The ancient city of Blaundus, an erstwhile Roman episcopal city in the Roman province of Lydia (modern-day Anatolia), which is within contemporary Turkish borders, has just witnessed a spectacular find! A total of 400 rock-cut tombs, approximately 1,800 years old, have been found. The best part? Decoration and representation of various motifs, including vine branches, grapes and flowers, which are beautiful to look at, and historically fascinating.
Excavations and Finds: Ancient Funerary Practices?
In 2018, a month-long excavation commenced in Sulumenli Village in Usak, which revealed numerous monuments at the site. The success of this month-long endeavor encouraged the Ulubey District Governor, Onur Özaydın, to push for a resumption of the search in 2019, and the current dig has been active since then, reported the Daily Sabah . Work on a museum is also running parallel to the dig, which seeks to transfer the discovered artifacts into various displays for visitors and enthusiasts alike.
An outside view of the rock tombs in the ancient city of Blaundus, Uşak, western Turkey, Sept. 29, 2021. ( Anadolu Agency )
Professor Birol Can of Uşak University’s Archaeology Department, under whose tutelage this entire excavation is happening stated:
“There is only one entrance to the city from the north, and the city is surrounded by a valley reaching a depth of 70 meters (300 feet) in some points. We determined rock-cut tombs in our recent works conducted in the steep sides of the valley. From the analysis of materials and bones we found in this area, we understand that these rock tombs were intensely used after the AD second century. We can say that they were used as family graves”
He is referring to the strategic location of the settlement, as Blaundus is established on a safeguarded hill.
Blaundus’ Beautiful Wealth of Rock tombs
During the tomb excavations, 400 single and multi-roomed rock tombs , with special motifs decorating them depicting vine branches, grape bunches, wreaths and flowers were found. The nature of the finds means that they need to be instantly preserved, and there is already a plan underway to open the tombs to visitors, including illuminating the entire area.
“We found 400 rock-cut tombs during our work on the steep slopes of the valley. The rock tombs were built in terraces. Opportunities given by geography are used here. From the materials we found and the bone analyzes we made, we understand that these rock tombs were used intensively after the 2nd century AD. We can say that they were used as rooms and as family tombs”, explains Professor Can.
Hundreds of rock tombs have been discovered at Blaundus. (Anadolu Agency )
In addition to this, different types of rooms inside the rock tombs have been found, which Professor Can explains further. Arched sarcophagi have been found carved into the bedrock in front of the walls of each room, and certain rooms have evidence of some kind of funerary practices and ceremony. The main room itself had a marble door that was opened and closed only for special burial ceremonies.
The famous standing stones at Blaundus. ( inzell / Adobe Stock)
The Historical City of Blaundus
In the midlands of Turkey’s Aegean region, Blaundus is referred to sometimes as ‘Anatolia’s Stonehenge’, with breathtakingly beautiful ruins, of which the stone blocks that were once a state building, grab the eye most, reports Daily Sabah . After Alexander the Great’s military campaign that crossed this region of Anatolia in the 3rd century BC, the Macedonians who stayed behind established the ancient city of Blaundus, calling themselves ‘The Macedonians of Blaundus’.
Shortly after, two transfers of power occurred, leading Blaundus into the hands of the Kingdom of Pergamon, and eventually, the Romans. It was under the Romans, in fact, when the city would experience its most fruitful period or ‘golden age’. In this time period, Blaundus would also become the seat of a diocese or bishopric, which remained right through the Byzantine Era.
Apart from the current discovery, which is fascinating in itself, this site is also home to a temple (The Demeter Temple), a theater, a stadium, rock graves, and well-preserved city walls. It is also a poetic space, surrounded by deep valleys and canyons on either end. Excavations are slated to continue at the site for the foreseeable future, as archaeologists look to unpack the mystery of a region less explored than its western European counterpart.