Kilise Tepe 1994-98
About this collection
The Göksu Valley provides the principal route from the Konya Plain through the Taurus range to the Mediterranean. It reaches the sea at Silifke, Hellenistic Seleukeia, on the southern Turkish coast opposite Cyprus. Surveys in the valley in the 1950s and 1960s located few pre-Classical sites, but one multi-period site found was Kilise Tepe ("Church Mound"), a small but important site controlling this major route and dominating a rich agricultural enclave.
In the early 1990s, a hydro-electric barrage was planned at Kayraktepe, downstream from Kilise Tepe. The resultant lake would have submerged Kilise Tepe and other sites in the vicinity (although subsequently the plans have been shelved). In response to this, rescue excavations at Kilise Tepe, co-directed by Prof. Nicholas Postgate of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge, were started in 1994 and continued annually until 1998, under the auspices of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara.
The results of the fieldwork
In the first two seasons (1994 and 1995) all the sherds and stones exposed on the surface of the mound were collected and recorded. These indicated that the site was occupied from the Early Bronze Age into Byzantine times, and plotting their distributions gave us some insight into the buried remains.
Immediately below the surface at the centre of the mound were the substantial foundations of a Byzantine church, measuring 29 x 16 m. Erected probably around the 5th century A.D., it was later remodelled and may have still been in use, although in a much reduced form, as late as the 11th century. The foundations of Byzantine buildings were also encountered elsewhere on the site, especially in the north-west corner. The architecture and ceramics of the Byzantine period were recorded and studied by Dr Mark Jackson (University of Newcastle).
The principal area of excavation was at the north-west end of the site where a 13 m sequence of levels from the Early Bronze Age to the Byzantine era was exposed. Directly below the surface, shallow Byzantine wall foundations overlay scrappy remnants of Hellenistic occupation (Levels Ia-d). Below this, in a courtyard area assigned to our phase IIf, one of two similar stone-lined kilns contained some 3500 sherds of painted and plain pottery vessels which were probably discarded in a single event. The painted vessels belong to a style well known as White Painted IV in Cyprus, where it is dated to the later 8th and earlier 7th centuries BC.
The architecture associated with these kilns, and with the preceding phase IIe, was largely cut away by later building work. It overlay a substantial, roughly square structure measuring some 18 x 14.2 m, and known after a discovery in one of its rooms as the "Stele Building". This was erected on solid stone foundations at the beginning of our Level II; it was occupied during phases IIa-c, destroyed by fire, and then briefly reconstructed in phase IId, which was in its turn burnt down. The IIc plan, which is the best known to us, comprised 9 rooms, arranged round a central space (Room 3) which had a large, central hearth and a plastered mud-brick structure resembling an altar placed diagonally in the north-east corner. A rough stone stela with a sketchy design in red paint on each face was found in the south-east corner of the room; it had been overturned and fractured by the heat of the destruction of the IIc building. In other rooms of the building, under thick destruction debris, were a number of storage jars containing carbonized botanical remains (including einkorn, lentils, barley and olives).
Immediately adjacent to the Stele Building on the east we uncovered the western end of another sizable contemporary building which had also been subjected to the same severe conflagration. The destruction debris of this building included a number of large storage flasks and a silver figurine of a divine triad, associated with silver and copper jewellery. The recovery of four official seals inscribed in hieroglyphs from in and around these Level IIc buildings helps to confirm the conclusion that they served an administrative function within local government under the political control of the Hittite empire or a vassal kingdom. The chronological position of this level is best defined by the destruction debris of the subsequent Level IId building, which contained sherds from a number of vessels of LH IIIC Mycenaean style, dated to around the second quarter of the 12th century BC.
Directly to the west of the Stele Building in the preceding Level III we excavated some rooms of a large building on an entirely different alignment. Not enough of the plan has been recovered to allow us to define its nature, but the possibility that it may have been part of a temple is raised by the frequent occurrence of sherds from "libation arms", thought to have been used in ritual, and by the careful treatment of walls and floors. The associated ceramics are typical of cities under the overall control of the Hittite empire, reinforcing historical considerations which make it likely that Kilise Tepe was within its frontiers during the 14th and 13th centuries BC. Below Level III a small stratigraphic sounding to bedrock recovered an informative sequence of ceramics and other artefacts from Middle Bronze (Level IV, ca. 2000-1500 BC) and Early Bronze (Level V, ca. 2900-2000 BC) strata.
Excavations in other parts of the site recovered material from the Byzantine, Hellenistic, early Iron Age and Late Bronze Age periods. Particularly noteworthy were the remnants of a stone fortification wall built in Iron Age times along the eastern rim of the tepe, and on the western side a massive ditch which must also have belonged to the same general period, before the Hellenistic occupation.
Extensive petrological analysis of ceramic thin sections was undertaken by Dr Carl Knappett (University of Exeter). This has had importance in helping to determine the extent to which the pottery in use was locally produced or imported, and thereby elucidating the changing relationships between our settlement and the Cilician plain to the south-east and the central Anatolian plateau to the north. A Leverhulme Trust funded project, supervised by Dr Sue Colledge (Institute of Archaeology, University College London), was carried out in the 1995-97 seasons. This entailed a systematic programme of sieving and flotation of selected deposits to provide quantitative data on the use of urban space for comparison with similar data from Tell Brak in Syria. A comprehensive report on this work, together with a summary account of the excavations at the site is available through the Archaeology Data Service in York.
At the end of the last season of fieldwork, in 1998, all the finds from Kilise Tepe were moved to a storeroom in Silifke Museum. A study season was carried out in the Silifke Museum, during the summer of 1999, to prepare the pottery and artefacts for publication and to organize the storage of the finds. The following year, a bilingual exhibit illustrating the excavations at Kilise Tepe was unveiled, also in the Silifke Museum. Work on publication began before the completion of excavations in 1998 and has continued ever since. A two-volume report entitled Excavations at Kilise Tepe, 1994-1998, with some 20 contributors, is currently with the publishers. This includes the definitive account of the surface survey and the architecture and stratigraphy of the excavated areas, and the publication of the principal finds of all periods. The possibility of a second programme of excavations at Kilise Tepe in the coming years is under discussion.
Technological advances have inevitably overtaken the Kilise Tepe project during its lifetime. The majority of our archive consists of written paper records, hand-drawn plans, object illustrations and Black & White print and colour slide photographs. This archive is available to scholars who wish to use it, but obviously requires a visit to Cambridge – we do not currently have the resources to scan all this material and make it available digitally, desirable as that might be.
The publication process, however, has meant that parts of the archive have become more digitally accessible, and we are keen to make these more generally available through DSpace and the Archaeology Data Service. The Project’s archive in DSpace consists of all the scanned photographs (as low resolution jpgs), the 12 interconnected FileMaker databases (in their original format and as csv files), pdf versions of the illustrations and other data in the form of tables, graphs, etc. from the monograph Excavations at Kilise Tepe, 1994-1998. We are also archiving the original scanned photographs, plates of drawings and plans, and the text of the monograph, although these will not be available on open access for the foreseeable future, so as not to undermine the commercial viability of the publication.
If fieldwork resumes at the site we expect that more of the documentation of the project will be digitized from the start, with the use of digital cameras, scanners and drawing software, and that much more of our archive will be readily accessible through the databases and digital archives in the future.
Project website: The Kilise Tepe Project, Cambridge University.
© Kilise Tepe Project, Cambridge University