The Cellarga (Cellarka) Graves in Famagusta, North Cyprus.
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The Cellarga (Cellarka) Graves


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The Cellarga (Cellarka) Graves, North Cyprus

The Cellarka graves in North Cyprus are a collection of rock-cut tombs that interlink by passages. The Cellarka graves are found beyond the museum at the site of the Royal Tombs of Salamis, up a rather rough dirt track.

The word Cellarka means cells or empty chambers, but originally this was the burial site for the middle classes residents of Salamis. Over one hundred tombs have been found, and because there was not much hard sandstone bedrock available on site, the tombs were cut very close together. In some places, the tombs have even been built one on top of the other as well. The tombs were used from around 700BC to the end of the 4th century AD.

Tomb 21 at the Cellarka Graves, North Cyprus

You can get to the tombs via steps cut into the rock, once you have entered the fenced-off area through the iron gate. One of the best to visit is tomb 21, which was the only major tomb at the Cellarka untouched by 19th century tomb robbers. Tomb 21 was approached via a entrance with five steps (the dromos). The walls were made using large rectangular blocks, and the doorway was originally blocked with stone slabs known as stomion. The dead were laid to rest on stone couches either cut from the bedrock, or their bodies were placed on the floor. Four skeletons were found in tomb 21 of the Cellarka, with their funeral gifts still laid at their feet, including a figure of a horse and rider, a lamp, and an incense burner.

Tomb 21 has an alcove, really a separate tomb known as 21A, that has an unusual peaked roof. Here, nine bodies were found stacked on the two stone couches, each body laid carefully on top of the previous.

Other finds at the Cellarka graves include ceramics, jewellery, knives and mirrors, plus coins, which have helped determine the age of the various burials in the graves.