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ANMED Issue: 2006-4
 
Archaeological Surveys in Mersin - Olba (Uğuralanı) in 2005
Emel ERTEN
 

The fifth campaign of archaeological surveys in Olba was conducted in 2005 with the permission issued by the Directorate General of Museums and Cultural Heritage and with the financial support from the Scientific Research Projects Unit of Mersin University.

 Within the framework of surveys in the necropolises, the areas along the ancient road between Olba and Diokaisareia (Uzuncaburç) were also surveyed and a vaulted tomb ca. 2 km. from the Olba acropolis was identified (Fig. 1). This tomb is similar to the vaulted one identified in the eastern valley in 2004. However, this example distinguishes itself from the other by its in situ sarcophagus cut from the bedrock. This sarcophagus, orientated in a southwest-northeast direction is today entirely full of earth and its lid with acroteria is not in its original place. Some of the vault blocks to the southwest are preserved, allowing us to observe the construction of this vault of rectangular blocks without any mortar. The inscription in Greek on the tabula ansata over the atlar depiction on the front of this sarcophagus had already been published by Keil-Wilhelm, who does not provide any information in respect to the tomb’s architecture. The inscription is dated to the 2nd-3rd century AD from the character of the script employed. The vaulted tomb in the eastern valley has also been dated by the author to this same period, based on its architectural forms and consequently, this inscription further supports our dating. This tomb, originally belonged to a veteran soldier, was added as a new example of the ‘vaulted tombs’ type, with quite a large number within Olba and its territory.

 Close to the tomb are the remains of a stone structure, possibly a house, which should be related to the owner of the tomb, from the settlement model of Olba. The surveys carried out on the hillock (the Düğürlük ridge) to the west of Olba city centre revealed traces of land use in the city. The rocky slopes were terraced and cleared of stones, creating new agricultural land. These terraces are not very close to each other and in places carry discernable traces of houses. These houses are stone structures of the villa rustica type of farmhouse reflecting an agricultural lifestyle. In the same area there are tombs, which can be understood to be related to the house-owners. Some tombs are of archaeological importance as they have inscriptions and architectural sculpture. Another example belonging to this group is the sarcophagus-type tomb decorated with three figures in relief and bearing an inscription, with the remains of a house nearby, which was found in the Yarıktaş area (Fig. 2). On the southeast side of the irregular mass of rock where this tomb was found there is a relief of three figures şanked by columns and crowned by a pediment. Two figures are standing while the third is depicted from the waist up between these two figures.

The Greek inscription on the tabula ansata below this relief carving provides the names of the family members and this inscription, which is very badly preserved, was also published by Keil-Wilhelm and was dated to the 2nd century AD from the character of the script employed. The tomb above the relief is a chamosorion, orientated in a northeast-southwest direction. Its interior is trapezoidal in form and there is a stone pillow in place at the northeast end.

To the southeast of this tomb with reliefs there are the remains of a house built from large stone blocks. It is entirely in ruins and is concealed by a heavy growth of vegetation and so it was not possible to record its plan; however, one rectangular room could be measured on its inside, of 6.50x4.20 m. In addition, it is thought that this house had its entranceway on the south side because of a threshold block found there.

In our surveys on the Düğürlük ridges, another rock relief was identified on the east-facing side of a rock. This relief features a male figure, possibly holding a spear in his right hand and with an unidentified object in his left hand, within a frame crowned by a pediment. Near this relief there are the remains of walls and rockcut chambers but no tomb has been identified.

 During our surveys on the Olba acropolis, a rock-cut tomb was identified about 40 m. above the floor of the eastern valley. A rectangular entranceway was hewn from the rock, beyond was the rectangular burial chamber (Fig. 3), which measures 2.00x2.15 m. As it is full of earth, its exact height could not be measured: the measured height of the chamber is 2.05 m. The entrance of the chamber reflects a vaulted arrangement. The walls have niches and the niche on the short wall opposite the entrance is of an oblong form. The niches on the side walls are arranged in two rows. A curious point is the fact that the walls were plastered and decorated with paintings, as can be understood from the remaining traces. Although today there is preserved very little of this painting, it is understood that red, pinkish red, greyblack colours were used and this provides the only known example of such decoration at Olba.

Another important field of surveys at Olba during the 2005 campaign covered the Early Christian period and the Byzantine structures. Within this framework, the basilical main church in the city centre, brieşy mentioned in previous publications, was studied. The remains of a monastery on the western slope of the eastern valley is another of the Christian structures known from Olba.

In the surveys towards the south, in fieytanderesi valley, the remains of another basilical church were identified. The apse of 4.20 m. in diameter is orientated to the west and rests upon a terrace wall built from large rectangular blocks, rising from the creek bed.

 Our team has also identified and studied a cave-church on the western slope of the valley, in proximity to the basilical church (Fig. 4). No other cave-church has been identified during the surveys in Olba to date. The cavechurches are usually considered peculiar to the Early Christian period when Christians were under pressure from the Roman state; thus, this cave-church can be understood to  be the oldest church-site at Olba. Our team members continue their preparations for its publication. The presence of these churches supports the emphasis given by our team members to the importance of Olba during the Early Christian period.

The relief of two soldiers, understood to have been damaged in 2004, was removed from where it was brought down and it was transported to the Silifke Museum (Fig. 5). The operation was handled by our team with the support of the township Gendarme Commander and the Uzuncaburç Municipality, with coordination from the Silifke Governorate and the Museum Directorate.

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