Have you ever wondered to walk though the city of the dead? Well, now you have a chance – a 1,500-year-old gallery grave in the ancient city of Dara, located 30 km southeast of Mardin, was opened to visitors.
Several of the Dead Cities all over middle East have been dug by archaeologists and are laid out for visitors with useful signs and information; others lie within modern villages. The ancient city of Dara excavated in Turkey is one of them.
The historical city, was one of the most important settlements and one of the most populated areas in Upper Mesopotamia.
Excavations in Dara revealed that the field of the grave served various cultures and faiths for centuries. In 2010, hundreds of human bodies were found in the lower layer of the grave. It is believed that they wanted to be buried in the graveyard to come to life again one day.
The area, which was established in the 6th century by the Romans for resurrection ceremonies, is believed to be one of a kind and the only one in the world, which is why findings in the grave have been protected in their original place.
Alaaddin Aydın, Provincial Director of Culture and Tourism said that the gallery grave was used in the 6th and 7th centuries, and that hundreds of bones, water bowls and oil lamps (kandil) had been unearthed in excavations. “Because it was believed that these lamps guided souls in their journey towards heaven, every grave had a lamp inside it,” he added.
Aydın also said that at the entrance of the gallery grave there were carvings depicting the resurrection prophecy. “The grave in which is said that Prophet Ezekiel breathed life into dead souls, was built by the Byzantine Empire in 591 and dedicated to those killed by the Persian Sassanids in 573 in the Byzantine–Sasanian War.”
The city’s importance stems from its use as a Roman fortress in the sixth century and as the location of the famous battle of Dara. Excavations on the ruins started in 1986 and in 2010 the necropolis area, or in other words the gallery grave, was unearthed.
The city also witnessed wars of the Persian Emperor Darius and Alexander the Great.
Aydın said the area which was used as a graveyard for 1,400 years carries great importance for the tourism sector. He invited everyone to visit Dara to travel back in time to the Roman Empire and explore the old rituals of the empire.