Costume of Byzantine Mummies of Anatolia
Anadolu'nun Bizans mumya kostüm

Peter Beatson - NVG Miklagard


The arid Anatolian interior is rich in naturally and artificially preserved mummies from burials of various periods. Some are displayed in provincial museums, but they are basically unknown outside Turkey. Some have clothing - they represent a barely tapped resource for Byzantine costume history, here are a few examples.

1. The “nun” of Ihlara Valley

Sex and age: Adult female, about 22 years.

Burial site: Ihlara Valley, Aksaray province Turkey (Western Cappadocia), said to be from a rock-cut church, Yılanlı Kilise (‘Serpent Church’).

Burial date: 10th century.

Discovery year: 1965.


Current location: Niğde Müzesi, Niğde (Central Anatolia).

Information: Investigations by National Geographic in 2003 showed the blonde-haired woman was 162 cm tall and had not lived permanently in Cappadocia as she had a seafood-based diet. There was evidence of deliberate enbalming. Clothing - a dress and shawl?

Gizemlikapi - Niğde Museum

2. Manazan girl

Sex and age: Young adult female, about 17 years.

Burial site: Manazan caves, abandoned rock-cut settlement in Yesildere Valley 40km east from Karaman.

Burial date: Uncertain - 8th century, or later?

Discovery year: 1991.


Current location: Karaman Müzesi, Karaman (Central Anatolia).

Information: A Byzantine community lived in dwellings carved from the rock at Manazan near modern Karaman in southern central Turkey, leaving a necropolis containing 100-150 bodies. Most of the tomb contents had unfortunately been looted by the time the ‘Manazan girl’ was recovered during a rescue excavation in 1991. Her soft tissues were naturally preserved, though all the other bodies found were reduced to bones. She was dressed in a knee length linen tunic. The tunic has been cut open, presumably this was done during or after excavation. The corpse has not been redressed correctly in the museum display. She lies backwards and it appears the sleeves are empty (even though the body is said to be in good condition, except that most of the skull is missing).

About the linen shirt - Karaman Museum

3. “Byzantine babies” of Niğde Museum

Sex and age: Infants.

Burial site: Çanlı Kilise (‘Bell Church’), Aksaray province (Western Cappadocia).

Burial date: 13th century.

Discovery years: not known.


Current location: Niğde Müzesi, Niğde (Central Anatolia).

Information: Four infant mummies are displayed here, together with the unrelated “nun mummy” (see 1.

Links: Niğde Tourism - Gezi-Yorum - Kenthaber - Niğde Museum

4. “Byzantine babies” of Aksaray Museum

Sex and age: Infants.

Burial site: Çanlı Kilise (‘Bell Church’) and others, Aksaray province, Western Cappadocia.

Burial date: Post-Byzantine, 16-19th centuries?

Discovery years: 1994 - 2009.

Current location: Aksaray Müzesi, Aksaray (Central Anatolia).

Information: Fourteen mummies are kept at Aksaray Museum, including children as well as adults and cats(!), naturally preserved by the dry climate and volcanic soil. A few were discovered during archaeological investigation of Çanlı Kilise in 1994 [
1], the rest were recovered from antiquities smugglers carrying out illegal excavations - two child mummies were found in a police raid as recently as 2009.
They are probably Christians who lived later than the Byzantine era, during the Ottoman Sultanate [2].

Links: CNN Türk - RotaHaber - HaberVakti - Aksaray Museum

Turkish friends - can you help me with clear pictures or information?


[1] refer Rober Ousterhout, A Byzantine Settlement in Cappadocia (Dumbarton Oaks Studies XLII), Appendix 6 (p.202-208). Dumbarton Oaks: Washington DC 2005. (back)

[2] The wood cover of one tomb was dendro-dated to after 1532, see Ousterhout, op. cit. (back)

‘Costume of Byzantine Mummies of Anatolia’, written and webbed by Peter Beatson.

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