Byzantine church, tombs unearthed in Kaunos
A Byzantine-era church, tombs, and inscriptions have been found during excavations carried out in the ancient city of Kaunos, which was included on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2014.
The ancient city is located in the western province of Muğla’s Dalyan district and on the right bank of the Dalyan Stream that connects Köyceğiz Lake to the Mediterranean Sea.
According to UNESCO, it was the capital of the “Kaunos region” between Caria and Lycia until the beginning of the 4th B.C.
In today’s context, the coastal area, starting from the south plains of the Aegean resort province of Muğla and extending through the mountains between Muğla and the Mediterranean province of Antalya, was under the sovereignty of Kaunos that kept these borders until the 4th century B.C. but then lost its status as sovereign state after the Persian invasion.
The city was constructed on terraces, significant religious structures like Baselius Kaunios Temple, Apollon Sanctuary, and Demeter Sacred Rocks on one side and bath, theater, and other structures including Palaestra on a large terrace called the Upper City, on the other.
Following a 10-minute journey by tour boat and a 15-minute walk through the woods, the visitors can reach the place that opens the doors of the 3,000-year-old civilization.
The 2,400-year-old rock tombs and a 5,000-seat ancient theater welcome the visitors to the area.
Visitors walking around the basilica, bath, and agora can also examine the 1,300-year-old mosaics and take photos at the sacred Temple of Demeter.
55 years of excavations
The excavations that started in the region with the efforts of Baki Öğün in 1966 were later led under the chairmanship of his student Cengiz Işık and lasted until 2020.
Işık’s student Ufuk Çörtük took over the excavations’ leadership this year.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Çörtük said the ancient city became famous for many “first breakthroughs,” such as the rotary curtain system in the ancient theater, the piggy bank for donations to the gods, world-famous rock tombs, as well as the Carian-Greek bilingual inscriptions.
He emphasized that the excavations in Kaunos have been carried on by the Turkish scientific delegation for the past 55 years.
“Excavations in the ancient city have been taking place in the Roman basilica bordering the western side of the port agora for the last three years. During the excavations, we carried out in the basilica, which dates back to the 2nd century A.D., we encountered a Byzantine church,” Çörtük said.
He explained that the Roman basilica is a gigantic structure, 98 meters long and 22 meters wide.
“We continue the excavations in the church that was unearthed. During our work in the church, we came across the tomb, which most likely belongs to the church’s high priest, and has very fine workmanship. This tomb contains at least three-four burials in a row. So, it has a very interesting structure,” he said.
He added that two more graves -- Byzantine tombs -- were found in the place adjacent to the western wall of the church.
The excavations head underlined that two huge blocks were also unearthed in the eastern part of the church.
“There are inscriptions on them. It is among the important troves of this year. Work is underway to fully understand the inscription,” he said, adding that the Greek inscription “is not so easy” to read.
Kaunos “sheds light on the unknowns of archeology” and very important historical structures were unearthed in the city in half a century, Çörtük also noted.