I made a special trip to the British Museum recently to look at the Lykian monuments from ancient Xanthos. Lykia (or Lycia) was a civilization on the coasts and upland heights of south western Turkey, influenced by both the Persians and the Greeks that reached its height in the sixth and fifth centuries BC. Lykian tombs still dot the landscape, large blocks like immense loaves, and Xanthos itself is hugely impressive.
Conquered by Alexander the Great, the civilization and cities of Lykia were unknown in the West – and were only rediscovered in the 1830s by the British archaeologist and traveller Charles Fellows. Fellows made several expeditions to this remote area, mapped the sites quite carefully and with the permission of the Ottoman authorities and the help of the sailors of a Royal Navy ship, he excavated and removed some of the friezes and remarkable temple-like tombs, which now remain some of the BM’s most impressive exhibits. They include expressive friezes of horses, men, bulls and winged harpies, a complete colonnaded temple – the Nereid monument – immensely popular with visitors for photo opportunities, and some of the tombs with their massive curved stone lids.
|The Nereid monument|
I was just getting stuck into a good look at Fellows’ collection at the BM when the fire alarm went off and we all had to shuffle out.
|Scharf's drawing of the tower tombs at Xanthos.|
|And one in the the BM - the protruding stone 'joists' suggest that these tombs imitated timber structures|