The oldest olive oil press in Anatolia has been discovered in the ancient city of Lyrboton Kome in Antalya, but archaeologists have expressed special excitement at revelations that many of the olive oil facilities and the town itself was founded by a woman.

“We are seeing the establishment of such facilities for the first time. This is the oldest known olive oil facility in the region. It is awesome that the founders were women. Women are protective and they protected all olive trees. The inscriptions provide information about the operation of the facilities and rules. We understand that the facilities were kept for at least three generations,” said Akdeniz University Archaeology Professor Nevzat Çevik, the head of the Kepez Archaeopark Project, which will encapsulate the ancient site.

Çevik said a woman named Arete, meaning “honor,” formed the settlement.

“This woman was the owner of the settlement. She had the tower built and dedicated to the Emperor Domitian and Perge Artemis. And the most important thing is that she institutionalized production by founding olive oil facilities. The ownership and control over the facilities and the settlement started with Arete and was maintained by her daughter Kille and subsequent generations. The power of this female-dominant family showed itself in settlement and production.”

Work started on Lyrboton Kome in 2016 to unearth olive oil ateliers, houses, baths and churches. When the project is done, the ancient city will be opened as a nature and history park with its Arete Tower as well as floral and geological riches.

Kepez important for area’s history

“Kepez is now becoming home to Antalya’s most important and prestigious places,” Kepez Mayor Hakan Tütüncü said, adding that there had been many transformations in the district. “One of the most important values was this 2,000-year-old ancient city, which is rarely known … It has its own unique story. We came up with an idea to make this place an archaeopark and it has become in two years. In the first year, we cleaned the plants and started works in the second year to restore the artifacts here. We will start hosting people this year in the archaeopark. The Lyrboton Kome Archaeopark will be a new center of attraction.”

Çevik said the ancient city became a settlement during the Hellenistic era but that the area grew during the era of Roman Emperor Domitian in the first century.

“The settlement had been extended and used for a long time during the Christian era. We understand it from the existence of three churches. It was abandoned in the 11th century at the latest. Even though it started in the Roman era, the city is at least 2,000 years old,” he said, adding that the ancient city did not have a Turkish layer.

He said Lyrboton Kome had the status of village (kome) connected to Perge and was an olive oil production center.

“This place has high-capacity olive oil facilities. There are at least 80 olive oil ateliers. This number will rise when the whole settlement is unearthed. We have been examining this whole region for 30 years. So many facilities have not been found before in a settlement. This settlement is in fact a well-preserved olive oil world,” Çevik said.