kaş, turkey and the sunken city of kekova


From the city of Antalya, I made my way to Kaş, a small seaside town in the Antalya province of Turkey, about four or so hour’s journey by bus.  This town of approximately 6000 was founded by the Lycians, a group of people mentioned by Herodotus who came from Crete to settle in Anatolia [modern day Turkey].  The Lycians formed the Lycian League in the second century B.C.E. which was a confederation of cities in the region at the time.  Kaş was one of those cities, and boasts extant Lycian tombs and a Lycian amphitheater.

By the fourth century Kaş became part of the Byzantine Empire [Eastern Roman Empire] after the Roman Empire split.  Throughout the middle ages it was under the control of various bishops, and then it was ruled for centuries by the Seljuks and Ottomans.  After the Greco-Turkish War in the early 1920s, the majority of the population, which was Greek, left, and control of the town was left to Turkey.

Today the town is a small tourist enclave, with beautiful views of the Mediterranean coast, lots of kebab houses, and the usual local craft sellers.  You can also always get a small hot glass of local tea or Turkish coffee – even on the hottest of days.  To help provide some relief from the hot weather, I took a day boat trip around the region, stopping in various places to take a swim.  The highlight of the journey was when we passed by the sunken city of Kekova.

Kekova is an uninhabited island not far from Kaş that came under Turkish control in the 1930s.  Before that time it was under Italy’s control.  The highlight of the island is the sunken ruins of a 2nd century town – Dolchiste – which met its demise as a result of an earthquake.  Having been rebuilt a few times and having been active during the rule of the Byzantine Empire, it was abandoned with the coming of the Arabs.

The island is a protected site, and one could spend hours speculating about what these structures were used for, viewing staircases into the sea, and noting sunken shipping channels, shipyards and the simple remains of a Byzantine church. 

While the current sea level rise has occurred at a mean rate of 1.8 mm per year for the past century [currently accelerated due to global climate changes], many important archaeological sites from millennia ago are most likely waiting to be discovered underwater along coastlines frequented by ancient peoples.  Kekova gives us a small glimpse into what some of them may have looked like before they were completely submerged, awaiting discovery.