Xanthos excavations start

Xanthos excavations start

ANTALYA - Doğan News Agency
Xanthos excavations start

This year the archaelogists hope to find new artifacts in Xanthos ancient city. DHA photo

The famous archeological site in the Antalya district of Kaş, Xanthos, is currently undergoing a new excavation project. The excavations have started at the site for the summer and the aim is to unravel the hidden artifacts in Xanthos this year.

Xanthos dates back to the 4th century B.C, and was important for the ancient Lycians. It entered the UNESCO list in 1988. Its most important artifacts are its symbol and frescoes, and also its “Harpy statues” that are currently on display at the British Museum in London.

Currently the Lycia tombs, which are at the ancient city’s church and kept in private, are the other important parts of the city. As the center of ancient Lycia and the site of its most extensive antiquities, Xanthos, has been a Mecca for students of Anatolian civilizations since the early 19th century. Many important artifacts were found at the city. Two tombs, the Nereid Monument and the Tomb of Payava, are now exhibited in the British Museum. The Harpy Tomb is still located in the ruins of the city. A sanctuary of Leto, called the Letoon, is located on the outskirts of the city to the southwest.

The excavations of Xanthos have continued since 1950. The excavations were conducted by the French Archeology Institute. However, in 2010 Turkish archeologists took over the excavation work. Since 2011, the Akdeniz University Archaeology department and the academic Burhan Varkıvanç have been leading the excavations. This year, the excavations will continue for 2.5 months.

Varkıvanç said there were many artifacts still hidden in Xanthos. “Xanthos ancient city is one of the most important city groups of Lycia and is famous for its size,” he said.

This year a part of the excavations will be at the Lyca Acropolis, the Rome Agora, and Nereid. There will also be cleaning works, he said, adding that Xanthos was a center of culture and commerce for the Lycians, and later for the Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, and Romans who in turn conquered the city and occupied the adjacent territory. By the time of the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century, the ancient city had long since been abandoned.

Varkıvanç said the archeological excavations and surface investigations at Xanthos had yielded many texts in Lycian and Greek, including bilingual texts that are useful in the understanding of Lycian. One monument, the Xanthian Obelisk, is a trilingual recording of an older Anatolian language conventionally called Milyan.

The river of the city

Strabo reports the original name of the river as Sibros or Sirbis. During the Persian invasion the river is called Sirbe which means “yellow” like the Greek word “xanthos,” which also means yellow. The river usually has a yellow hue because of the soil in the alluvial base of the valley. Today the site of Xanthos overlooks the modern Turkish village of Kınık. Once over 500 meters long, the Roman Kemer Bridge crossed the upper reaches of the river near the present-day village of Kemer.