Lonely Planet Writer

Archaeological excavations resumed at 3000-year-old Turkish city of Soli

Excavations have resumed at the ancient Turkish city of Soli, which is home to a treasury of neolithic, Greek and Roman remains that when fully unearthed could rival those at Ephesus.

Roman and Greek ruins at Mersin, Turkey.
Ruins from Greek and Roman times at Mersin, Turkey. Image by Matt Krause / CC BY 2.0

Soli was a key city some 3000 years ago in Cilicia, the southern coastal region of Anatolia. The resumed excavations are set to see the city restored to some of its former glory.

Dokuz Eylül University’s Professor Remzi Yağcı is leading a 70-strong team at the site in modern-day Mezitli, a district in the city of Mersin. The archaeologists have already uncovered structures like a theatre, Roman baths, a necropolis and aqueducts; this time, the aim is to unearth more of the city’s columned street, which is flanked with statues of Greek deities.

Speaking to Hürriyet Daily News, the mayor of Mezitli, Neşet Tarhan, explained that the team hopes to open the site up to tourism: “We want to promote the city’s underground beauties to the world. Soli is home to a process from the Hellenistic era to the Roman era. If it receives support, the hidden parts of Cilicia will be revealed and Mersin tourism will be boosted.”

Large-scale reliefs, 'Man-Rocks' in Mersin, Turkey.
Large-scale reliefs, ‘Man-Rocks’ in Mersin, Turkey. Image by Getty Images/ Andalou Agency

Among the findings in Soli are candles that were gifts to the dead, Byzantine-era seals and bowls, and skulls and bones from rock-carved graves. Many of these artefacts are on display at the Mersin Museum.

When works are completed, the ruins are tipped to be as jaw-dropping as those at Ephesus .

Meanwhile, a one-of-its-kind statue of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius has been unearthed in the ancient city of Perge in the southern Antalya  province, along with many other rare and valuable artefacts. The 2.2-metre marble likeness is the only complete statue of the emperor discovered to date. It has gone on display in a new section of the Antalya Museum.