Theses tombs are the resting places of the kings of Caunos. They are carved in the style of Lycian rock tombs. There are two types of tomb to be found in Dalyan. Simple chambers, cut in to the rock face like a room and more elaborate temple tombs.
Many tombs were built with false walls placing valuables behind them so as to fool robbers, eventually this was to no avail as all the tombs were emptied of their treasures. Rock tombs can be seen along the Lycian coast, but best examples of them in Dalyan.
The ancient city of Caunos stands midway along the channel, and it can be visited today by crossing the river, and exploring the Amphitheatre, Baths, Acropolis, Angora etc etc.
Caunos grew into a major area on the border between Lycia and Caria, the people were said to be famous for their yellowish skin and eyes. Caunos was said to be the son of Miletus and the Grandson of Apollo, he is believed to have fled from the city due to unnatural feelings between himself and his sister. The city sprawls over a broad slope overlooking the sea and delta.
At Caunos there is an Acropolis surrounded by the city walls that are Byzantine, a theatre, four temples, an Angora, Roman Baths, Palestra and a Cistern. The demise of the city was due to the harbour that continually silted up which is now 5 km from the sea and marshland, and also disease due to malaria. Rhodes purchased Caunos in the 2nd century, after many wars it went back to Carian rule only to be given back to Rhodes in 88BC. Caunos has a long and varied history and is well worth a visit. You can visit Caunos at any time although it is advisable to avoid the midday sun. First you will have to cross the Dalyan channel via rowing boat then walk up to the city. Caunos can also be visited as part of a day tour.
Founded around the 9th century BC, Caunos became an important Carian city in 400 B.C. Right on the border with the Kingdom of Lycia, its culture reflected aspects of both Kingdoms. The tombs, for instance, are in Lycian style. When Maussolos of Halicarnassus was ruler of Caria, his Hellenistic influence reached the Caunians, who eagerly adopted the culture.
This mixture of cultures in Caunos may be seen amongst the ruins of its various archaeological remains: the Carian city wall built by Maussolos, the Lycian and Carian tombs, the medieval walls on the acropolis, a Roman fountain dedicated to Vespasianus, a theater from the 2nd century BC, remains of 4 temples, massive Roman baths and a Byzantine basilica of 5th/8th centuries. One of the most beautiful features of the site are the rock tombs sculpted in the form of the porticoes of small Ionic temples. These are among the most splendid examples of Lycian type funerary architecture in Turkey, although the builders were Carians. The original occupants of the tombs are obscure but are assumed to have been Caunian noblemen and rulers; in most cases they were vacanted and reused in Roman times. The largest one is unfinished, providing a curious glimpse of the method of construction.
The prosperity of Caunos was threatened by the silting of the harbor after which the city was eventually abandoned. The Mediterranean, which once surrounded the hill on which the archaeological site stands, has now retreated 5 km. to the south, pushed back by silt from the Dalyan Cayi. The marsh which formed appears to have already been a problem for the harbor activities in Strabon times.