, even though national legislative standards classify rural settlements as either archaeological sites or urban conservation areas. In addition, Santa can become a ‘site of memory’ because the Rums keep up their ties with the site. The site has the potential to become both a sacred place for mourning and an educational location for learning from the memory of past events. Heritage interpretation can be employed to reveal the authentic identity and meaning of Santa and to communicate these to the public, thereby encouraging its proper identification.


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Citation Formats
P. Abay, “An assessment and re-identification of the rural heritage site of Santa (Dumanlı köy, Gümüşhane),” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2023.