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Lycia – a center of culture in antiquity

International team begins study of settlement patterns

Munich, 07/05/2011

From the Pre-Classical Period up into Late Antiquity, the valley of the Xanthos River in southwestern Turkey was the political and economic center of the region then known as Lycia. A new collaborative research project entitled XANTHIACA, which involves teams from both German and French universities, hopes to throw new light on the history of human settlement in this ancient and important cultural landscape. The project will be led by Professor Martin Zimmermann, who holds the Chair of Ancient History at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München and Professor Jacques des Courtils of the University of Bordeaux. Together with colleagues from LMU and the universities of Bordeaux, Poitiers and Paris, they plan to spend the next three years studying the material evidence for settlement patterns in the Xanthos Valley, which was the source of the most significant political and social developments in the Lycian region in ancient times. The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the French Agence nationale de la recherche (ANR) will together contribute around 1 million euros to support the project.

In Classical times, the broad and fertile Xanthos Valley, with its many cities, both large and small, was the political and cultural center of the region known as Lycia. All of the most significant historical developments that took place in the region, such as the adoption of the Greek city-state (the polis) as the basic form of political organization in the 4th century BC, the origins of the federation of cities referred to as the Lycian League, and the emergence of a new elite in Late Antiquity, when the Lycia became a province of the Roman Empire, have left their mark on the landscape of the valley. No other part of Lycia can provide a comparably detailed picture of the role played by the interchange of goods and ideas in advances in the spheres of politics and economics, religion and culture in the region.

The goal of the Franco-German project is to investigate the political history of the Xanthos Valley, the economic basis of its rise to prominence, the architectural configuration of its public spaces and the pattern of settlement in the surrounding countryside. The study will concentrate on the cities of Tlos (which lies further inland) and Patara and Xanthos in the south near the river mouth. The other focus will be the major religious center of the Lycian League, the so-called Letoon, which, like the nearby city of Xanthos, has been the subject of intensive investigations by French researchers for many years. The Letoon and the three cities mentioned above have been chosen for in-depth investigation because they exemplify the distinctive political, cultural and ethnic features of the region as a whole. Surveys will also be carried out in selected areas, in order to document architectural remains, inscriptions and pottery, which can help to illuminate interregional contacts and the interactions of this part of Lycia with the wider world.


Prof. Dr. Martin Zimmermann
Chair of Ancient History, Department of History, LMU Munich
Phone: +49 89 / 2180 - 5385
Fax: +49 89 / 2180 - 5655

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