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The Cilician Coast Archaeological Underwater Surveys - 2005: Tisan (Aphrodisias) - Dana Adası - Mavikent - Boğsak Coastal Survey

 Middle East Technical University Subaqua Society Wreck Research Group (METU-SAT BAG) (http://www.metu.edu.tr/home/wwwsat) has continued its “Coastal CiliciaArchaeological Underwater Surveys” (http://www.kilikya. org) in 2005 in the area between Yeşil Ovacık (Mersin -Silifke) and Taşucu at Tisan (Aphrodisias) - Mavikent - the coastal strip of Boğsak and Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island) (Map 1). Prior to the survey, METU-SAT BAG members contacted the Silifke Museum and obtained the necessary information and resources. Although all of the survey dives were attempted in areas out of diverrestricted zones, the Mersin Directorate of Tourism and Culture and the Coastal Guard were informed. Since 2002, the Turkish Underwater Archaeology Association-TINA (http://www.tinaturk.com) supporting underwater research, has also been METU-SAT BAG’s sponsor. Our research team of 16 METU-SAT BAG divers, with the support of the Mavikent Summer Resort residents, completed its survey between the 20th and the 31st of August, 2005.

Each campaign of the Cilicia underwater research begins with obtaining intensive logistics and preliminary archaeological information. In addition to this, local divers, fishermen and locals are contacted to obtain further information leading to the selection of the research areas. The 2005 study area is a crossing point from Rough (Anemurium - Kelenderis - Seleuceia) to Flat Cilicia (Soli - Mersin - Tarsus - Adana) and at the Bay of Taşucu, that is: the Tisan (Ovacık Peninsula and Kösrelik Island - Aphrodisias) - Mavikent - coastal strip of Boğsak and around Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island). Both its natural harbours and archaeological remains on the coastal strip make the area appealing for research (Map 1). METU-SAT BAG divers have dived in groups of 2 or 3, at pre-determined diving spots to depths with respect to their technical diving skills, thus completing their underwater surveys. Archaeological finds discovered during these dives were drawn and photographed. At the important underwater sites underwater video recordings were taken. By the end of 10 days, the 16 research divers conducted 160 technical dives and spent over 150 hours underwater for this survey.

As a result of these underwater surveys two shipwrecks were discovered and were documented at the shoal off Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island) and in the bay around Boğsak (Fig. 1). Both wreck sites were known to the local divers, however neither has been documented to date. The wreck’s cargo at the shoal off Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island) has been heavily looted. However there are still intact amphorae below the sand (Fig. 3-4 and 6). The other shipwreck in the bay around Boğsak, most probably was wrecked on the shoals and with the passage of time, the waves have washed it towards the coast, consequently its cargo has been greatly damaged and scattered (Fig. 1 and 5). In addition, some complete amphorae and many amphorae sherds were discovered around Tisan - Kösrelik Island (Fig. 2). At Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island), parallel to the archaeological   remains on land, architectural remains and amphora sherds were observed underwater. Around the peninsula of Yeşil Ovacık and coasts of Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island) metal anchors were discovered, no stone anchors were detected.

Beginning from the East Harbour of the ancient Aphrodisias during the 2005 Cilicia Underwater Survey towards the southern point and to the west of Yeşil Ovacık Peninsula and around Kösrelik Island and Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island), from Aphrodisias toward Mavikent, Roman period amphorae – Dressel 1 (?), Dressel 2-4, Late Roman 1 and most probably a Koan type amphora with pinched bifid handles – and Medieval glazed sherds were discovered (Fig. 2-4, 6-7).

At the wreck site at Boğsak numerous Dressel 2-4 Roman amphorae (Fig. 1), Roman plates and bowls, silolike large vessels and Roman period cooking pots were found (Fig. 5).

Archaeological discoveries made during our Cilician underwater survey, including the coordinates of the wreck sites, were reported to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism through Silifke Museum.

Ancient Aphrodisias to the northeast of the Ovacık Peninsula, known as Zephyrion in the classical period, and as Cape Cavaliere due to the presence of the Hospitaller Knights of St. John of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, with its eastern and western harbours, dominates a protected isthmus. Entering the eastern harbour, one passes by an east-west orientated little island (Kösrelik/Köserelik Adası). The east harbour was known as Porto Cavaliere in the Middle Ages. Rock graves and a small church are found on the Kösrelik Island; it is assumed that the island was also used as a cemetery during the Roman and Early Byzantine periods. The island also has fresh water sources. The remains of an Early Byzantine church with elaborate mosaic floors dedicated to St. Panteleemon also faces the eastern harbour. As the church was not used during the Middle Ages, an aquaduct might have been built that encompassed the entire southern aisle.

Earlier travelers to Aphrodisias such as: Beaufort, Heberdey and Wilhelm, Bean and Mitford, and finally Blumenthal and Budde, have commonly reflected that older remains prior in date to the Roman Imperial period were not discovered . On the other hand, Budde has excavated the East Harbour church and recorded that some of the ceramic material was varyingly dated from the 6th century B.C. to the Late Byzantine period. From the little bay at the south of the Ovacık Peninsula one looks up the hill to see a polygonal wall system and watch towers, which may have been a security precaution for the settlement on the isthmus. To the northwest of the peninsula, the polygonal walls, other ancient wall remains and ceramic sherds continue toward the western harbour. The city walls encompass the northern and southern coasts of the peninsula. The settlement open to the east and western harbours, most probably protected itself through the use of a small fleet.

 On the peninsula encircled by the city walls there are:  three churches, a storehouse, houses, aquaducts and water wells, a widespread necropolis and a Byzantine circular tower.

The ancient settlement established at an isthmus, controlling two harbours to the east and west, as well as the protected eastern harbour due to Kösrelik Island, make this place ideal for mariners, especially when they were exposed to stormy weather. The remains of the eastern harbour can be observed underwater. In addition to this, the remains of the storage-room foundations built side by side between the east and western harbours suggest that there was a channel between these harbours, facilitating the transit of smaller ships.

With its strategic layout and fresh water resources, Dana Adası (Pithyussa Island) has a few Roman and early Byzantine churches, graves, sarcophagi, acquaducts, houses, harbour establishments and a Roman bath on the more wind-protected northern coast facing the South Anatolian coast.

The Kargıcak Strait, between Dana Adası and the mainland, is strategic for navigation and consequently there are traces of a small control point, or settlement on the mainland, just across from the island-settlement. From a military point of view, two little control posts holding the two sides of a strait seems only natural from the maritime topography. Both settlements are not surrounded by agricultural terrain, thus thus main income must always have come from fishing and trading with the ships in transit, calling at these ports. Another possibly Roman shipwreck, found near Boğsak, is located toward the point of a small cape (Fig. 1 and 5). On the wind-covered northeastern side of Güvercin Ada near the wreck site a tiny Late Roman – Early Byzantine  settlement can be seen. However, it is difficult to interpret these architectural remains; they may belong to a Late Roman villa, a watch tower, an Early Byzantine monastery building, or a small church.

 The history of these ancient settlements, when interpreted in combination with the mainland archaeological remains and the underwater finds, reveal that these transit harbours in Taşucu Bay saw considerable activity. The underwater evidence of this activity discovered by the Cilician Coasts Underwater Archaeological Surveys by the METU-SAT BAG members, also indicated the importance of the search for, and documentation of, this underwater archaeological heritage and of its destruction in the coastal waters along the Eastern Mediterranean coastline of Turkey. Both the wreck sites and the numerous damaged amphorae in our survey area reveal the degree of underwater archaeological looting and destruction (Fig. 1 and 6).

The documented wrecks revealed the necessity of surveying the area archaeologically. In order to achieve a fuller picture concerning maritime trade along the Cilician coastline, it is vital to complete these underwater surveys and to interpret the archaeological evidence as a whole, both on land and beneath the waves.

Many thanks are due to our chief coordinators for Cilicia 2005, M. Ayaroğlu and K. Özkan. Thanks are also due to S. Aslan and the Mavikent Summer Resort residents for the camp site and logistics; to the Director of Silifke Museum İ. Öztürk who briefed us well on the area; to K. Gürbüz, our captain, and his “Seher Yeli”, assisting our dives and guiding us to dive spots; to he former MP of Mersin, H. Kılıç and Silifke-Atayurt City Hall Member S. Yeğiner for transport and logistics.

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