Hidden Gems

Discover fascinating Lycian tombs with sailing holidays in Turkey

By Jenny Wilson
on  July 28, 2016

One of the most popular destinations for sailing holidays in Turkey is the Turquoise Coast. There are many interesting towns to explore, providing visitors with a wealth of culture. Bustling markets and stunning beaches are part of the appeal, but this part of Turkey also offers a unique insight into the ancient Lycian civilisation that populated the region. Among the most fascinating aspects of their cultural heritage are their tombs, many of which can be seen when exploring the nearby villages.

The Lycians made several different types of tomb, including pillar tombs and sarcophagi. Pillar tombs consist of two chambers, one on top of the other. They are quite rare and are likely to have been built mainly for important people. One fine example, which can be found in the abandoned city of Xanthos, is the famous Harpy Tomb.

Lycian sarcophagi are more common and whilst there are many cultures that use these in their burial ceremonies, Lycian ones are distinctive thanks to their particularly large dimensions. Many date from the Roman period and are decorated with mythological motifs. Featuring a base, a burial chamber and a pointed lid, these are quite spectacular.

Most stunning of all were the monument tombs, of which very few have ever been recovered. These were certainly only for the extremely rich and powerful, resembling a small temple rather than a traditional tomb.

The most common type of ancient burial was to place bodies in rock-cut tombs. As the name suggests, these are burial chambers cut directly into the rock face, usually into the side of cliffs. The most famous of these is the Tomb of Amyntas in Fethiye. They could be covered in elaborate reliefs if they housed a wealthy patron, whilst poorer families settled for a plainer tomb with far less ornamentation. The Lycians believed that the closer to the sky the body was laid to rest, the easier it would be for the soul to be transported to the afterlife by the winged guardians, which is why many tombs were located at the top of cliffs.

Investigating the various burial traditions of the Lycians provides a fascinating insight into this ancient and erudite civilisation.

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