Friday, July 28, 2017


Lucia Nováková​, Tombs and Burial Customs in the Hellenistic Karia. Universitätsforschungen zur prähistorischen Archäologie, 282​. Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 2016. Pp. 184. ISBN 9783774940086. €48.00.

Reviewed by Paavo Roos, University of Lund (

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents can be found at the end of the review.]

The various provinces of Asia Minor provide a fascinating field of material in the form of tombs. It is true that Karia perhaps cannot be compared with Lykia or Phrygia in terms of interesting or unique tombs; nevertheless, the variety of Karian tombs makes Karia highly important for tomb research. Several scholars have shown interest in the tombs but naturally mostly dealt with separate sites; seldom has anybody tried to consider all the tombs of Karia in all aspects. On the other hand, efforts have been taken to encompass much wider areas, which, of course, leads to less numerous examples from different areas and/or briefer treatment of each of them.

When a reader compares the title of a book with what it contains, both lacunae and unexpected additions may often be found. Contrary to what its title suggests, the book's geographical range is not restricted to Karia. Many examples and photos are from other regions, especially Lykia and the Dodecanese, but also from Phrygia and Kilikia. There is of course nothing wrong with that, but it is rather surprising that we do not meet with corresponding categories from Karia. There is not a single photo of a Karian rock-cut tomb, but several of those from Lykia, and this is true for other monuments, as well. However, this is not so surprising in the case of relief sculpture since reliefs in associated with Karian tombs are rare.

Likewise, the span of time covered by the book is not restricted to the Hellenistic period but also encompasses some of the Classical and Roman periods in both Karia and other areas. For example, there is a short chapter on Early Imperial monuments, and the account of Lykian funerary architecture reaches back to the Hittite periods.

The book has a great number of chapters, each divided in many subdivisions, which makes information rather difficult to find, especially as the index is so meagre (see below).

For example, types of tombs are mentioned in several chapters but a typology is not easy to find; moreover, in southwest Anatolia types may occur that exist only in Lykia and not in Karia (p. 49). There are built tombs and rock-cut chamber tombs, but rock-cut sarcophagi and cist tombs are not included. On p. 50 it is expressly mentioned that tumuli were closely related to subterranean chamber tombs, and naturally it is not always easy to distinguish the different types, e.g., 'so called temple tombs' are defined as tombs with raised burial chamber. As for the rock-cut tombs in the catalogue, the division between apteros in antis and apteros puro is clear, but I must admit that I do not understand why a small number of them are called chamber tombs and not temple tombs.

Tombs are often decorated with reliefs, e.g., banquets, lions, or statues, but as noted above, Karian examples are rare with the notable exception of the maussoleion at Halikarnassos; only shields, rosettes and palmettes commonly occur in Karia.

There are chapters on intramural tombs, reconstruction of funeral rites, tomb owners, and Hellenistic hero cult. Much attention is given to the tombs as signs of hero cult in the cities. A short chapter is dedicated to an inscribed document concerning the foundation of Epikteta, attesting a private hero cult on the island of Thera. There is an entire section of chapters on epigraphic evidence, which is a well-constructed survey of inscriptions connected with tombs and hero cult. The chapters on tomb inscriptions, honorific inscriptions and sacred inscriptions have subdivisions, such as formulations, hero cult testimony and various types of honours. Several examples of inscriptions are included, most, but far from all, are from Karia. Few of them are from the tombs themselves (in many cases their associated tombs do not survive) but from altars or connected places.

The book has a number of good photos, but in fact only a minor part of them from Karia. About half of them are taken by the author, who also produced the drawings and maps.

There is a comprehensive catalogue of tombs divided and listed in groups: T (tumuli), C (rock-cut tombs in central Karia), SE (rock-cut tombs in south-eastern Karia) and B (built tombs). They are represented in detailed tables with parallels, bibliography and, in most cases drawings, successfully reduced from the original publications. The tumulus tombs are nine in number, seven from as many different sites in Karia and two from Lykia – the reader is not informed about the latter two's locations since they are not shown on any map, and one also does not appear in the index. The rock-cut tombs, divided in two areas, consist of eleven and fourteen tombs respectively. The built tombs are only seven in number and from five different sites, including the Lion tomb in Knidos and a tomb in Labraunda. In a few cases one feels a certain skepticism, e.g. why is the cylindrical monopteros in Kaunos (Kaunos2) called a tomb at all? There is also a catalogue of 20 inscriptions in connection with tombs, presented in a similar way. Half of them are from provinces other than Karia. More than half of them are cross-referenced with the chapters on epigraphic evidence: there, they are presented with the Greek text, English translation, or both. None of them is a tomb inscription proper (in fact, inscriptions on tombs are very rare in Karia, especially compared with neighbouring Lykia). Only half of them are, in fact, funerary, and the rest of them honorific, so the number of funerary inscriptions from tombs in Karia discussed here are only five.

In spite of the richness of treatment of the material, there are some strange lacunae. One appears in the catalogue where the rock-cut tombs are arranged in subregions by central and south-eastern Karia (this occurs also in the text where the rock-cut tombs in section 5.2 are divided between only central Karia and south-eastern Karia). This omits some areas, especially Kaunos situated between them. Not that Kaunos is completely neglected – with 27 entries in the index it is among the sites most referred to, and there is a tumulus and a built tomb in the catalogue. But the rock-cut necropolis, the richest in Karia, is missing, and there is seldom a reference to the tombs.

Another lacuna is found in the map (fig. 33) that shows the distribution of rock-cut tombs in Karia. For example, in central Karia many sites are displayed, including the most insignificant. But almost no sites appear in south-eastern Karia; the reader does not learn their positions and their relationship to each other or to other sites. The sites are missing also on other maps in the book. Also, the area north of Mobolla is strangely empty, and only some of the sites situated there are represented in the text.

Since the book has the title Tombs and Burial Customs [...] one would expect some discussion about grave goods. But the 'catalogue of archaeological finds' includes only the tombs themselves, and although 'benches for offering gifts' are sometimes mentioned we are never informed of what was placed on them and whether anything of this has been found. It is true that rock-cut tombs are often found empty, but not always, and since tombs are often dated through their finds it is strange that finds are never mentioned, and words like vases, pottery and sherds never occur.

As for the terminology and language it is strange that the rock-tomb doors are divided into sliding doors and hinged doors (instead of pivot-doors). Since the device in question is formed by projections from the door slab in holes in the threshold and the lintel, it is strange to call them hinges, especially when the works referred to always call them pivot-doors. In addition, when rock-cut tombs are meant, the word 'built' is not appropriate, but is unfortunately often used. A frequent formula that is irksome is 'may be seek' or 'can be seek' (may be seen or may be sought?). Misprints are not uncommon but are usually not difficult to understand.

There is an index comprising only place-names, unfortunately slightly too meagre: of missing names some are missing also on the maps like Hyllarima. An index of personal names, which are numerous in the book, would have been beneficial. The bibliography includes both ancient authors and secondary sources. The latter is very comprehensive and there is little to complain about in it; among missing works I find that while O. Henry is represented by seven articles from 2010 to 2013, his book Tombes de Carie from 2009 is absent, which is surprising since it is, in fact, something of a predecessor to Nováková's book.

Table of Contents

1.1 Landscape
1.2 Persian satrapy
1.3 Hellenistic Karia
1.4 Ancient authors about Karians
1.5 The Karians in the epigraphic evidence
1.6 The Greek way of life
1.7 The Karians and the Greeks
2.1 The Hellenistic tombs and burials
2.2 Processing of the epigraphic finds
3.1 Tombs, burials and social representations
3.2 Hellenistic hero cult
3.3 The nature of the archaeological evidence
3.3.1 Temple-like tombs and sepulchral precinct
3.3.2 Tomb elements
3.3.3 Tomb decoration Funerary banquet Other motifs
3.4 The nature of the epigraphic testimony
3.4.1 The foundation of Epikteta
3.4.2 Reconstruction of the funerary rites
4.1 Types of tombs and terminology
4.2 The dynastic monuments
4.2.1 The Hekatomnid maussolleia
4.2.2 Following tomb structures
4.2.3 Lykian heroa
4.3 Intramural tombs
4.4 Lykian funerary architecture
4.4.1 Free standing tombs
4.4.2 Rock-cut tombs
4.3 Funerary architecture of the Dodecanese
5.1 Tumuli
5.2 The rock-cut tombs
5.2.1 The rock-cut tombs in central Karia
5.2.2 The rock-cut tombs in the south-eastern Karia
5.3 Monumental built tombs
5.3.1 The temple-like tombs
5.3.2 Pyramidal tombs
5.3.3 Cylindrical tombs
5.3.4 Sepulchral precincts
5.4 The Early Imperial monuments
5.4.1 Decorative elements
5.4.2 The tomb owners
6.1 Tituli sepulchrales
6.1.1 Formulation
6.1.2 The hero cult testimony
6.1.3 Inscriptions on funerary altars
6.2 Tituli honorarii
6.2.1 Civic memorials
6.2.2 The royal honours
6.2.2 The civic honours
6.3 Inscriptiones sacrae
Catalogue of the archaeological finds
Catalogue of the epigraphic finds

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