The ancient city of Kelenderis on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey is the site of the Greek Celenderis, a port and fortress in ancient Cilicia and later Isauria. From here, a furnace for commercial production and a child’s grave with glass bracelets have been located, adding to the rich findings of this locality. Along with this, gifts have also been found inside in this grave, a first of its kind discovery, from the port city established 2,800 years ago, reports Hurriyet Daily News . Excavations that have been going on for 35 years, since 1987, have borne more fruit in this southern Turkish province site, located next to a fisherman’s shelter.

Examining the Site: The Grave and the Oven

The child was buried with four solid glass bracelets on their arm, along with gifts, clothes, and a wooden coffin. Around the Odeon at Kelenderis, nearly 150 tombs have been found in these 35 years. And now also the discovery of a furnace used for tile production was unearthed for the first time, leading to suggestions of ancient commercial production.

Speaking about the child’s grave, Mehmut Aydın, the head of excavations said:

“We have previously uncovered nearly 150 tombs here, but none of them had burial gifts. In this one, we uncovered four glass bracelets, an inscription on a ceramic piece, and a cup. This was a first. At the same time, there were several baby graves around this child’s grave. We understand from here that a part of the Odeon was used as a children’s burial area. When the carbon 14 analysis results come, we will be able to identify them more clearly. But we believe that this area was used as a burial area in the Middle Ages. As it is different from other burials, we will only be able to determine exactly when the child died with carbon 14 analysis.”

The grave was found near the Odeon at the main complex at Kelenderis, shown here. (Suzi / Adobe Stock)

The grave was found near the Odeon at the main complex at Kelenderis, shown here. ( Suzi / Adobe Stock)

He further explained that this year’s investigations looked at the excavation and consolidation of the cave area, the sitting area, and the walls that supported the Odeon structure.

The furnace is of particular interest to them because the evidence of production pushes back the timeline of commercial production and occupation at the site. In fact, the oven is 1,300 years old, and roof tiles were produced inside the furnace.

Further evidence from the last couple of years of excavation revealed a large number of faulty roof tiles, dated to the 7th century, found all around the furnace. They expect to find more roof tiles when the furnace is cleared up, providing further evidence for the same.

Stages of Occupation: Greece and Rome Through the Ages

The stages of occupation from such an archaeological site are particularly important, and the ruins can be dated back to the Roman times, and perhaps even earlier to 2,800 years ago, according to The Greek Reporter . At this location, thermal baths, fortification walls , cisterns, and an agora have been found. In the mid 90’s, a large mosaic was found, dated to the 5th and 6th centuries, with the port of Kelenderis built over it.

Close up of Kelenderis mosaic, dated tot the 5th-6th centuries. (Nedim Ardoğa / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Close up of Kelenderis mosaic, dated tot the 5th-6th centuries. (Nedim Ardoğa / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

The current site at Kelenderis has a very interesting history, which starts in earnest somewhere around the 8th century BC, with the arrival of the Phoenicians first, and then the Samans. The 4th and 5th centuries saw it thrive, becoming a shipping route between the  Aegean Sea to the west,  Cyprus to the south, and  Syria to the east.

During the Hellenistic period, between the 1st and 2nd centuries, the region was in a political coalition with the Ptolemies of Egypt. This period witnessed the growth of sea-piracy in huge numbers, which was only tackled when ancient Rome took to solving this menace, whilst also securing the Mediterranean Sea routes.

The Romans would invest a lot of infrastructure in building the site, as witnessed from the excavations. The Byzantines would continue the control of this grand city, till the Armenians captured it in the 11th century. The Turks would only settle here by the end of the 13th century.

Moving forward with these excavations will tell us more about the presence of the Greeks, Romans, and all other occupying forces, and their influence on Turkish cultural history.

Top image: Kelenderis archaeological excavation site. Source: Suzi / Adobe Stock

By Sahir Pandey



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