Ignimbrites are used extensively in masonry and decorative cladding not only in historical structures, but also in residential houses recently as well as monuments around Ahlat (Bitlis-Turkey) region because of their light weight, softness and insulating properties. The most famous architectural monument is the Ahlat Seljuk Tombs, in which ignimbrites were used for the structure. These are thousand year old gravestones that have been subjected to significant degradation over time caused by many physical and chemical effects. The aim of this study is revealing the mineralogical, petrographical, petrophysical and mechanical properties of fresh ignimbrites as well as determining the effect of lichens and capillarity on the deterioration of Seljuk gravestones in accordance with laboratory studies and field observations. A total of four different ignimbrite levels have been evaluated, which are widespread in the region and named as N1 (reddish brown), N2 (dark brown), N3 (yellowish gray) and N4 (black), respectively. Among these ignimbrites, the samples of N1 and N2 were employed in the construction of Seljuk gravestones. The lithic material content and welding degree are the main controlling factors of the engineering properties of ignimbrites. Laboratory test results indicate that high porosity of ignimbrites and transport of water mediated by capillarity accelerate the deterioration of ignimbrites. Furthermore, lichens play a preventive role in the deterioration mechanism of ignimbrites rather than disintegrating the tombstones. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.