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Why is Dana Island Important?

Dana Island (ancient Pityoussa), the largest island in Taşucu Bay, is most notable for its stone quarries on its northwestern and eastern slopes. The remains of quarrying can still be seen along the coast today: straight and curved channels, stepped cuts, and ramps used to load stones onto boats. Some of these ramps may later have been used opportunistically to haul small boats ashore. On Dana Island, there are no archaeological remains consistent with a boat building/repair activity. Nevertheless, along the slope 45-360 meters inland are the remains of giant quarries. The quarries, which are intertwined with the tombs, must have provided building materials not only for the island but the surrounding settlements as well.

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Remains of an ancient quarry on the northwest coast of Dana Island

Dana Island was home to one of the largest limestone quarries in the Eastern Mediterranean in late antiquity. No other island in this region hasthe capacity of Dana Island for quarrying and trading limestone. In the 4th century CE, Constantinople became the capital of the Roman Empire, leading to an unprecedented increase in maritime trade and traffic in the Eastern Mediterranean.  The limestone quarries of Dana Island may have supplied construction material to the entire Cilicia region and perhaps beyond.

There are many archaeological features on Dana Island related to the logistics of quarrying and stone trade: quarries, quarrying channels, hauling roads, ramps for loading stones onto ships, and holes for cranes. The ramps may have been used later at an unknown date, to land small boats or for simple repairs.

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A church on the shore of Dana Island

Three-dimensional model of a quarry and necropolis on Dana Island

In the northwest part of Dana Island, an area of 270 hectares, is home to a large industrial area with quarries at its center and a Christian settlement associated with this industry.

 

Settlement on the island is found in two locations: a large Early Roman-Late Antique settlement on the northwest coast and a second, much smaller area around the fortresses on the southern hills. Before the Classical age, the south fortress may have served as a temporary stronghold for military purposes. But it was overhauled in late antiquity, with huge cisterns and a church complex built inside.

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A cistern on Dana Island

Dana Island's lower settlement dates back to the Early Roman period, perhaps emerging in the second half of the first century CE at the earliest. Pottery, collected and analyzed to determine their statistics and geographical distribution, indicate that activity on the island was very limited in the Early Roman period. The same data indicates that the settlement expanded and was intensively used in late antiquity, since the fourth century CE. The statistical analysis of the systematically sampled ceramics shows that 70 percent of the assemblage belongs to late antiquity.

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An ashlar building complex on Dana Island

In the Acts of Barnabas, written in the fifth century, when the saint's ship was caught in a storm, he took refuge in Pityoussa. Barnabas guides those who show hospitality to him in matters of Christianity. As a matter of fact, our survey revealed six churches on the island dating from the fifth and sixth centuries CE. Travelers who survived the storms, and perhaps had come back from the dead, needed religious places to express their gratitude and pray for the well-being of their future travels. Did Dana Island have a place in pilgrimage? Could the church complex inside the south fortress be a martyrium, as in Boğsak? In our 2016 study, we found a paved and stepped path connecting the fortress and the lower settlement. Can we interpret this as a monumental ceremonial path leading to the Christian complex on the hill, as in Boğsak?

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The stone paved road connecting the fortress and the lower settlement

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