Meat-Eating Sarcophagi in the Ancient City of Assos
The sarcophagi of the Ancient City of Assos, located within the borders of Çanakkale province, have many interesting features. Normally the corpses placed in the sarcophagus; While decaying between 50 and 200 years; The sarcophagi in the ancient city of Assos can completely destroy a body in 40 days.
For this reason, these sarcophagi are called “Flesh-Eating Sarcophagi”. Even the word “sarcophagus” from Greek; Means “meat eater”, “carnivore”, and therefore this word is thought to have been derived from the Ancient City of Assos.
So what was the difference between the sarcophagi in Assos and the other sarcophagi, and why was it able to destroy a corpse in as little as 40 days? This question is still not clear even today. But there are guesses on the subject.
These man-eating coffins are made of volcanic andesite stone unique to the region. According to some researchers, this structural feature of the stone accelerates the decomposition.
According to some experts, the aluminum found in the sarcophagi may cause this. However, the white matter found in the sarcophagi during the excavations took the event to a very different point.
It is thought that this white substance, which is understood to be alum, rotted the meat quickly and the people of Assos noticed this and put this substance in the sarcophagi. Even the sarcophagi made of andesite stone in Assos, whose fame has spread to many countries; At that time, it was exported to many regions such as Lebanon, Syria, Greece and Rome.
Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University (ÇOMÜ), Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Archeology Department Lecturer Professor, who is the head of the excavations in the ancient city. Dr. Nurettin Arslan said that the definition of “sarcophagus” first emerged in Assos and is a concept used when describing the stones in the city.
Arslan stated that the Roman writer Plinius, who has a 37-volume work called “Natural History”, stated that there is a type of stone in Assos and that the corpses placed in the sarcophagi produced from it completely decompose and disappear within 40 days. We know that information has been given about his reputation. Thanks to this information, we determined that very magnificent sarcophagi were made from andesite stone and marble.”
Despite being modest, Arslan stated that the sarcophagi made of andesite stone in Assos were exported to Lebanon, Syria, Greece and Rome in ancient times, probably because of the information Plinius gave and his praise. There is a sunken ship in the south of Greece. We know that there are Assos sarcophagi loaded on this ship to be exported to Rome,” he said.
“Weight is approaching 3 tons”
Pointing out that the sarcophagi were sent to other cities and countries as empty and processed, Arslan gave the following information:
“The fact that sarcophagi are found on ships and in different countries shows how expensive they are. We can easily say that Assos sarcophagi were especially preferred by conscious people who read Plinius.
The sarcophagi are generally 2 meters 30 in length and 80-90 centimeters in width. It is possible to see examples larger than those of this size in Assos. Their weight is approaching 3 tons. The most important feature of the sarcophagi is that the material is andesite stone and its decorations.
These are examples unique to Assos. For example, all sarcophagi in Rome have 3 wreaths on their long faces. In Assos, this number is 2. The tabula ansata (the part of the plate on which the inscription is located) on the long faces of the sarcophagi made in Assos is shaped like a cup.”
How he decomposed the body is being investigated
Pointing out that in the quarries to the north of Assos, there are still unfinished sarcophagus samples cut in the workshop and partially emptied inside, Arslan continued:
“The sarcophagi here are first cut into roughly rectangular shapes. They’re being hollowed out. We know that the decorations on it were carved in the cemetery where it was taken. We know that there has been long research on whether the sarcophagi were actually made of a stone that destroyed the flesh.
Some researchers claim that alum was found in the sarcophagus and that it decomposed the body. However, we can say that the white materials found in some sarcophagi during the excavations in the past are alum.
The people of Assos, while working in the stone quarries, realized that alum especially burned the skin, or they brought this material from another place and put it in the sarcophagi, causing the meat to rot quickly. Thus, we can say that Assos sarcophagi gained world fame.”