Patara's Lighthouse - Possibly the Oldest in the World

Patara's lighthouse


Click to see this structure's location at Patara

The lighthouse can be reached by following the track road that leads around the southern part of the marsh, from the Roman ante temple and "Middle Ages City" (an easy walk).  At the end of the track road, take the short path that leads to the left and you are there.  You can also reach the lighthouse by walking through the dunes from the beach, but that way is more difficult.

Old lighthouse in Patara

During the excavations performed in Patara, ruins of a lighthouse that is almost 2,000 years old was found. This lighthouse is exactly 60 years older than the one in Spain which was known as the oldest.

Ruins of the world's oldest lighthouse were found in Antalya on Patara Beach under the sand piles. It is guessed that the upper segment of this lighthouse was as high as an apartment building having five storeys. And this segment was brought to light by the archaeologists. It is reported that Vice Admiral Özden Omek, the Commander of the Naval Forces, is deeply interested in the excavation works.

Prof. Dr. Havva İşkan Işık from the Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Akdeniz University has come across the ruins of a historical lighthouse which was approximately 2,000 years old during the excavation works performed in Patara Antique City. The Lighthouse Roots Back to the Roman Period.

Prof. Işık stated that the world's oldest lighthouse was known to be the one in Lacaruna, Spain. "This lighthouse we have found is 60 years older than the one in Spain. It has ancient Hellenistic features. The bronze inscriptions indicate that this was a monument of the Roman Period" she said. The Works will be completed in 3 Years Prof. Isik carries out her works with the students of the Department of Archaeology of Akdeniz University. 

She has reported that stones of the lighthouse would be labeled and exhibited for tourism purposes within three years.

Interior spiral staircase

Greek inscriptions containing curious holes, perhaps for the attachment of something? 

Some of the holes have
metal in them

A Story of Wind and Sand "Patara"
Excerpt from Turkish Airline's Magazine Skylife, July 2005
By Oznur Hepserbetciler


Now archeologists are trying to lift the veil of sand that conceals all this beauty. And the surprises that emerge are their reward. According to data obtained from the excavations being conducted under the directorship of Prof. Fahri Isik, Head of the Department of Archeology of the University of the Mediterranean, one of the world's three oldest lighthouses was discovered at Patara last year. This lighthouse, which was built around 60 A.D. and bears a 25-30 centimeter-long bronze inscription, stands 60 meters out in the sea today

Estimated at approximately 16-20 meters in height, the lighthouse will stand erect before us within a year's time. At sunset the Mediterranean's tale of earth, wind and water ends in a rainbow of color. But night always begins anew at Patara. And you feel that you too are a part of this great story. Don't put too much faith in your senses though. Was it Mete's horse Wind that was whispering this glorious story into your ear all along the way, or the Mediterranean's breath? You'll never know...

Traces Of Tsunami In Ancient City Of Patara (Turkey)
From Turkish Daily News, December 27, 2005

Archaeologists claim that an ancient lighthouse located in the ancient city of Patara on Antalya's Mediterranean coast might have been destroyed by a tsunami that hit the region in ancient times.

The ruins of the lighthouse were discovered two years ago during excavations that are still under way in Patara.

Professor Havva İşkan Işık, head of Akdeniz University's archaeology department, which is conducting studies in the ancient city, said they believed the lighthouse was destroyed by a tsunami since a human skeleton was found among the ruins.

Işık said the skeleton could belong to a lighthouse keeper who was trying to escape a tsunami but was crushed under the lighthouse's stone blocks.

The excavations in Patara are proceeding under the supervision of Professor Fahri Işık, a lecturer at Akdeniz University. His wife, Havva Işık, indicated they had come across the skeleton under a mountain of sand.

Noting that they had unearthed what they believe is the oldest lighthouse in the world, Havva Işık said a bronze inscription the team discovered indicated that the lighthouse was built by the Roman Emperor Nero between A.D. 64 and 65.

“Likewise, the structural characteristics of the lighthouse demonstrate that it is the oldest lighthouse in the world. Our impressions support the idea that it was destroyed not by an earthquake but by a tsunami. The skeleton we found in the doorway to the lighthouse also points to this idea. Stone blocks resting on top off the skeleton indicate his struggle to get away just before the disaster struck. I believe this skeleton belongs to the lighthouse keeper,” said Işık.

However, Işık says they believe only the lighthouse was destroyed during the tsunami. “We found no other traces of tsunami damage to other structures,” she said.

Işık also said there was one more lighthouse in Patara according to an inscription they found to the east of the city.