Archaeologists reach inner walls in site of ancient Greek poet’s tomb in Turkey’s south
Excavation teams have reached the inner walls of a memorial tomb of the ancient Greek didactic poet Aratus in the Mediterranean province of Mersin’s Mezitli district.
The archaeologists, led by academic Remzi Yağcı from Dokuz Eylül University, have been carrying out excavations to unearth the memorial tomb of the Hellenic-era astronomer and poet in what was then called Soli.
Having reached the inner walls on the sixth day of the works, the team is determined to unearth entirely the tomb of Aratus and whatever there is left of Soli ancient city.
The ruins are perched amid Mezitli’s high-rise buildings and abuts a main avenue that connects the provinces of Mersin and Antalya.
Yağcı said the tomb also lies 150 meters from the ancient column-lined avenue at the site.
He added that the team was unearthing pieces one relic at a time, hence, why they don’t know what exactly they are dealing with and how its shape will turn out to be.
Deniz Kaplan, an academic from Mersin University’s archaeology department, said he was thrilled by the findings.
“We’re still at the start of things. But we’ve encountered a circular structure surrounded by two rows of hexagonal shapes. The shapes, however, can change the more the digs continue and become clearer. We can say clearer things in the future,” he said.
The team previously unearthed many glorious artifacts from thousands of years ago, including statues of gods, streets lined by columns with busts of emperors and senior managers, a theater and a Roman Turkish bath, as well as the city’s harbor and aqueduct.
The columns were largely damaged in an earthquake many years ago, but what remains of them are standing sturdy and still.
Mezitli Mayor Neşet Tarhan has said he has been visiting the site frequently to encourage the digs and is keen to see the findings unveiled so that they can be introduced to the world.
Tarhan called on the residents of Mersin to visit the site and learn about the history of the city they live in.
“It is not possible to reach conclusions with the works of the municipality and the Culture and Tourism Ministry only. The people of Mersin should come and see how the excavations are done, what their history is and who lived here in the past. The world will find out about Mezitli, which has a 2,000-3,000-year history, after Aratus’ tomb emerges from the ground,” he said.
Mersin had a prominent maritime center in antiquity and today is home to Turkey’s largest seaport, serving as the country’s Mediterranean gateway. Its coast is dotted with several other ancient sites which date back to several civilizations that lived in the lands, including Cilicia, the Hittites, Romans and Byzantines.
Yağcı believes the ancient city of Soli and the recent findings could add to the trove of ancient wealth of Mersin, which was once the heartland of the Kingdom of Cilicia.