The Taşucu Gulf in Rough Cilicia experienced an unprecedented development during the first millennium of the common era. Boğsak (Asteria) and Dana (Pityoussa), two coastal islands that are now deserted, acquired extensive maritime settlements in late antiquity. As such, they joined in the economic vitality, population growth, and intensive construction attested along the Cilician coastlines and their rural hinterland. The livelihood of these island communities deprived of water or significant agricultural resources was contingent upon their connectivity to nearby and/or distant places. These islands exemplify the exploitation of previously uninhabited areas based on connections with the new imperial capital in Constantinople.
The concurrence of diverse cultural processes facilitated the formation and the resilience of this islandscape. First, the appearance of sacred places and the construction of churches and monasteries attracted Christian pilgrims. Their movement along maritime lanes incorporated the islands into the newly formed sacred landscape. Second, the ambitious building activity created an unprecedented demand for building materials. In this context, the quarrying and trading of the limestone on Dana Island created an industrial landscape dependent upon maritime connectivity. Third, the permanent inhabitation of the islands significantly transformed cultural networks across the region.
Boğsak Island was inhabited from the late fourth into the late seventh/eighth centuries. Settlement seems to have survived in some form until the ninth or tenth century CE, or even into the twelfth century, although the latest phase may represent renewed activity on a drastically reduced scale. On Dana Island, the earliest occupation may go back to the sixth century BCE, when two forts were built on its crest (the southern one was reoccupied in late antiquity). The main settlement along the western flank, with limited occupation in the Early Roman period, grew into a large maritime settlement, contemporaneous with the settlement on Boğsak Island. As the largest limestone source along Turkey’s southern coast, stone extraction and trade were fundamental in Dana Island’s economy. The exploitation of these immense quarries also coincides with the activities of the renown Isaurian builders who supplied building crews to construction projects across the empire in the 490s-560s.
This islandscape was the focus of the investigations carried out by the Boğsak Archaeological Survey (BOGA) in 2010-2021, under the auspices of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (Istanbul) since 2014. One of the concrete results of this survey project is the foundation of the Boğsak Center for Archaeology and Heritage (aka the Boğsak Center) in the small village of Boğsak in the Mersin province. This modest rural center currently serves as the headquarters of the archaeology team. As of 2022, BOGA is evolving into a new project that aspires to achieve a closer alliance between field research and public archaeology. In this endeavor, the Boğsak Center will also function as a public arena for academic, educational, and artistic activities.
This digital exhibition provides a snapshot of the history, methodology, and preliminary results of the Boğsak Archaeological Survey (BOGA). It also gives a preview of the future plans of the research team at the Boğsak Center and in the field. The iteration of the website was launched in Turkish in 2021 as part of the team’s efforts to present this archaeological project and cultural landscape to a general audience. Through this regularly updated and now bilingual (English-Turkish) website, which will be presented for the first time at the 24th Byzantine Congress, the research team aims to make this unique islandscape known to an international audience.