Living in Lycia with its plethora of rock tombs, it’s hard to be impressed by tombs elsewhere. But Palmyra definitely has a unique necropolis just beyond the Roman ruins.
There are two types of tombs: tower tombs which were built by a family to hold all family members for several generations; and hypogea, which are underground burial chambers.
There are dozens of each type still visible in the three separate burial sites adjoining Palmyra and you can visit one tower tomb and one hypogeum which have both been brilliantly restored.
The earliest tower tomb has been dated to 9BC and the Ehlabel tomb which you see in the photo was built in 103AD.
Notice the niche with a carving of sarcophagus half way up the structure. There are five floors inside with a capacity for 300 burials. Lots of rich carving and decoration too.
After exploring the Ehlabel tower we were taken to the ‘Three Brothers Hypogeum’ which is entered down a flight of steps.
This was built in the 2nd century AD and restored in 1947. It can hold 690 bodies and was apparently built partly for the family of the three brothers and also as a commercial enterprise. An inscription outside the entrance has the ancient Palmyran equivalent of ‘Burial shelves available, contact……..’.
Inside, the family’s personal burial corridor is decorated, and you can also see the separate shelf-like arrangements for interment.