Site Overviews: Turkey: Yuceoren: Hellenistic, Roman & Byzantine Chamber Tombs
The necropolis of chamber tombs at Yüceören, Turkey, dating from the Hellenistic and Roman periods (approximately 3rd century BC to 4th century AD), is located near Ceyhan, not far from the Mediterranean terminus of the pipelines. Excavated by archaeologists from Gazi University as part of the pipeline project, the chamber tombs reflect considerable investment in the final disposition of the dead. Large spaces were cut into the bedrock, there were passageways, often with steps, and stone doors closed off the burial chambers. The chambers in most cases contained one or more niches to hold the dead. It appears that the deceased were often placed in coffinlike terracotta sarcophagi. The discovery of an antechamber with the disturbed remains of nearly two dozen people suggests that, over the long history of use of the tombs, individuals’ remains were moved in order to reuse the burial niches. This antechamber appeared to be the only one of the 16 excavated tombs that had not been robbed in antiquity.
Despite the extensive looting, the team from Gazi University recovered an interesting range of objects. They included coins dating from the Hellenistic Period (late 3rd century BC) to the Roman Imperial Period (early 2nd century AD). The coins may have been placed in the graves to pay for passage into the underworld. Other finds included glass and ceramic unguentaria (jars for oils and lotions), which may have been left in the graves after final treatment of the bodies, and small portable lamps that family members who placed the bodies in the tombs may have left behind. One of two clay figurines depicts a child riding a horse and wearing a headdress of ivy leaves; it may have been made in the Turkish city of Tarsus during the late 2nd century BC.
Near the Yüceören site, the BTC pipeline bringing oil from the Caspian ends at the Mediterranean coast, the terminus of this massive engineering feat that has transformed the region’s economic landscape, and has contributed so greatly to our understanding of the cultural history of the countries through which the pipeline passes.
These photographs show klines, which are niches cut into the walls of burial chambers where the remains of individuals were placed, instead of in a sarcophagus.
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