Archaeological excavations carried out in the ancient Roman city of Blaundos in present-day Turkey uncovered around 400 chamber tombs that had been cut into the side of a nearby canyon around 1800 years ago. At first look, the canyon chambers in the western part of Turkey looked rugged and gray colored. But their stone walls hide an interior world of color and imagery which archaeologists discovered in the form of multiple tombs cut into the rock in the canyon.
These tombs numbering 400 were discovered in the ancient Roman city of Blaundos. Some of them consisted of just a single chamber whereas others had numerous rooms with colorful Roman illustrations on their walls. though these illustrations have been damaged over the centuries, their impressions of grapevines, animals, and mythological figures like Eros (Cupid), Hermes (Mercury), and Medusa are still visible with clarity.
According to Birol Can, the archaeologist from Usak University who led the excavation work at the site acknowledged that they were dangerous sometimes. He said that the tombs were probably used extensively after the second century as family graves and were expanded after initially being single-chambered to assist with more burials. The second, third, and fourth rooms were added when there was no space in the single chambers for further burials.
Can also stated that most of the tombs also had similar features and were primarily arched sarcophagi which had been carved into the rock facing the walls of all the rooms. Other places had been found in the tombs which had been used for funerary purposes. The main doors of the tombs had marble doors that were reopened during a funeral or other ceremonies in the past.
Though researchers were aware of the tombs at Blaundos since the 19th century, this was the first time that the stone-cut tombs were explored and chronicled. Along with the tombs, the archaeologists also discovered many items that had been buried inside them like mirrors, diadems, rings, bracelets, hairpins, medical instruments, belts, drinking cups, and oil lamps.
However, the tombs weren’t entirely undamaged and their objects were not perfectly preserved. During the preceding years, many treasure hunters and shepherds in the area had damaged the tombs. Robbers had broken up the tombs and stolen precious items like jewelry and ornaments. The shepherds had used the tombs as shelter and had in many cases lit fires inside the walls of the tombs which had damaged them. The illustrations inside the tombs were covered with a thick, black layer of soot due to the fires which the shepherds had lit there.
The tombs and their frescoes had been restored and thus the many green vines, golden flowers, bunches grapes, and other classical Roman symbols had been brought back to life. According to Can, vines, flowers of different colors, garlands, wreaths, and geometric panels were the motifs that were used commonly in the tombs. Also, figures from Graeco-Roman mythology like Hermes (Mercury), Eros (Cupid), and Medusa as well as animals like birds and dogs were included in the illustrations. According to Can, there were many more tombs to explore which he felt that his team could restore to their former glory in the future.
Blaundos’s history harks back to the era of Alexander the Great. After Alexander had conquered the coast of the Aegean Sea in what is now Greece and Turkey in about 334 BC, one of his Roman commanders named Blaundos established a city named after himself on a high hill which was surrounded by deep canyons. The city had developed for many centuries.
Since archaeological excavations had begun in the city in 2018, the remains of many temples, a theater, a stadium, a gymnasium, a basilica, and an aqueduct had been discovered along with the tombs. Archaeologists like Can are hopeful that the city and its necropolis can be restored to offer people an interior look at how ancient Romans had once lived and died. There are plans to illuminate the tombs and maybe build a walking path from the gates of the city to the tombs thus making the necropolis visitable in the future. But for now, the archeological team would dig the graves, restore the tombs and carry out DNA and other chemical investigation of any remains they can find.