LYCIAN ROCK TOMBS  <<< back <<<








         It has been established that the oldest burial ceremony dates back to 150.000-60.000 years when the Neanderthal-type man lived. The Neanderthal man, discovering the use of tools and controlling  fires, started to bury the dead, which was proven during an excavation in 1960 at the Zagros Mountains in Northern Iraq. The analysis of the earth at these excavations revealed that the dead body was painted with dyes obtained from soil and decorated with hundreds of flowers. This discovery shed light the oldest burial ceremony in the history of mankind.
       The concept of reincarnation existed in every community and the idea of immortality became more prominent as time went by with variations in ceremonies. People were anxious to create proper spots to accommodate their kins who departed for the immortal sleep.
        Various items and valuable gifts were left at the grave of the deceased for use in the other world.
      The architecture of the tombs also varied depending on the different standards of living and while some were plain, the others assumed the appearance of splendour. The most influential samples of tombs reflecting the economical or political potency of the deceased are the Pyramids in Egypt.
        The tradition of burying the dead in a house-type tomb started in Anatolia during 3 thousand B.C. and continued until the end of the Roman Empire. Tombs shaped like cubes and rooms, sarcophagi, tumulus, mausoleums and rock tombs are the best samples to the different cultures in Anatolia.
        The rock tombs are special features in the Anatolian tradition of burials. Rock tombs from various Anatolian civilizations existing in 1.000 B.C. are in abundance. The most significant rock tombs are located in the Lycian area in the region called Caria and Pamphylia during the Antique Period (presently the area between Antalya and the Dalaman River).
    The rock tombs in this region, which is geographically one of the most beautiful areas in Anatolia, are in  complete harmony with nature. This is what makes Lycia unique.
     The Lycian sarcophagi were discovered for the first time by travellers and researchers coming to this region towards the end of the 18th century and since then they have been the center of attraction for many local and foreign scientists and the subject for various studies.
       Based on monumental ruins left behind, it is ascertained that the Lycians had an introverted life-style on their mountaineous land and were fiercely devoted to their freedom. Thus, the Lycians always had a special place among the various Anatolian nations. Their native language is still undeciphered. For a long time the Lycians resisted against the domination by others, being the last Anatolian province to join the Romans.
     The Lycian people established their cities either along the shore or in the Xanthos Valley because the region was fraught with geographic irregularities and covered with forests.  It is estimated that the population during the Antique Period was not more than 200.000 people.
     The quality of stonemasonry of the regional people, as evidenced by the traces of their civilization, is noteworthy. It is especially significant in the construction of tombs.
     Most of the Lycian tombs date back to the period prior to the rule of Alexander the Great (4th century B.C.) The Lycian rock tombs, almost resembling temples are carved on the slopes of the mountains, not within easy reach. The geological construction of the region consists mainly of soft limestone which facilitated working on the rocks. This must be the reason why nowhere else in Anatolia there is such a abundance of rock tombs as in the Lycian region.
     The rock tombs are generally built with two Ionian-style columns, an arc and a pediment. The interior carved into the block behind the section with columns opens up  to the funeral chamber by a monumental door. Inside the funeral chamber there are plain stone couches where the deceased is laid out and the gifts are left. The number of couches vary based on the size of the funeral chamber.
    On some of the rock tombs the exterior is decorated with reliefs depicting the specific features of the deceased and the main events of the period. The symposium scenes relating to the funeral feast are frequently included in the reliefs.
     In the reliefs of the tombs the mythological figures and heroes are also depicted. On many Lycian rock tombs there are illustrations of Bellerophon and Chimeira (Bellerophon killing the three-headed, flame-throwing dragon Chimaira, assisted by his winged-horse Pegasus).
     Some graves are carved so close together that from a distance they look like pidgeon holes on the slope of the mountain. In some regions there are over 2000 rock tombs.
     The Lycian tombs from the Antique period reflect the wealth of the period. This is evidenced by the abundance and variety of valuable gifts left at the tombs. However, these valuable items left at the tombs whetted the appetite of grave-diggers. Therefore,  prophecies exist on many Lycian tombs. These scriptures include emphatical warnings against destruction of the tombs, prohibiting their utilization for other purposes, and also a prophecy that any person entering the tomb would be punished by the gods.

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