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If you enter Pamukkale from the western gate, in order to reach the travertines you will first of all have to cross a vast necropolis, offering you a view of the largest and most important cemetery in the world.
The instinct for life has always been the dominating force in all living things. From the earliest times, human being have striven to find cures for the various diseases with which they are inflicted. In doing so they have exploited to the full all possible natural resources and no doubt the hot springs of Pamukkale attracted attention ages before the appearance of the first written records. Most 9f the tombs belong to the Hellenistic and Roman periods but some of the tomb types date back to very early times, indicating that long before the city of Hierapolis was founded people were coming here to seek a cure in the hot springs.
Those who found a cure undoubtedly returned to their own countries. But what happened to those who didn't? They probably remained here for the rest of their lives and were finally buried here. This is the reason for this vast necropolis that occupies over a square kilometre of the ruins, and for the great variety in the types of tombs to be seen here.
In accordance with ancient beliefs, a gold or silver coin or, sometimes, a coin of electrum, an alloy of the gold and silver, was placed in the mouths of the deceased to serve as a bribe to the boatman who was to ferry them over the river of Hades.
In later times, tomb robbers were to find these coins embedded in the skeletons of the deceased, and, unfortunately, the tombs at Hierapolis, like those in all the other ancient cities, were pillaged by robbers from Byzantine times onward. Some tombs, however, which were completely covered by the earth, were still found to contain personal effects such as oil-lamps and tear glasses.
In view of the devastation wreaked by the passage of time, that any of these tombs should have survived to the present day is a real miracle. Most of them were repaired and salvaged by the Italian archaeologists in the course of their excavations.
The variety displayed by these tombs indicates that people came here from all parts of Anatolia.
Undoubtedly, only the wealthiest could erect tombs for themselves, the less well-todo being buried in graves of which very little trace remains.
Thus, that there should be as many as one thousand tombs in the North-Western Necropolis is really quite amazing.
Most of these tombs are of the sarcophagus type, The manner in which the lids are carved gives a clear indication of the region to which the deceased belonged. The fact that some of them are quite plain while others display ornately carved decoration gives some idea of the differences in social and economic status of those buried within them.
The second large group of tombs consists of house-type tombs. Most of these are still buried under the earth, only the most imposing being visible above ground. It seems probable that these house-type tombs contained several bodies, all probably belonging to the same family.
The third and less numerous category consists of the tumulus tombs consisting of a burial-chamber covered with earth.
Over the centuries some of the earth has been blown away by the wind leaving sections of the burial chamber exposed. These are all family tombs.
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