Top Archaeological Discoveries of 2010 the Tomb of Hecatomnius in Milas Turkey

The discovery in 2010 of the Tomb of Hecatomnus, was not widely reported, even though it was one of the year’s top archaeological discoveries. Archaeological discoveries though are, as a general rule, underreported, unless there is a large financial aspect involved with the discovery. Nevertheless the discovery was of great importance to archaeologists.

Unfortunately the discovery of Hecatomnus’ tomb was not made by archaeologists, even though across Turkey there are many organised digs being undertaken. Instead the discovery was made by Turkish police, although the original discovery has to be put down to looters. Events surrounding the discovery of the tomb have been reported on the Archaeolgical Institute of America website and ArtDaily.

Turkey, like Egypt, has over the centuries been robbed of many of its historic treasures. Once the removal of artefacts was done quite openly but in the last hundred years the Turkish government has tried harder to keep national treasures within the country. This though has not stopped the Black Market dealing with illegally gained treasures. Looting occurs at known and unknown archaeological sites, but the Turkish police are often hot on the heels of looters.

This was the case in Milas, Western Turkey, when police raided the house of suspected looters. When the house was searched, two tunnels were discovered. These tunnels lead into an unknown tomb some ten metres below ground level. The tomb itself his adorned with frescos, and was also home to a large stone coffin, some 2800 years old. The image of a bearded man is present on the sarcophagus, and there is certainly a family resemblance to Mausolus, the son of Hecatomnus.

The belief though is that the tomb itself was uncovered in 2008 by the looters, and in two years it is probably that all of the moveable objects that would have been within the tomb have been illegally sold. There is thought to have been outside help for the local looters though, as the equipment used to loot the tomb was expensive.  The importance of the discovery though is not diminished by the theft of objects, and indeed further planned digs in the area are planned.

Historically speaking Hecatomnus was not of any real historical importance. Hecatomnus was a Persian naval commander who took over as king of the region of Caria. Persia at the time, the 4th century BC, was in decline, and so Hecatomnus found little opposition to his usurping of power. Today it is two of his children who are perhaps better known than their father. Hecatomnus was father to three sons and two daughters, they were Mausolus, who was married to his sister, Artemisia, Idrieus who was married to Ada, and the final son Pixodarus.

The oldest son, Mausolus, is famed for his tomb, constructed by Artemisia, from which the word mausoleum is gained. The magnificence of the tomb was such that it was recognised as being one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, parts of which can be found at the British museum.

Ada is also a recognisable name, and one which is linked to the conquests of Alexander the Great. Ada has herself been usurped by her brother, Pixodarus, but quickly sided with Alexander upon his arrival in Caria. Alexander rewarded her with the role of governor for the region, and he also made her an adopted mother.

The discovery of the Tomb of Hecatomnus has shown that there is still much of the past that is to be discovered, and provides hope that Turkey, Egypt and many other countries have many more sites to be uncovered.