The property within boundaries of District of Koycegiz is located in the face of Dalyan City and on the right shores of Dalyan Stream (Calbis) which connect Koycegiz Lake to Mediterranean. It was the capital of the ‘Kaunos Region’ between the Caria and Lycia until the beginning of the 4th BC.
The existence of Kaunos had known by the scholars but its location was a mystery until English archaeologist Hoskyn discovered it in 1842. Swedish archaeologist P. Roos defined the independent state boundaries of Kaunos as follows: “Starting from the Fethiye Bay at the north and Ancient City of Krya at the north of the bay; extending till Tlos at the 35 km east of Fethiye, Idyma at Gokova Bay at the west and Çamkoy located in the west of Urla which is little forward to north.” In today’s context, the coastal area starting from the south plains of Mugla and extending till the mountains between Mugla and Antalya was under the sovereignty of Kaunos. Kaunos has kept this borders until the 4th century BC but then lost its statue of sovereign state after the Persian invasion. It was one of two cities resisting against Persian invasion (other is Xanthos) such that they paid high taxes to prevailing states many times in order to keep their independency as a port city.
Kaunos was mentioned as Ksibde in Lycian scripts, while as Kbid in the scripts of other surrounding cities. Life style and language of Kaunos people share similarities with Carian people except five letters in their alphabet are not seen in latter which makes Kaunos language is unique to them. Heredot reveals in this respect that “There is Carian influence in their language or their influence in Carian language. This is an issue which I couldn’t clarify.” In fact, epigraphic materials in Carian language are found mostly in Kaunos today. Kaunosian could not be understood until very recently just because Carian language was not decoded. However, by virtue of a stela written in Greek and Carian, it has been possible to unravel Carian language and a little of Kaunosian due to Greek language had already been known.
Kaunos was an important sea port city with two ports; one is in the south at the southeast of Küçük Kale (Small Castle) and the inner port at its northwest, the present Sülüklü Göl (the Lake of the Leeches). The southern port was used from the foundation of the city till roughly the end of the Hellenistic era, after which it became inaccessible due to its drying out. The latter was used till the late days of Kaunos, but due to the silting of the delta and the ports, Kaunos had by then lost its important function as a trade port and started becoming poor. After Caria had been captured by Turkish tribes and the serious malaria epidemic of the 15th century AD, Kaunos was completely abandoned.
The city was constructed on terraces; significant religious structures like Baselius Kaunios Temple, Apollon Sanctuary and Demeter Sacred Rocks on one side and Bath, Theatre and other structures including Palaestra on a large terrace which is called Upper City on the other. The monumental terrace on which the Upper City situated connects Baliklar Mountain with the Acropolis by extending the city into Mediterranean like a tongue and naturally creating a second harbour basin in the east.
In many places in the ancient city, it has been found stone cutlery and arrowheads from Palaeolithic era. The finding and remains in Kaunos reveal the prosperity of the city as a great power of its time and that it was a sovereign state which minted on its behalf. The coins printed in this region especially in the first half of the 5th century BC are of great importance since a winged figure is displayed on the front side while pyramidal formed monoliths on the back. Besides, letters of K and B found on the coins are important due to they are the first two letters of the first name of Kaunos, Kbid.
The oldest find at the Kaunos archaeological site is the neck of a Protogeometric amphora dating back to the 9th century BC, or even earlier. A statue found at the western gate of the city walls, pieces of imported Attic ceramics and the South – Southeast oriented city walls show habitation in the 6th century BC. Although none of the architectural finds at Kaunos itself dates back to earlier than the 4th century BC, history of Kaunos is believed much earlier than that.
Because of the paleogeographic formation of Dalyan Delta and the silting of the former Bay of Dalyan (from approx. 200 BC onwards), Kaunos is now located about 8 km from the coast.
Kaunosians are the indigenous people of Anatolia as evident from their unique language, customs and rituals, beliefs which they had their own God namely Baselius Kaunios.
Ancient City of Kaunos was a port city of extremely strategic importance especially for the merchant ships travelling between East Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. This makes Kaunos more attractive relatively to contemporary cities in terms not only of historical geography or urbanization, but also political and social life, economic and cultural changes and developments. The city had developed into a thriving port, possibly due to increased agriculture and the demand for Kaunosian export articles, such as salt, salted fish, slaves, pine resin and black mastic – the raw materials used in boat building and repair. The city walls which are extra-proportional in relation to the size of Kaunos and its population, presumably is a result of high expectations of the satrap about the city's future as a marine and commercial port.
Many architectural remains unearthed in Kanuos are the early examples and archetypes of Anatolian archaeology and they mostly enable our understanding of their original designs. Rock-cut tombs which are peculiar to Kaunos, Measuring Platform and the Salt-pan which are firstly documented in archaeology together with Custom Laws of the time which are fully unearthed and documented are among those coming to the forefront.
Therefore, historical ruins and cultural background of Kaunos stands out as an outstanding universal value flourishing among its contemporary examples.
Criterion (i): City walls of Kaunos reaching wideness of 4 m in places are structured by intertwining sculpted stones without any mortar. Considering the steep topography of the area they were built, it is still a mystery how the stones are carried to so high and steep mountain and which technology was used.
Criterion (ii): Interaction between contemporary civilizations of Caria and Lycia was inevitable for Kaunos as the outcomes of this interaction can be found in architecture and daily life. For example, while the most gorgeous temple-like rock-cut tombs are found in Kaunos, they also appear in other ancient cities in the vicinity of Kaunos, which brings out the idea that this tradition was spread from Kaunos.
Moreover, the façades of the rock-cut tombs resemble the fronts of Hellenistic temples with two Ionian pillars, a triangular pediment, an architrave with toothed friezes, and acroterions shaped like palm leaves, which demonstrates an interaction among different cultures finally reflected on a new and unique architectural style.
Criterion (iii): In Kaunos, we witness fine examples of Hellenistic architecture and building technology in the city walls. The regularly-shaped rectangular blocks and the way the blocks have been positioned give a fine impression of Hellenistic building techniques in the construction of city walls.
Additionally, Kaunosians are the only representation of an Anatolian cult in this region in the sense that they used a naturally found stone pillar as a symbol for their God.
Above all, the city is a testimony to a civilization with its own language which lived only in this region of the world.
Criterion (iv): Rock-cut tombs worked on the limestone steep façade of Baliklar Mountain are grouped in seven different areas in the direction of southwest. The most significant ones among 167 tombs are the Temple-Faceted ones. Rock-cut tombs in Kaunos are differed from others with its unique façade typology representing façade architecture seen in Hellen Temples. Tombs in this typology of this period are seen only in Kaunos and its hinterland which reveals its uniqueness to Kaunos. That’s why; this type of tombs is named as “Kaunosian Style Rock-Cut Tombs”.
Custom Laws inscribed onto the harbour-directed façade of the Harbour Agora Fountain is worth to note as it is the longest and full text for today.
Measuring Platform, which is round-shaped and three-staged structure in 13.75 m. diameter located on the summit of the upper terrace, is - as it is understood by the geometrical network dividing the top stage circle into 16 sectors of 22.50 - apparently the wind measuring platform mentioned by famous architect of Agustus Period, Vitvuvius, on his book. This structure which is known to be used for situating streets and roads accordingly to the wind directions is also a first in archaeology.
The Great Church, presumably built in the 5th century BC or later on the right side of the road from city entrance to the theatre, is the one and only domed church in Anatolia found until today.
The only example of a Periaktos, the rotary curtain system in ancient theatres meaning “turning around its own axis”, has been unearthed in Kaunos Theatre. The architectural remains unearthed on the basement of this system exhibit traces as much that it can be rebuilt appropriately to its original design.
Salt-pan (Sal Caunitis) excavated on the Iztuzu beach is the first archaeological record which will light the salt production and salt economics of antiquity in Anatolia. By this remain we now know the architectural design of a salt production centre which we had been informed only through the ancient writers. It is in a very good state of conservation that salt production with the technology of its time can be restarted any time.
Likewise, Aphrodite Euploia Sacred Room, known only through the scripts, is firstly excavated in Kaunos. There is no doubt about the Sacred Room opened in the back wall of the Harbor Stoa was established for Aphrodite Euploia with both terracotta sculptures left as oblation deposits and marble altar on which relief of the Goddess was engraved.
Demeter Sacred Place designed on the large terrace at the north-east of Small Acropolis, is differed from others not only with its place in the topography or small terracotta sculptures in indefinite quantity and variety, but also sanctifying the bedrock elevation itself which is decomposed by deep fractures.
Kaunos also keeps a very precious find which is an oblation exedra of Protegenes, who was a very famous mural artist of Diadoch’s period, as it reveals that he was from Kaunos, not from Rhodos as it had already known.
Votive-box (Thesauros) and donation-box are also among those found firstly in Kaunos.
The property has been conserved appropriately to the National Conservation Act of Turkey No: 2863, since its first registration as an archaeological conservation area on the national inventory in 1978. The site has been regularly excavated since 1966. The remains reflecting the original city layout are mostly included within the conservation area boundaries while few individual can be found spread around. The site and individual components within its boundaries are in a quite good state of conservation in general. However, tombs, which are vulnerable to geological and climatic circumstances of the region, are started dissolving even that they are fragmented as pieces.
The rock cut tomb tradition in Anatolia, which was seen firstly in the region of Urartu in the first quarter of the first millennium B.C, was spread out to Lycia and Caria Regions through Phrygians. Especially, the facade architecture of the rock-cut tombs in Kaunos differs from the rock-cut tombs in the regions of Urartu, Phrygians and Lycia with its unique façade typology representing façade architecture seen in Hellen Temples. Rock-cut tombs with temple façade are seen only in Kaunos and its hinterland which reveals its uniqueness to Kaunos. That’s why; this type of tombs is named as “Kaunosian Style Rock-Cut Tombs”.
The finds from Kaunos show that the tomb date from the middle of the fourth century B.C. and the combination of the Anatolian feature of cutting chamber-tombs in the rock and the Greek architecture is in Caria evidently due to the Hellenization of the Hecatomnids. It seems that the acculturation to the Hellenistic architecture, stimulated by the Hecatomnids has been particularly fruitful over the years, in direct contact with the Greek world. Regarding Kaunos it must emphasize the concentration of the temple tombs and remember the role of frontier town that it has done.
Rock-cut tombs with the temple façade of Kaunos are very similar to the popular rock landscapes in many parts of the Mediterranean countries, Etruscan ones (Norchia- Italy) and Nabataean ones (Petra-Jordan, Medain Saleh -Saudi Arabia), in terms of construction techniques, style, the decoration of the external surfaces of these rock-cut facades. However, Kaunos rock cut tombs not only are carved out of the rock wall like in others but often share the same shape, that is (i.e.) a small temple with pediments supported by columns. There are other differences in term of the general distribution of the burial places. The Kaunos tombs rise up the rock face like multi storey apartments meanwhile the Nabataean tombs are not arranged in the same Kaunos manner.
Consequently, the rock-cut tombs with temple façades are associated with Caries communities and appear typically Caries. Before to have an important expansion in Lycia and last for a long period, these rock-cut tombs with temple façade have their origin in the heart of Kaunos and then, by the mid-fourth century B.C., develops in the southern, eastern Caria and many civilizations especially Nabataean.