Hacımusalar Excavations

Research in the plain of Elmalı and excavations on the mound of Hacımusalar, 17 kms. south of Elmalı in the central Lycian plateau of Turkey, have been continuing since 1993. The project is under the direction of İlknur Özgen of the Department of Archaeology. The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, General Directorate of Cultural Monuments and Museums, has both granted the permit and provided financial support for the project.

In addition to team members from Bilkent's Department of Archaeology, students and colleagues from several US-based institutions have also participated in the project.

For more information, see the Hacımusalar Project.

Identification of the Site

The mound, the largest in the Elmalı plain (300 x 350 m., culminating 13 m. above the level of the plain), was surveyed in 1993. The ceramics and other surface finds collected indicate occupation from possibly as far back as the Neolithic and extending into the Late Roman/Byzantine period and beyond. Epigraphic evidence suggests that this was the site of the ancient city of Choma, and the river which flows past the site has been identified as the River Aedesa mentioned by Pliny.

The prosperity of the settlement during antiquity would have depended to a large extent on its strategic location on a major route through the highlands down to the Lycian coast, and on its rich environment, which provided excellent hunting and fishing and well-watered agricultural land. The site was situated until very recently on the shore of a large lake (drained only within the past 30 years), and the mountains surrounding the plain were covered by dense cedar forests.

Excavation results

Excavations beginning in 1994 have concentrated mostly on the top of the mound. Trenches have been opened at its north, east, west, and south edges, and in the center, as well as on the north and south slopes.

The north slope excavation has uncovered a thick occupation layer with several building phases spanning the Early Bronze Age and revealed a gap in the occupation of this part of the mound extending from the Middle Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age.

Along the top edge of the mound runs a thick mud-brick wall on a stone foundation, clearly an Iron Age fortified circuit, short portions of which were excavated to the north, east and south.

At the top of the mound, evidence of primarily Late Roman and Byzantine activity has been uncovered, including two churches. The central church has three building phases showing increasing elaboration of its plan. A wine press is associated with it. The west church also has three architectural phases. Both are surrounded by numerous graves.

In the central area of the mound, at some depth beneath the level of the burials, the ceramics are uniformly of Late Hellenistic date.

The hypothesis at present is that there was expansion into the plain perhaps from the Early Imperial period, and indeed traces of a large building near the base of the mound to the south indicate a structure with the dimensions and layout of a bath-house; a geophysical survey has confirmed the presence of a large building at that location.

Excavations in 2012 along the south slope of the mound have revealed a massive retaining wall at its base, bounding a presumably flat area extending southward toward the putative bath-house.

At some late date, occupation of the top of the mound was intensified, perhaps with refortification of earlier defense systems, and including the use of the east and south parts of the site as cemeteries.

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