Urban explorers of Dülük

The ancient city of Doliche, where our excavation takes place, sits on one of the many hills, which define the landscape around the modern village of Dülük. While we are working throughout the week the whole day in the field or the house, the weekends offer some free time to explore the region even more. We already made a few trips to e.g. Göbeklitepe, Epiphaneia, Hierapolis, Karatepe or Zeugma, which took us hours driving through the plains and hills of south-eastern turkey, but you don’t have to take the car to have a look in to the ancient past: Let’s take a walk through Dülük!

The landscape is barren and rocky. Narrow goat paths wind their way through the hills. The first stop are the rock tombs and rock churches in the hills in and around the modern village, that is partly placed on the former necropolis of Doliche. Although we have a map with us, it is not easy to find them at first. They are located beneath small rock ledges, and it could happen that you don’t see them, even whilst standing directly above.

Inside the tombs, the air is cold, and the visibility is poor. Each tomb’s construction is different, but most of the time they consist of several chambers, that build one big room. Those chambers are entirely carved into the bedrock and are often filled with rich floral ornaments to honour the dead that lay in arched niches or stone chests.

A very special rock tomb is located in the centre of the modern village and offers an even better insight into the art of rock carving. This tomb has a hexagonal layout and is filled with lots of ornamental and figurative decoration. Across the entrance, a well elaborated relief depicting a scene from the greek underworld is preserved. We can see the god Hermes leading a winged female, symbolizing “the dead soul”, into the realms of Hades.

In contrast to the last tomb, the Christianization of the urban area of Doliche is still witnessed by two rock churches located in the hills. They were built between the sixth and ninth centuries AD. The rock tombs that already existed in these places were architecturally and religiously transformed to be used in a new way. Rich ornamental decoration gives a vivid view and the rooms partly have vaults carved into the ceiling, beneath which you can see remains of lost columns. Except from one little green fella, the once religious halls are now completely abandoned.

The small inhabitant of one of the tombs.

Heading east from the rock tombs and into the centre of Dülük we aim for a quarry, which was used to cut stone not only in antiquity but also up to modern times. The impressive scenery looks just like a set from your favourite Indiana Jones movie.

We climb around the rocks, but are too afraid to crawl through an ancient water tunnel that would lead hundreds of meters through the rocks beneath Dülük. It seems that this task is up to the local kids as a test of courage, since the tunnel is – except from its few and hard to reach entries – completely dark and filled with moist air.

After giving up trying to follow the local kids jumping around the rocks, we leave the quarry and turn southwards towards our excavation house. After a long afternoon getting to know the history of our temporary home base, we are quite exhausted and ready for a hot shower.

Written by: Miriam Hanitzsch & Benedikt Wilhelm

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