Ancient earthquake traces discovered at a 3,000-year-old historical site in Türkiye

Lagina Hekate Sanctuary

Archaeologists led by Professor Bilal Söğüt are focusing on a meticulous investigation to understand the extensive destruction caused by earthquakes that rocked the remains of the Lagina Hekate Sanctuary in the southwestern Yatağan district of Muğla province, Turkey, during ancient times.

The excavation works on-site, once considered to be the center of pagan belief, which commenced over a century ago under the pioneering guidance of Osman Hamdi Bey, have persisted without interruption with professor Söğüt and his team carrying the torch forward.

Söğüt, the head of the excavation teams at the sanctuary and the ancient city of Stratonikeia, speaking to AA noted that Lagina was the largest religious hub in the region in ancient times and also housed the largest temple built in the name of the goddess Hecate.

Remarkably, this year’s excavations have brought to light remnants from the Hellenistic, Roman and Eastern Roman periods, unveiling the past ceremonies held within the sacred grounds. Through the induction of 3D technology, visitors now have the unique opportunity of witnessing the architectural evolution of this remarkable site across various historical eras.

Stating that the sanctuary and the surrounding settlement were affected by earthquakes in the ancient period, Söğüt said, “We are aware that the earthquake in 139 A.D. in the Roman period severely damaged the region. Especially through the studies we carried out in Lagina this year, we have found traces indicating that a powerful earthquake, possibly exceeding a magnitude of 7.0, devastated the region 365 B.C.”

 Lagina Hekate Sanctuary
Photo: AA

“We are documenting how the structure, which consists of huge blocks connected both horizontally and vertically, collapsed due to the magnitude of the earthquake,” he explained.

Pointing out that the buildings of the period were built so well that they could hardly be burned, Söğüt noted that in some areas, they found that the structures were completely shifted to the east due to the effect of the earthquake.

In collaboration with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (TÜBITAK) and the European Union, a comprehensive project involving geologists, archaeologists and architects is underway.

The collective effort seeks to conduct detailed studies that will vividly portray the extent of earthquake damage and structural displacement in the region.

Lagina Hecate Sanctuary

Once completed, the ongoing restoration project plans to create an exhibition space showcasing the traces of ancient earthquakes experienced in the area.

“We want visitors to witness seismic events that have shaped the region throughout history when they visit the city,” said Söğüt.

Pointing out that the sanctuary has witnessed a surge in visitors, particularly from EU countries and Russia thanks to the excavation and restoration works, Söğüt noted the region has turned into a favored destination for cruise ship travelers, attracting both large tour groups and separate gatherings of two or three visitors accompanied by guides.

“There is no chance to visit a sanctuary and a temple elsewhere. Therefore, there has been a great increase in the number of visitors lately,” he said.

Söğüt also noted that the excavations would continue uninterrupted until the end of the year.

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