Plans are underway to bring the famed Mausoleum at Halicarnassus back to its former glory. This is the second longest surviving ancient wonder, after the Great Pyramid of Giza. However, the ancient tomb of King Mausolus has fallen into ruins and little remains these days of the marvelous structure that once stood. Archaeologists hope that the reconstruction of the tomb and other local sites will help resurrect interest in the history of the region and bring the ancient tomb back to life.
The Mausoleum is located in Halicarnassus, present day Bodrum, in Turkey. It was built between 353 and 350 BC as the final resting place for Mausolus, the second ruler of Caria from the Hecatomnid dynasty. The building was constructed on top of a hill overlooking the city and created with a mixture of styles from three different cultures – Greek, Lycian, and Egyptian. Mausolus’ grieving widow (and sister), Artemisia II, pulled out all the stops in the creation of his tomb.
Ancient Origins writer Dhwty has provided a description of how the grand Mausoleum looked in its glory days:
“A stone platform was first built, and was enclosed with a courtyard. The top of this platform was reached by a flight of stairs flanked by stone lions. Along the outer walls of the courtyard were statues of various gods and goddesses, whilst mounted stone warriors were stationed at each corner. At the center of the platform was the Mausoleum itself. Whilst the building was constructed of bricks, it was covered with white Proconnesian marble, giving it a splendid look. The first 1/3 of the Mausoleum was a square, tapering block covered with relief sculptures. These reliefs included standard images from the Greek repertoire, including the Centauromachy (the battle between the Lapiths and centaurs) and the Amazonomachy (the battle between the Greeks and Amazons). The next 1/3 of the monument consisted of a set of 36 Ionic columns. Between each column was a statue, and a solid block was constructed behind the columns to bear the bear the weight of the structure’s roof. This roof, which covered the final 1/3 of the building, was a step pyramid with 24 levels, topped with a sculpture of Mausolus and Artemisia riding a four-horsed chariot.”
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, painting by Ferdinand Knab. (Public Domain)
And now, Hurriyet Daily News reports that Danish archaeologist Professor Poul Pedersen and his assistant Professor John Lund of the University of Southern Denmark have begun working with The Mediterranean Countries Academy Foundation, headed by Özay Kartal, to restore the famous site.
Lonely Planet says that there are only a few ancient elements of the Mausoleum that survived the earthquakes that shook the monument to the ground before the 15th century AD. These are:
“the pre-Mausolean stairways and tomb chambers, the narrow entry to Mausolus’ tomb chamber and a huge green stone that blocked it, the Mausolean drainage system, precinct wall bits and some large fluted marble column drums.”
Excavations at the ruins of the Mausoleum. (Kristian Jeppesen)
The restoration of the Mausoleum is one of the two main objectives for The Danish Halikarnassos Project, the other being a wider mission covering the rest of the ancient city of Halicarnassus. Specifically, Hurriyet Daily News says that the project also involves excavating some sites along the way from the Bodrum Harbor to the tomb, unearthing ancient city walls that encircle Bodrum, and excavating a 3,500-year-old hippodrome.
A scale model of a reconstruction of the Mausoleum - one of the versions at Miniatürk, Istanbul. (Nevit Dilmen/CC BY SA 3.0)
Discussing the reason behind the ambitious project, Özay Kartal has said:
“There are many locals in Bodrum who don’t know that Heredotus was born in Bodrum and that the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This is why our priority is to restitute this mausoleum and open a way from the port to this place. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting Bodrum return to their countries without seeing it. We, as the foundation, will organize the International Mausolus Workshop in May to provide information about Bodrum’s history with the participation of academics, historians and archaeologists. This workshop will be a very important step leading to the restitution project of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.”
Travelers Today says that there are no dates provided yet for the restoration of the Mausoleum. However, when the ancient structure is restored, there will be at least two of the ancient wonders of the world available for modern eyes to gaze upon once again.
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were a list of seven monuments that ancient Greek historians considered the ultimate examples of skill and ingenuity.
As April Holloway has written:
“Today, only one of the Seven Wonders remains intact – the Great Pyramid of Giza. Three of the Wonders – the Colossus of Rhodes, Lighthouse of Alexandria and Mausoleum of Halicarnassus – were destroyed by earthquakes. Two of the Wonders – the Temple of Artemis and Statue of Zeus – were intentionally destroyed by enemy forces, while the final Wonder – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – has remained a matter of contention for millennia, with some historians questioning whether existed at all.”
Although it is limited as it only covers the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, the seven sites included on the list certainly must have been something spectacular to behold.
Top Image: Painting of what the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus may have looked like. Source: CC BY SA
By Alicia McDermott