Home Page Issues Order Form Links Contact Türkçe
Advanced Search  
Click here to visit web site of Akmed
If you would like to get announcement mails about Akmed activities, please subcribe to our mailling list.
First name:
Last name:
ANMED Issue:
Archaeological Underwater Surveys of the Cilician Coasts in 2004
Volkan EVRİN - Mert AYAROĞLU - Korhan ÖZKAN - Çiğdem Toskay EVRİN, Korhan BİRCAN - Murat BİRCAN - Levent ZOROĞLU

 A series of underwater surveys were conducted by the METU - Subaqua Society Underwater Wreck Research Group (SAT-BAG) and the Underwater Research Society - Underwater Archaeology Research Group (SAD-SAAG) along the eastern Mediterranean coasts of Anatolia, from 1992 in the region termed Cilicia in the Roman period.

During these Surveys, after hundreds of dives in various regions and depths, a vast area has been surveyed and the archaeological features of immediate importance were drawn and photographed. Resulting from these surveys, two wrecksites, at Antakya-Samandağ and Mersin-Aydıncık (ancient Kelenderis), many stone and metal anchors and other archaeological features were observed. The findings from these campaigns have been presented and widely published in domestic and international symposia and academic journals. The Cilicia Surveys are based on a three-tiered system: Collecting Information, Exploratory Trips and Underwater Surveys.

METU-SAT and SAD members apply the following steps in a typical research campaign:
1. Collecting information concerning the targeted research area from primary and secondary sources, from libraries and the internet,
2. Deciding on potential diving spots,
3. Making exploratory trips to the targeted region to acquire first-hand experience and knowledge of the culture, infrastructure and geography of the area, and talking to the local inhabitants, to local fishermen and divers,
4. Obtaining an official permit for research from administrative authorities,
5. Organizing the diving expedition (budget, supplies, the scope of activity, etc.).

To this aim, diving expeditions along the coastline were conducted in 1992-1993 in the immediate vicinity of Antakya (Antioch) by the Syrian border, starting from Arsuz. On the coast of Samandağ, a wreck site dated to the 2nd-4th centuries A.D. was discovered. Under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Museum of Antioch, four stone anchors, two amphorae and two glass ingots were brought to the surface and given to the museum.

 In 1994 underwater surveys were concentrated on the coastline between Anamur (Anemurium) and Gazipaşa (Selinus). Architectural remains, which possibly belonging to one of the ancient churches on the coast of ancient Anemurium, were discovered underwater and were reported with basic plans and measurements. Between 1996 and 2000 the Cilicia Underwater Surveys investigated the coastline between Aydıncık (Kelenderis) and Taflucu (Holmoi). Following the discovery of interesting features at Aydıncık (Kelenderis) and in its immediate environs, Prof. Dr. L. Zoroğlu from the Department of Archaeology, Selçuk University, Konya, who has directed the Kelenderis Excavations since 1987, was consulted. The archaeological team at Kelenderis had discovered numerous commercial amphorae as well as other imported material in the ancient city’s necropolis area, in the Lower City and on the Acropolis, however the lack of an underwater expedition to provide evidence concerning the commercial ties of Kelenderis in the harbour and harbour area was obvious. Consequently an extensive organisational process was conducted in the 2001 season, and in 2002, combined with the land excavations at Kelenderis, with an underwater survey permit from the Ministry of Culture, our first investigations have been conducted. Experience gained from past Cilician Surveys, when METU-SAT and SAD members’ acquired technical skills and know-how helped in determining the diving spots at Kelenderis. Most dives were planned for Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island) close to Kelenderis harbour. The main sponsor for the 2002-2004 seasons’ work was the Turkish Institute of Nautical Archaeology - TINA and our underwater expeditions were also well supported by the Kelenderis Excavations.

 Kelenderis is one of the important ancient harbour-cities of Rough Cilicia (Cilicia Tracheia, Tafleli Platosu). The geographical site of Kelenderis with its natural harbour and coast provides one of the significant transit and anchorage points in the eastern Mediterranean. The freshwater resources and the cedar forests were important for ship construction in the city’s immediate environment, in addition its proximity to the passes leading to the Anatolian plateau and situated where the mainland is closest to Cyprus, all contributed to this ancient city’s strategic importance. The first settlement layers of ancient Kelenderis, dating to the 7th century B.C. have been revealed during excavations from 1987 onwards conducted by Prof. Dr. L. Zoroğlu. However, from ceramic and other finds from the Gilindire Cave, it has been determined that the settlement history in this area extends back to the Neolithic, Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age (5000-3000 B.C.). The city had its most prosperous period during the 5th and 4th centuries B.C., during the Hellenistic period it came under the rule of the Ptolemids for a short time, whereas during the Roman imperial period it kept its importance as a lively small harbour town. In the early Christian period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.) there was further activity in the town. The last glimpses of antiquity are thoroughly depicted on the Kelenderis mosaic found in 1991 and which is 12 m long and 3.20 m wide. In the first 3 sq. m. of the mosaic, a town scene of late antique Kelenderis with two merchant-ships sailing into its harbour is depicted.

 Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island) (36º 06’ 85’’ N. - 33º 22’ 68’’ E.) lies in a northwest-south eastern position; it is 120-130 m long, 45-50 m wide and about 25-30 m above the sea level. It is 3.3 sea miles from the Aydıncık (Kelenderis) harbour and 1 mile from Cape Sancak (Sancak Burnu) (Map. 1). Due to its position monitoring all nearby bays and the coast, it would have been kuzeymuch favoured by ancient mariners, consequently the Kelenderis Underwater investigations mostly focused around Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island). Lying under water on its north and north eastern sides, around fifty different anchors were discovered, drawn and measured, resulting in a small anchorage site-map covering about 4500 m2 (Map. 2). One, two and three-hole stone anchors, stone and lead stocks (one together with its collar) and T-, Y-, and larger bow-shaped metal anchors were documented. The anchorage site-map constructed with the help of these underwater investigations clearly reveals how Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island) was favoured as an anchorage. Moreover, what makes this  anchorage site so special is the variety and types of anchors found here that include types used by mariners in the Mediterranean from at least the late Bronze Age (Fig. 1). Aydıncık-Yılanlı Ada (Kelenderis-Spurie Island) is in this sense an underwater museum of anchors. Studies on the typology and chronology of the discovered, drawn and photographed anchors are continuing, however, from the knowledge gained from these anchors and from the amphorae from the Kelenderis excavations, the relationship between these two classes of finds is clear. The anchor types observed and studied in the Mediterranean basin, that have been employed since the Bronze Age are found together in this region. These finds highlight the importance of Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island) in contexts of underwater archaeology as this is a singular discovery with such a variety of types of anchors, in great numbers found together in an area. Mainly forming an indication of Bronze Age maritime activities in the region, as well as a detailed study of the anchors, this research will contribute to the overall typology of this class of finds and the thorough surveying of these waters will continue.

In addition to the anchors found around Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island), a wreck site at a depth of 55 m was discovered (the Yılanlı Ada-Erkut Arcak wreck). As a result of the expedition to this wreck site, about 50-60 amphorae, constituting a part of the ship’s cargo lie on top of the seabed-mound, were observed (Fig. 4). Although the amphorae seem to be scattered on the seabed, there is an obvious north-south orientation to this heap of these jars. Moreover, at Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island) facing the wreck site, at a depth of 15-35 m there is a part of the wreck’s cargo assemblage, an indication that prior to the sinking of the ship either some of the cargo had been dumped overboard or at the time of sinking the ship first passed by the rocky edge of the island, spilling some of its cargo there, and then gently sank on the sandy seabed. It is certain that beneath the scattered heap of amphora forming the cargo’s surface layer, there are at least two rows of stacked amphorae. In order to preserve the original condition of the site and not to harm any possible future investigation or underwater excavations, no further detailed exploration was undertaken at this wreck. The cargo amphorae are of Late Roman 1 (LR 1) type (Fig. 2). Related to these findings, after the detailed imaging, drawing and research-oriented dives, two cargo amphorae and a jug were taken to the surface, which helped in dating this wreck to the late antique period (6th-7th centuries A.D.) (Fig. 2, 3). As the harbour of ancient Kelenderis is understood to have been an active port during late antiquity, some of the land and sea trade consequences can be understood. In the 2004 season of the Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island) survey, two amphorae, three stone anchors, a lead stock and its collar, and a stone stock were taken to the surface and  delivered to the Museum at Silifke (Seleuceia). Conservation and restoration work concerning these artefacts continues. A facility to exhibit these artifacts and the other results of the Kelenderis excavations is under consideration.

The discovered and documented metal and stone anchors and the wreck site are proof that the ancient harbour town of Kelenderis, in Rough Cilicia (Cilicia Tracheia, Tafleli Platosu) was a port-of-call on the East Mediterranean maritime trade routes. In addition, the variety and number of anchors from different historical periods that have been found together by Yılanlı Ada (Spurie Island) and in its vicinity, show that for centuries this was a favoured anchorage. Further, the Late Roman 1 (LR 1) amphorae found in the Yılanlı Ada - Erkut Arcak wreck indicate the wine and/or olive oil production of Cilicia and possibly the export of such produce from Kelenderis harbour during late antiquity.

The Archaeological Underwater Surveys of the Cilician Coasts are a long-term project totally organized through the younger generation, employing their own resources of technical know-how and academic skills. METU-SAT and SAD encourage the younger generation to maintain and respect the land’s cultural heritage, and to take a pro-active stance in its protection through educational and academic projects, working in a much neglected sphere in Turkey. Such activities aim to establish public awareness of both underwater archaeology and our cultural heritage.
METU-SAT: http://www.metu.edu.tr/home/wwwsat
SAD: http://www.sad.org.tr
TINA: http://www.tinaturk.org
Kelenderis Excavations: http://www.kelenderis.org
Cilicia Web Pages: http://www.kilikya.org

Back Open as PDF Print Article