Turkey, Alexander Sarcophagus

Archaeology and History: 11 must-see sarcophagi in Turkey

These are the 11 ancient sarcophagi that any tourist and lover of archaeology and history should not miss when travelling to Turkey.

Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture has recently compiled a list of 11 magnificent and ancient must-see sarcophagi that any tourist and lover of archaeology and history should not miss when visiting Turkey. Next, we show the list including the place where each of them can be seen.

Sidamara Sarcophagus (Istanbul Archaeology Museum)

It was discovered in the town of Ambar, in the Sidamara region, and transferred to the Istanbul Archaeological Museum in 1901. It is dated between the 2nd and 3rd century AD, and weighing 32 tons, it is considered the heaviest sarcophagus in the world. Built in marble, it shows two figures of Eros and a hunting scene. It is a sarcophagus from Roman times, although with sculptural features that bring it closer to the Byzantine style of later centuries.

Sidamara Sarcophagus in Turkey

Altınkulaç Sarcophagus (Troy Museum)

It is a Greco-Persian style sarcophagus dating from the 4th century BC. It was discovered in 1998 in a burial chamber located in the Çingenetepe Tumulus, in the province of Çanakkale, in Northwestern Turkey, halfway between Troy and Dascilio, the ancient capital of Hellespontic Phrygia. Its historical importance lies in the good state of preservation of the scenes painted on this marble sarcophagus. It is believed to have been built for a dynasty that ruled Anatolia in the late 5th century BC.

Altınkulaç Sarcophagus in Turkey

Alexander Sarcophagus (Istanbul Archaeology Museum)

Discovered during the excavations carried out in 1887 by Osman Hamdi Bey (founder of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum) in the Royal Necropolis of Sidon (Lebanon), it dates from the end of the 4th century BC. Despite its name, it is believed that here it was buried not Alexander the Great, but Abdolonymos, king of Sidon. Its name derives from the fact that its reliefs show a fighting scene between Persian and Macedonian soldiers, including a mounted figure representing Alexander the Great. It is one of the most important sarcophagi that can be seen today in the museum.

Alexander Sarcophagus in Turkey (figures detail)

Hercules Sarcophagus (Konya Archaeology Museum)

Found by chance in 1958 during construction works in Yunuslar, a village west of the city of Konya, it is the best example ever found in Anatolia of a sarcophagus of Heracles sculpted using the high-relief technique. It is believed that it belonged to a noble citizen of the ancient city of Pappa (Tiberiopolis), and shows the deceased on one side and the legend of the 12 works of Hercules on the other three.

Hercules Sarcophagus in Turkey

Sarcophagus of the Weeping Women (Istanbul Archaeology Museum)

Discovered by Osman Hamdi Bey in 1887 during archaeological excavations in the royal necropolis of Sidon, it receives its name from the scene it shows on all its sides, where women appear crying (moirologists). It is believed to date back to around 350 BC; it was built in classical Greek style in a workshop in Athens or Rhodes, and from there brought by ship to the city of Sidon.

Sarcophagus of the Weeping Women, Turkey

Achilles Sarcophagus (Adana Museum)

It is a sarcophagus from Roman times dated between the years 170 and 190 of our era. Of an attic type, it has characteristics of the late Roman Antonine period, and shows on its sides several scenes from the Trojan War as recounted in Homer’s Iliad.

Achilles Sarcophagus in Turkey

Aurelia Botiane Demetria Sarcophagus (Antalya Museum)

Stolen in 1997 by treasure hunters who looted the necropolis of the ancient city of Perge, in southern Turkey, it was recovered by the authorities when it was about to be sold, although with significant damage caused by the looters to steal the objects inside the vault. This sarcophagus shows the figure of a man and his wife, a prominent Roman citizen of the 2nd century AD, lying on a roman triclinium. On its sides there are scenes of fighting between Trojans and Achaeans during the Trojan War.

Aurelia Botiane Demetria Sarcophagus in Turkey

The Lycian Sarcophagus (Istanbul Archaeology Museum)

It was discovered in 1887 by Osman Hamdi Bey in Sidon. It is dated between 430 and 420 BC, and although it was unearthed in Lebanon, it receives its name due to the similarity it has with the tombs found in Lycia, a region of ancient Asia Minor (Anatolia). Belonging to an ancient ruler of Sidon, it shows mythological scenes of fight between centaurs and Lapiths, and others in which the boar hunt is shown.

The Lycian Sarcophagus, Turkey

Eros Sarcophagus (Side Museum)

Discovered in an ancient mausoleum during archaeological excavations carried out from 1947 to 1966 in the ancient city of Side, it is dated to the second half of the 2nd century AD, and is adorned on its sides with small figures representing the god Eros in different attitudes.

Eros Sarcophagus in Turkey

Sarcophagus of Dionysus (Antalya Museum)

Discovered recently (in 2003) during excavations in Perge, it is an Attic-style sarcophagus made of Pentelikon marble showing scenes with Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and wine. The lid is carved in the form of a triclinium showing a Roman couple. It is dated in the second half of the 3rd century AD.

Sarcophagus of Dionysus in Turkey

Polyxena Sarcophagus (Troy Museum)

It was found in 1994 during excavations at the Kızöldün Mound in Çanakkale, Northwestern Turkey. It is a sarcophagus from the end of the 6th century BC coming from the ancient region of Hellespontic Phrygia, just at the time when it became a province of the Persian Achaemenid empire. It is the oldest example ever found in Anatolia of a sarcophagus with narrative reliefs. On its sides shows the sacrifice of Polyxena, the youngest daughter of the Trojan king Priam and his wife Hekabe.

Polyxena Sarcophagus in Turkey