Construction in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district has unearthed ancient rock tombs that are believed to date from the pagan era between the third and second centuries B.C.
The tombs were discovered during construction works that were being conducted to enlarge a road heading to a tent city erected for Syrian refugees.
A total of four rock tombs were initially discovered, but subsequent excavation work at Mor İbraham Church and other venues revealed an additional 11 tombs, some with human skeletons.
Midyat District Gov. Oğuzhan Bingöl said the tombs had been discovered by chance and that they had begun a new information project under the direction of the Mardin Museum.
Mardin Museum Manager Nihat Erdoğan said a total of five archaeologists and two anthropologists would work on the tombs.
There are skeletons, as well as effects belonging to the people and gifts bestowed upon them posthumously buried there indicating that they came from a pagan culture. The tombs date from Roman times, said Erdoğan, adding that that the grave sites were in extremely good condition.
“This area has been taken under protection and declared an archaeological area,” he said, noting that the tombs were very important in terms of casting light on the ancient era. “There are many works from the fifth century [A.D.], but for the third and second century [B.C.] we do not have enough information.”
The excavations works that are continuing in the area are expected to show and reveal other areas in which the family was buried in ancient times.
“The [archaeological] team was formed exclusively for the excavations and currently they are working on analyzing what they have found,” he said.
Until now, bracelets, teardrop bottles and necklaces have been found. The findings will later be analyzed and dispatched to a museum to be displayed.
“After cleaning this are, we are hoping to open this area as a touristic area,” said Erdoğan, adding that the team expected to finish the works within two months.
Midyat, a prominent site for Syriac culture, has many attractions such as the Mor Sobo Cathedral, which served as the center for Syriac metropolitans for nine centuries, as well as the Virgin Mary Church, which is located near a 2,000-year-old monument.
Each of the structures is a part of historical heritage and culture, said the district governor.
Doğan News Agency. 2013. “Pagan-era rock tombs unearthed in southeastern part of Turkey”. Hurriyet Daily News. Posted: September 10, 2013. Available online: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/pagan-era-rock-tombs-unearthed-in-southeastern-part-of-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=54105&NewsCatID=375