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Global Heritage Fund Receives $400,000 Pledge from Vehbi Koç Foundation and $125,000 Pledge from J.M. Kaplan Fund for Conservation of Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

February 22, 2012


GHF Press Relations
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Global Heritage Fund Receives $400,000 Pledge from Vehbi Koç
Foundation and $125,000 Pledge from J.M. Kaplan Fund for
Conservation of Göbekli Tepe, Turkey

PALO ALTO, CA — Global Heritage Fund (GHF), an international conservancy devoted to saving endangered cultural heritage sites in developing countries, has secured a $400,000 in-country matching fund pledge from the Vehbi Koç Foundation and a $125,000 pledged donation from the J.M. Kaplan Fund for conservation of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey. These critical contributions bring pledged funding for Göbekli Tepe, the world’s oldest known ceremonial center, to a total of nearly $800,000.

The Koç family’s extraordinary legacy in Turkey began in 1926 with the work of patriarch Vehbi Koç. An entrepreneur and humanitarian, Koç established a corporate philanthropic empire that supported the growth of the country. Today, the Koç Group is the leading conglomerate in Turkey and ranks among the largest 200 companies in the world. Along with their business success, the family’s continued philanthropic contributions over the years have benefited healthcare, education and cultural heritage in Turkey.

The J.M. Kaplan Fund was established in 1945 by Jacob Merrill Kaplan, one of New York’s foremost philanthropists, with proceeds from the sale of his Welch Grape Juice Company. The fund has become globally celebrated for its support of both established institutions and fledgling projects, mostly concerning civil liberties and human rights, the arts, and enhancement of the built and natural environments. Today, the fund’s Historic Preservation program seeks to preserve the physical integrity of historic sites locally, regionally, and worldwide.

GHF’s Göbekli Tepe project is the first conservation program in the history of the 11,600-year-old site. In partnership with the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), German Research Foundation (DFG), Şanlıurfa Municipal Government and Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the project’s goals are to support the preparation of a Site Management and Conservation Plan, construction of a shelter over the exposed archaeological features, training of local community members in guiding and conservation, and assisting the Turkish government in securing UNESCO World Heritage nomination.

In June 2011, Göbekli Tepe was the subject of a National Geographic cover story titled “Birth of Religion,” which discussed the significance of the site’s massive pillars and how they are reshaping contemporary ideas about the Neolithic Revolution and the dawn of civilization. The story also profiled DAI archaeologist Klaus Schmidt, Project Director for GHF Göbekli Tepe, who discovered the site in 1994 and has since devoted his career to excavating and studying it.

“We have easily gotten money for research at Göbekli Tepe, but not for conservation,” said Schmidt. “The major aim of our excavations is to uncover a part of the site large enough to understand it, avoiding unnecessary exposure of the structures. These contributions for conservation help us simultaneously protect Göbekli Tepe while excavating and studying it.”

“Göbekli Tepe is not just the world’s oldest temple, but one of our most important documents for the study of human history,” said Jeff Morgan, Executive Director of GHF. “With proper conservation, this is a place that will tell us more than we have ever known about the birth of civilization and religion. Klaus Schmidt and his team have done an exceptional job of exploring it thus far, and these generous donations by the Koç and Kaplan families will help us implement a historic conservation strategy for Göbekli Tepe, protect its archaeological structures, and ensure its monumental potential as a global cultural heritage treasure.”

About Global Heritage Fund
Global Heritage Fund (GHF) is an international conservancy whose mission is to protect, preserve and sustain the most significant and endangered cultural heritage sites in the developing world. GHF utilizes our 360-degree Preservation by Design® methodology of community-based planning, science, development and partnerships to enable long-term preservation and sustainability of global heritage sites. Since 2002, GHF has invested over $20 million and secured $18 million in co-funding for 16 global heritage sites to ensure their sustainable preservation and responsible development. For more information, visit