Kinet Höyük Excavations: Ancient Issos (Yesil-Dörtyol, Hatay): 1991-2000

Project director: Marie-Henriette Gates (Bilkent University)
Medieval project director: Scott Redford (SOAS, University of London)

Publications List -- "pdf" file

Project Goals

The Kinet Höyük project is examining the economic subsistence strategies of a small eastern Mediterranean harbor over a long chronological perspective. The pattern emerging from seven excavation campaigns (1992-95, 1997-99) is one of conservative, regional self-sufficiency occasionally offset by outside contacts that sparked changes in fashion and industry. This trend would apply as much to agriculture as to local ceramic production, or the development of marketable commodities.

Concurrently, this harbor witnessed, thanks to its location, a long succession of Mediterranean and Near Eastern historical moments or events, from the time of its foundation to the Middle Ages.

Alexander the Great and Septimius Severus both won decisive military victories in the Issos Plain, within view of the ancient town. Marco Polo sailed into the port of Yumurtalik, across the bay from Kinet, before setting off on his land journey east. More recently, the past decade's events involving Iraq and the Kirkuk-Yumurtalik pipeline, with direct economic impact on this region and the site (in the presence of Delta Petroleum), provide a contemporary and vivid illustration of a recurring situation.

Such encounters -- often leaving no visible trace, but on occasion marked by an impact with tangible archaeological consequences -- have resulted in predictable synchronisms as well as unexpected ones.

The goals of this project are directed towards several convergent levels of recovery: recreating the social, cultural and natural environment over the long span by examining Kinet's archaeological record for a selection of different periods (Middle-Late Bronze and Iron Ages, 2000-300 B.C.; Middle Ages, 12th-14th centuries A.D.); and weighing the impact of the sea in diffusing, fostering or masking cultural features.

Site Location and Description

Kinet Höyük is located in the northeasternmost corner of the Mediterranean, on the east side of the Gulf of Iskenderun (Hatay province, Turkey). The site includes a medium-sized mound -- 3.3 ha, 26 m high -- set ca. 500 m from the modern seashore. Terraces surrounding the mound were also settled in antiquity. Today the north and east terraces are planted with citrus groves and commercial gardens. The south and southwest terraces, and an area to the northwest beside the sea are occupied by the Delta Petroleum Company -- part of which was purchased by British Petroleum (BP) in 1997.

Although Kinet now lies inland from the sea, and the coastline's straight course and strong currents offer no shelter to boats, the project's geomorphological research has confirmed that the site initially occupied a promontory controlling two harbors: a small natural bay on its north side, and the estuary of a river immediately to the south (Ozaner 1994; since 1998, conducted by T. and S. Beach [Georgetown and George Mason Universities]). Kinet would thus follow the pattern of other pre-Hellenistic eastern Mediterranean ports, like its nearest excavated neighbor Al Mina, in being situated on an estuary.

Erosion and alluvium have modified both harbors, silting in the bay and shifting the river, the modern Deliçay, south to its present course 2.5 kilometers away. The bay's demise must have been well advanced by the start of the Hellenistic period (300 B.C.) when the north terrace was settled. It is probable that the river had also moved some distance by this time: a deep trench cut into the south terrace for the assembly of the Delta propane reservoirs revealed late Hellenistic masonry that may represent harbor installations. Despite such efforts, it can be assumed that the site was abandoned ca. 50 B.C. because its port facilities were no longer viable. Reoccupation in medieval times (12th-14th c. AD) must have been accompanied by the construction of an artificial harbor beside the mound's south terrace, where Delta Petroleum has also installed off-shore pipes and platforms to unload tankers; and perhaps on the north side as well.

Research at Kinet Höyük (1991-2000)

After a regional survey in 1991 (Gates and Özgen 1993), a short first season was carried out in 1992 by M.-H. Gates for Bilkent University and the Hatay Museum. (See Figure 1.) Sondage trenches on the east, north and west sides of the mound uncovered stratified phases from the medieval to the Early Iron Age. Based on this information, larger-scale excavations took place under her direction and Bilkent University's aegis in 1993-1995, and 1997-1999, with a study season in 1996. Excavations continued in 2001 after a study season in 2000. The medieval excavations have been directed by S.N. Redford since 1997. (See Figure 6.)

Architectural levels of the medieval period (12th-14th centuries AD), Iron Age, Middle Bronze (see Figure 2 and Figure 3 on right), and Late Bronze Ages have so far received the most attention: they are often burnt, with finds preserved in situ. The 1992-94 stratigraphic sounding on the west slope of the mound has traced the site's earlier stages, which ceramic finds would extend back to the Neolithic 6th millennium B.C. Finds of all periods illustrate the far-flung economic and social networks in which Kinet participated. Contacts with Cypriots, Hittites (see Figure 4), Canaanites, Mycenaean and Iron Age Greeks, Phoenicians, Assyrians (see Figure 5), Phrygians, Persians and -- finally -- Crusaders are indicated by ceramic and other items, and shipping containers make up a significant proportion of vessels in any phase. The current project represents the first investigations other than survey to have been carried out at this site. Excavations from 1992-94 took place on the mound proper. In 1995, they were extended to the east terrace at the foot of the mound, where a 50 m2 excavation area was expanded in 1997 to 200 m2. In 1999, in addition to excavations on the mound and on the east terrace, the first of several projected soundings was excavated in the field northwest of the mound, to begin mapping the diachronic configurations of the ancient bay and estuary harbors.

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