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From an Ancient Road to a Cultural Route

Elifnaz Durusoy

Chapter 1: Introduction

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1Roads that carry flow of people from one to another place can be defined as linkages on land, water and air. They ensure communi­cation between distant areas, sections and/ or things. In particular, roads connect places, settlements, peoples and even cultures to each other. Indeed; since roads are the circula­tory system of life, they can be regarded as one of the most imperative necessities of human beings (Belloc, 1911: 4 and Forest, 2007: 2).

“The road is an invitation to cross frontiers, to start a dialogue... It gives witness to the need we have to be in touch with one another and provides the primary infrastructure of social life.” (Forest, 2007: 1-2).

2Therefore, the growing social life and relationship between different groups of mankind must have led to a greater expansion of roads. With this regard, it can be said that the daily steps of human beings led to the emergence of tracks. Progressive journeys and frequent usage turned tracks into conveni­ent pathways (Lay, 2009: 11-12). Consequently; as the number of settlements and their interac­tion grew, footpaths transformed into hardened and widened routes cleaned from obstacles. Since then, human beings begin to shape their routes into complex road networks, like the body’s capillary system (Strike, 1994: 37).

“Old roads still exist. In some cases, they are quite visible and still in use; in some they are hidden under modern highways; in still other cases they are grassy pathways once again; and in some places they are hardly more than faint indentations in the soil.” (Forest, 2007: 3).

3Some roads can be regarded as the products of long years of experiments, shared activities, long tries of customs, religions, community of language and idea (Belloc, 1911: 8). In this respect, as also reflected in the quotation of Jim Forest; after a road is formed, it may be continued to be used by different cultural groups over different periods. As a result, since they bear various cultural heritage elements and reflect cultural accumulation, these kinds of roads create added cultural value in cul­tural landscapes. These cultural accumulation features within road structures can be seen as revealing evidences of cultural and historical actions.

4However, some roads may be lost or forgot­ten in the course of time due to non-usage, economic preferences, political crises, power struggles, religion, natural disasters, disorgan­ized urban development and growth, specu­lation in urban land, lack of interest and/or deficiency of awareness in the protection of remains. Subsequently, they create crucial gaps or problems in terms of the continuity of cul­tural heritage.

5For thousands of years, Anatolian civiliza­tions engraved their surviving identities such as their cultural, social and political facets on the cities, monuments and roads that they created. Therefore; since it hosted countless civilizations as a “cultural mosaic”, it can be said that there were several similar examples of these kinds of roads in Anatolia (Sevin, 2001: 4-9) (Figure 1).

6Depending mainly on the above mentioned threatening effects of those times; while most of these Anatolian roads and the cultural accu­mulation on and/or around them had been left to their fate, only a few of them could have survived up to the present time. In this respect, understanding the past, assessing the present status and therefore making decisions and pre­paring planning and management proposals for the future lifetime of ancient roads are crucial for providing their sustainability.

  • 3 Further information about the ICOMOS Charter on Cultural Routes, 2008 can be reached from http://ww (...)

7At this point, in ICOMOS Charter on Cultural Routes which was held in 2008, the concept of cultural routes is introduced to define the roads, which have been used throughout a long period of history as a way of communication or transport, and consequently, “having generated heritage values and cultural properties associ­ated to it which reflect reciprocal influences between different cultural groups as a result of its own peculiar dynamics.” (ICOMOS, 2008)3.

Figure 1: Trade, caravan and army roads of Anatolia

Figure 1: Trade, caravan and army roads of Anatolia

Taeschner, 2010

Figure 2: Routes of Napoleon, Don Quixote, Camino de Santiago and St. Paul

Figure 2: Routes of Napoleon, Don Quixote, Camino de Santiago and St. Paul,, and

8According to this, the concept of cultural routes as a recently developing tool under the broad range of the concept of heritage can be used as an opportunity to reevaluate ancient roads as significant heritage assets. By improv­ing their service quality, connection to environ­ment and historical, architectural, social and cultural identities with suitable planning and management decisions; ancient roads can be revalorized in the forms of cultural routes for present times (Figure 2).

9It should be mentioned that there is a grow­ing interest in the concept of cultural routes due to the rapid increase of cultural tourism in Turkey. However, although cultural routes can be used as an interface for the ancient roads in order to ensure their protection and sustainability, their practical frames on planning and management processes are superficial because of the deficiencies regarding the content of the terminology. Thereby, this research con­centrates mainly on the revaluation of historic roads as systems of multifaceted relationships together with their components of cultural accumulation in order to bring them into light as well as increase and ease visits to these places by improving their economies.

10In order to direct this kind of a revaluation study, the research further aims to develop a specific proposal regarding the transformation process from ancient roads to cultural routes. In this sense, with regard to the suggested process, main emphasis of the study is given to understand the selected case study area: the ancient road between Milas and Labraunda as a historically significant axis and the compo­nents of its cultural accumulation as individual units, to evaluate the area with respect to their values, problems, potentials and threats and finally to adopt suitable decisions to the road for a sustainable future in the form of a cultural route (Figure 3).

11As stated in the ICOMOS Charter on Cultural Routes (2008: 1),

“The more extensive notion of cultural heritage requires new approaches to its treatment within a much wider context in order to describe and protect its significant relationships multidimensional. It introduces and represents a qualitatively new approach to the theory and historical setting. Within this advance, the concept directly associated with its natural, cultural and of cultural routes is innovative, complex and also practice of con­servation of the cultural heritage.”

12Therefore, the principal aim of the research emerges as to understand and evaluate the road between Milas and Labraunda as an innovative, com­plex and multidimensional historically sig­nificant road together with its cultural accu­mulation in order to adopt decisions for its transformation.

Figure 3: Different sections of the ancient road between Milas and Labraunda

Figure 3: Different sections of the ancient road between Milas and Labraunda

Muğla Conservation Council and Personal Archive


3 Further information about the ICOMOS Charter on Cultural Routes, 2008 can be reached from (Last Accessed on 01.04.2013).

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Trade, caravan and army roads of Anatolia
Crédits Taeschner, 2010
Fichier image/jpeg, 44k
Titre Figure 2: Routes of Napoleon, Don Quixote, Camino de Santiago and St. Paul
Crédits,, and
Fichier image/jpeg, 64k
Titre Figure 3: Different sections of the ancient road between Milas and Labraunda
Crédits Muğla Conservation Council and Personal Archive
Fichier image/jpeg, 66k

© Institut français d’études anatoliennes, 2014

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