Turkey: Marble in ancient Aegean city dazzles visitors

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MUGLA, Turkey

The ancient city of Iasos in the Turkish Aegean is famed for its unique marble structures, which have impressed visitors for thousands of years.

The city, whose oldest sections date back to around 3,000 B.C., is like an open-air museum with its large walls, aqueducts, agora, theater, tombstones, Roman tombs, and fish market.

Excavations continue in the ancient city, situated in the Milas District of the southwestern Mugla province, where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean.

Asuman Baldiran, who heads excavations at the site, told Anadolu Agency that visitors can see traces from a staggering timespan, from Neolithic, Archaic, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, early Byzantine, Medieval, Seljuk and Ottoman eras.

Noting that five marble quarries used during antiquity were found in the city, Baldiran said that the marble was extracted using a hydraulic system during the Roman Empire.

She said quarries of marble with red, pink, and white veins were usually located near waterfronts.

“In the quarries that operated during the Roman Imperial ear, we know the marble was cut using a hydraulic system,”

“Unique marbles in red, excavated only in Iasos and determined to be cut by a hydraulic system in the past, are used in a panel on the walls of Hagia Sophia,” Istanbul’s recently reopened historic mosque, she said.

Baldiran, who is also a professor of archeology at Selcuk University in Konya, central Turkey, said that the city’s red marble was used in the tomb of Italian poet Dante in Ravenna, northern Italy as well as at some administrative structures in Greece and Israel.

She explained that Iasos marble was exported to many countries by sea.

“Iasos was an important city. It was very important especially commercially and we know that marble extracted from here was sent to many countries, including Italy, Israel, Africa, and in our country, in Istanbul.”

Iasos marble was used in many churches and religious centers, she added.

*Writing by Handan Kazanci

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