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Excavations, Repair and Display Works at Kelenderis in 2006

The 2006 campaign at Kelenderis, one of the most important harbour towns of Rough Cilicia, now within the Aydıncık ilçesi of Mersin ili, covered three main areas, two of which are on the land, the last under the water. The land excavations were conducted in the Late Antique Agora Basilica and in the East Necropolis while the underwater archaeological surveys and documentation were conducted by Yılanlı Ada and in the ancient harbour. In addition, the repair and display works continued.

Work at the Agora Basilica:
The work at the Basilica first identified in 2002 in the Agora and which began to be uncovered from the onwards continued in three areas. The first area was the apse where the partially deformed opus sectile floor pavement was strengthened and documented. The second area was the part before the apse, three steps down from it, forming the termination of the naos. Our previous work here had brought to light a large kiln of 2.50 m. in diameter. We are of the opinion that this kiln was used to burn the original marble pieces of the structure in order to procure lime. This kiln area has grey-black earth containing extensive ash and charred particles as well as lime and lime mortar pieces and fine, amorphous or broken fragments belonging to the structure, further supporting our hypothesis. In addition, this filling yielded roof tiles, fragments belonging to coarse wares mainly for kitchen use, glass pieces, glass tesserae and metal fragments. Finally, the remains belonging to the main structure are also found in situ here, which helps us to attain our goal. In the first stage of the work before the apse, the filling over the steps between the apse and the naos and the marble plaques forming their facade was removed. On the marble plaque which forms the facing of the top step, extending as the floor of the apse there was found a two-line inscription in Greek, which had been partially damaged in the past. As is inferred from this inscription, possibly one or two people whose names are lost on the missing broken part from the beginning of the inscription, contributed to the construction of the floor pavement of the bema, i.e. the opus sectile pavement. When the filling behind this plaque which stood quite apart from the step was cleaned, another inscription in ancient Greek was discovered on the reverse of this plaque. Comparing the letter features of both inscriptions, it was seen that the inscription on the reverse was carved much more carefully than the inscription on the front. Consequently it is possible to claim that this inscription belonged to a period earlier than the date of the basilica which is basically dated to the Early Christian period. This inscription has a minimum of three lines but other pieces are missing; therefore, it is not possible to comment on it completely, but we can state that it was a dedicatory inscription. This plaque it is spolia re-employed as was the case for most of the nearby marble architectural pieces; this particular one was used for the second time as the facing of the step, together with the dedicatory inscription on the front of it. This plaque with inscriptions on both sides was taken to the storeroom for cleaning and preservation and will be replaced when work at the basilica is completed.

Another area of work at the basilica involved the cleaning of the column bases separating the nave from the south side aisle. When these bases were entirely exposed the plan of the basilica emerged. There are five column bases here, one of which is spolia. One still carries the lower part of the column, though it is broken. The other bases have a very plain profile and only spolia base is in the Attic-Ionic style. The bases rest on a floor paved with rectangular or square limestone plaques. The columns are 3.90 m. away from the south side wall of the basilica, which is also the width of the side aisles. Although not certainly, the side aisle seems to have been paved with mosaics; this will be clarified in the next campaign. Another important area of work at the basilica was the narthex. The earth filling in a large part of the narthex was removed to a certain level and information regarding its plan and superstructure could be gathered. The following is a summary of the information gathered during the course of the campaign: First of all, the walls of the structure were in general built with rubble, spolia stones and even brick fragments here and there together with lime mortar. The 0.60 m. wide walls were later plastered over. This year it became certain that the structure has a basilical layout extending in an east-west direction. On the east end is a semicircular apse of 8.30 m. in diameter, almost half of which was destroyed when the storehouse was built on it during the Ottoman period. The 0.60 m. wide wall of the apse is preserved up to a height of 1.00 m. The floor of the apse was paved with geometric panels executed in opus sectile technique. For the time being a flight of three steps lead down to the naos. Excluding the narthex, the naos is 14.90 m. wide and 18.40 m. long on the interior. The naos is arranged into three aisles separated by columns. Although not entirely cleaned, the nave is approximately 7.40 m. wide and the side aisles are 3.90 m. wide. Except for one spolia column base, the bases of the southern portico have plain profiles and it is possibly that these plain profile bases were made especially for this structure. The bases are 2.30 m. distant from each other. There are three doorways providing access from the narthex on the west into the naos. The dimensions of these doorways are not yet known for certain. The narthex could be cleared only partially in the course of 2006 campaign; thus its full depth is not known, although it stretches all along the width of the naos.

A column fragment decorated like textile in openwork is noteworthy, providing evidence concerning the architectural sculpture of the interior (Fig. 1).

Work at the East Necropolis:
In previous campaigns we uncovered a few graves from the East necropolis and informed the academic world about their qualities. In 2006, work was initiated in the quarry to the south of the graves in Section A uncovered in earlier campaigns. The ground of the East necropolis is of a limestone softer than that of the West necropolis and, consequently, the East necropolis is a quite interesting site, both for its necropolis layout containing rock-cut tombs and for being a quarry. In previous years we had reported on a small quarry to the west of this necropolis. The present quarry is located in the middle of the East necropolis and measures approximately 42.00x 24.00 m. A pit was formed as rocks were hewn from here (Fig. 2) and cleaning its profiles and bottom brought to light the areas where blocks were cut off from the east, south, west and north corners which remained higher. These areas measure on average 0.70x1.00 m. and are found at the same or different levels. There are regular bands of cutting 0.05-0.10 m. in width and there are steps of small benches. In some places there are grooves of varying length and 0.10-0.15 m. width extending diagonally; these should be the grooves for the wooden beams that were inserted to be able to move the blocks that had been cut. In some places there are finely cut rectangular areas in the middle of which is a broken rock surface; these should indicate where blocks could not be cut off perfectly. Our efforts to identify the northern border of the quarry resulted in the identification of several more tombs. The first tomb (No. 1) is located to the northeast of the quarry pit and is comprised a pit with the appearance of a dromos like other tombs in this area. The cleaning work around it revealed an oil lamp. Close to the southwest corner of the quarry other tombs were found whose superstructure had collapsed during the course of quarrying and they had been infilled with rubble. Thus, it can be inferred that the stone quarrying in this area must have taken place at a much later date than the erection of the tombs. In this case, the burial gifts were expected to have remained intact. Tomb No. 5, among these tombs, has been cleaned and numerous burial gifts dated to between the 5th and 3rd century B.C. were recovered close to the bottom of the tomb. The tomb was covered with glass allowing visitors to see its interior.

Further southwest of this tomb is another (No. 7), whose dromos was partially exposed. During cleaning work around it, we noticed that an opening allowing us to see the interior, where there were untouched burial gifts in this tomb and consequently, this tomb was also cleaned. On the floor of the simple stepped dromos were a commercial amphora of a Cypriot type and a bowl (Fig. 3). When the door-wing, possibly hewn from the quarry here, was removed, we found another Cyprus-type amphora and a third vase employed for transportation known as a Persian-type (Fig. 4). Our cleaning work inside the burial chamber brought to light many baked clay vases and a partially melted bronze bowl. In the last layer of the earth filling inside the tomb there were poorly preserved skeletons belonging to two individuals. A third skeleton was placed diagonally close to the back wall of the tomb. The tomb finds enabled us to date this tomb to the end of the 5th-early 4th century B.C.

Underwater Archaeology:
The underwater research at Kelenderis was conducted in two areas in 2006. The first, at the anchorage and wreck area before the Yılanlı Ada, which has been surveyed by the METU Underwater Society Shipwreck Research Group, where 47 more anchors, previously identified, were photographed and documented. This year’s dives were intended to complete the work conducted in 2003 and 2004 and the preliminary drawings of all the anchors have been completed and their dimensions recorded. A total of 73 dives reached a maximum depth  of 43 m. guided by diving computers and supported with oxygen stops as security measures. The underwater work was completed without any dangerous situation occurring or problem.

The second area of underwater surveys in 2006 was in the harbour of Kelenderis. This first campaign in the harbour was conducted by a group from the Eastern Mediterranean University in North Cyprus and the Mersin University. Its scope was to identify the borders of the ancient harbour, to document the remains and other materials lying beneath the water. During the course of this work, dives were conducted on and around the remains previously understood to have extended from the coast to the deep central part covering a wide area. First, the sand and other deposits in this area were removed using a compressor and then the remains were mapped. The remains belong to the foundations of a platform 26 m. long and 5 m. wide built from large rectangular cut blocks. We consider that this structure may belong to a pier. If this is the case, then it would allow two sailboats of 20 m. length to moor alongside this pier. We plan to continue our work in the harbour and at Yılanlı Ada in 2007.