Beautiful Ruins

Pictures from Laodicea

By / August 2013

In his piece “Laodicea, a City Reborn,” EthnoTraveler contributor Andy Owens writes about the herculean efforts to excavate the vast ruins of an ancient city in southwestern Turkey. A hub of trade during Seleucid, Roman, and Byzantine times, Laodicea was ultimately destroyed not by foreign invaders but by an earthquake in the 7th century C.E. Celal Şimşek, the Turkish archeologist overseeing the dig, says he hopes Laodicea will serve as a beacon of religious tolerance. His team has uncovered the only surviving Christian church from the reign of Constantine the Great. Here is a selection of photographs from the dig:


Photograph by Andy OwensThe main drag through Laodicea is a column-lined lane called Syria Street. 


Photograph by Andy OwensThe team catalogues and sorts everything it finds for restoration. Then, like some giant three-dimensional puzzle, they put these ancient treasures back together.


Photograph by Andy OwensA crane, marked by a giant Turkish flag rippling in the wind, raises Corinthian capitals, architraves, friezes, and cornices into the air.


Photograph by Andy OwensLaodicea covers two square miles. Şimşek says it would take 600 years to uncover all of it.


Photograph by Andy OwensThe most complete section of Laodicea is a line of six columns. At Şimşek’s direction, the team took it down five times. He wanted everything to be perfect.


Photograph by Andy OwensSet on a plateau in the midst of the fertile Lycos valley, Laodicea is removed from the flurry of noise and movement emanating from nearby Denizli.


Photograph by Andy OwensŞimşek’s team includes fifteen archeologists, eight restoration specialists, three architects, and around thirty master craftsmen. “This system is like an orchestra,” says Şimşek, “and I’m the conductor.”


Andy Owens is an EthnoTraveler contributor.