Ancient Rock-Cut Tombs from Italy to the Middle East

rock-cut-tomb-petra (Image: Berthold Werner, public domain)

Rock-cut tombs are an impressive form of rock-cut architecture which many ancient civilisations built for burying prestigious and wealthy individuals. These burial chambers were often carved into a cliff face and sealed shut with huge slabs of stone. Some rock-cut tombs appear to blend well with their surroundings, while others are imposing temples that were once brightly painted.



Al-Khazneh-Petra-Jordan (Images: Bernard Gagnon; RadomilDavid BjorgenGraham Racher; cc-sa-3.0)

Although several rock-cut tombs have been damaged or lost in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, many spectacular structures still exist today, from the sandstone crypt of Al Khazneh in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan to Blera near Rome in ancient Etruscan Italy.


rock-cut-tomb-kokh-israel (Images: Robin Iversen Rönnlundcc-sa-3.0; Eman, public domain)

One form of tomb that can be found in Jerusalem is a kokh, containing a central area from which multiple burial shafts can be accessed. Water from higher ground naturally passes through a kokh’s underground caverns, so builders incorporated flow channels within the rock to reduce the effects of erosion.


rock-cut-tombs-myra-4 (Image: Saffron BlazeElena Pleskevichcc-sa-3.0)

In ancient civilisations, it was not uncommon for many bodies to be buried together in a necropolis – which means ‘city of the dead’ in Greek. The ocean necropolis and the sea necropolis are two temple-style cities of the dead, which were built in the historic town of Myra in ancient Lycia (now part of Antalya Province, Turkey).

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