Geoarchaeological research in Limyra

As part of a FWF-supported project »Urban Development of Limyra in the Hellenistic Period« geoarchaeological research is being conducted in Limyra and its surrounds. Here, the focus is placed on the reconstruction of the paleogeography and the environmental history in the ›West City‹ and the ›East City‹ of Limyra as well as its hinterland.

Project objectives and content

The reconstruction of the landscape over time and space is of great importance for the understanding of the location and paleogeographic situation of Limyra and its hinterland.

The aims of the research are the reconstruction of

  • the landscape, mainly from the Classical Greek up to the late Roman period,
  • the geohydrological situation,
  • the thickness of the settlement layers,
  • the extension of the former lake,
  • the earthquake history, and
  • the change of the coastline.


The studies on the paleogeography of Limyra are focused on the study of geo-bio-archives in an archaeological context. In our case such archives can be found in the alluvial plain at the foot of the Taurus Mountains. The corings are conducted with a breaker (Cobra TT, Atlas Copco). The laboratory methods include sedimentological and geochemical analyses as well as macro and micro-faunal studies. The dating is based on the 14C-dating of organic materials, the luminescence dating (OSL) of sediments as well as on the stratigraphy through diagnostic pottery.

Corings inside the city

In 2015 and 2016, 19 cores with a maximum depth of 11 m were taken. Particularly in the ›East City‹ many corings show a similar stratigraphy: lake sediments are located at a depth of 5–6 m below the ground and intercalated peat (›floating peats‹) are a sign of the beginning but then repeatedly stopped siltation process. Then follow fluvial sands of various grain frequently with a fining-upward sequence (gravel at the base, overlain sands and alluvia). They provide information about shifting river channels. Often fluvial sediments are followed by anthropogenic layers of varying thickness.

Between the ›East‹ and ›West City‹ sands are included in the lake sediments that abruptly end and are followed by relatively large pebbles. They are possibly deposits of a lake shore where people settled. The intentional deposition of the foreign pebbles some of which are not of local origin indicate a settlement. This is followed by a peat layer several decimeter in thickness and then again merges into lake sediments. The sudden formation of peat could be correlated with co-seismic subsidence.

The cores in the ›West City‹ show a different stratigraphy: the settlement layers are located directly above the Pleistocene slope debris; fluvial and swampy layers only appear in the coring Lim 14.

Corings outside of the ancient city

Two cores were located on the sea side of the urban area. Lim 13 confirms the general sediment sequence: limnic facies (lake sediments) are followed by fluvial (fining-upward sequence: pebbles, sands, alluvium). It is assumed that the paleo lake developed out of a lagoon that quickly decreased in salinity through the year round inflow of karst water from the Taurus.

Lim 20 reveals homogenous above fluvial sands. This most likely represents the uppermost layers of a beach barrier which is overlain by dunes. Thus, the explanation that the origin of the lake was a lagoon is the most probable. It was obviously very deep because so far no marine or brackish fossils were discovered in the upper 15 m.