400 stone-carved chamber tombs filled with wall paintings and treasures found in Turkey
Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered 400 rock-hewn chamber tombs that date to 1,800 years ago and are part of one of the largest rock-hewn chamber tomb necropolises in the world.
The team found the graves in the ancient city of Blaundos (also spelled Blaundus), located approximately 110 miles (180 kilometers) east of the Aegean Sea in what is now Turkey. The city was founded at the time of Alexander The Great and existed through the Roman and Byzantine periods.
The graves are filled with sarcophagi, many of which contain several deceased people – a clue that families have used these graves for burials for many generations, said Birol Can, archaeologist at Usak University in Turkey and project leader. Blaundos excavation.
“We believe that the rock-cut burial chambers of Blaundos, in which many sarcophagi are located, were used as family graves, and that the graves were reopened for each deceased family member, and a burial ceremony took place and was closed again, ”Can said. Science live in an email.
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The town of Blaundos sits on a hill surrounded by a valley, which is actually a branch of the vast Usak Canyons, one of the longest canyon systems in the world, Can said. The inhabitants of Blaundos built the necropolis in the slopes of the canyon. “Due to the rocky nature of the slopes surrounding the city, the most preferred burial technique was chamber-shaped tombs carved out of the solid rock,” he said.
Although archaeologists have known the necropolis for over 150 years, they have never done a systematic excavation of Blaundos, which is why Can’s team began their excavation project in 2018, with the aim of documenting the ruins. and prepare conservation projects. So far they have identified two temples, a theater, a public bath, a gymnasium, a basilica, ramparts and a gate, aqueducts, a shrine dedicated to an ancient Greek or Roman hero known as the heroon, and the rock-tombs with cut chambers.
“Apart from that, we know that there are still many religious, public and civil structures underground,” Can said.
In 2018, during the excavation of one of the chamber tombs carved into the rock, archaeologists found human bones dating from the 2nd to 3rd centuries AD. So, in 2021, the team focused on the necropolis. “As a result of this sometimes dangerous work, documentation of approximately 400 rock-cut chamber tombs that can be seen on the surface has been completed,” Can said.
However, the necropolis was a hotspot for grave robbers, who destroyed graves by stealing precious jewelry and other artifacts from graves over the centuries. Archaeologists have still found many clues that the deceased date back to Roman times. For example, fragments of pottery and coins found in excavated tombs indicate that they date from the 2nd to 4th century CE, in Roman times. “In addition, the technique of the murals covering the walls, vaults and ceilings of the tombs and the style of the vegetal and figurative scenes depicted there show Roman characteristics,” Can said.
The team found different types of rock-hewn chamber tombs, including one-piece chambers, as well as “complex structures formed by arranging rooms one after another,” Can said. “These rooms were not created in one fell swoop. From the traces on the walls, these tombs were originally designed as one room. However, over time when there was no no room for burial in this one room, the room was enlarged inward and the second, third, then fourth rooms were added. “
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Some graves still contained artifacts that were likely intended to aid the deceased in the afterlife, Can said. These grave goods included mirrors, tiaras, rings, bracelets, hairpins, medical instruments, belts, goblets and oil lamps, which illuminate all those buried in the graves, such as their gender. , their profession, their habits and their burial date.
The walls and ceilings of these burial chambers were decorated with colorful and intricate paintings, although many have deteriorated over the millennia, Can said. The murals in 24 of these rooms are still visible, but they are in poor condition.
“Some of these graves were used as animal shelters by shepherds a long time ago,” Can said. “The frescoes were covered with a layer of dense black soot from the fires started at that time.” But the restoration-conservation team was able to clean up some of the paintings, revealing the vibrant floral, geometric and figurative scenes painted on the walls.
“Vines, flowers of different colors, wreaths, garlands, geometric panels are the most frequently used designs,” Can said. “In addition to these, mythological figures – such as Hermes (Mercury), Eros (Cupid) [and] Jellyfish – and animals such as birds and dogs are included in the wide panels. “
There are hundreds of other graves to be excavated, and “all the murals will be revealed along with the excavations to be done in the necropolis in the years to come,” he noted.
The team also plans to do DNA and chemical studies that will reveal the ancestors of the deceased, as well as their gender, age and eating habits, Can said.
Blaundos is open to tourists. As excavations reveal more of the city, Can hopes to protect the new findings and share them with the world.
Originally posted on Live Science.