The ceramic materials


The earliest materials found at Elaiussa Sebaste are ceramic fragments and obsidian blades which attest an occasional occupation of the site during the bronze age.

Proof of a real occupation of the site can be traced to the IInd century B.C. by the presence of domestic table and kitchenware and Aegean as well as Phoenician amphorae. The tableware is constituted mainly by colour coated ceramic and sometimes matrix decorated (the so called megarese cups) or more rarely painted (west slope) imported mainly from specialised centers of the area between northern Syria, Cilicia and Cyprus and less frequently from those in Greece and in the Aegean area. The amphorae attest the import of products particularly from the Aegean area  (Rhodian amphorae) and less from the Syro-Palestinian area. This consumer pattern doesn’t seem to sensibly change until the Augustan age.


The most relevant phenomenon during the 1st century B.C. is the assertion of colour coated tableware produces in specialised centers of Cilicia or of the Syro Palestinian area (the so called Eastern Sigillata A) which is absolutely the most popular table ware used during this period. Amongst the imported products start to appear sand core-formed as well as mould-cast glassware but their use still appears to be limited.

From the Augustan age onwards the most noteworthy phenomenon was the starting in Elaiussa as well as in other sites of Cilicia, of amphorae production as documented by scrapped fragments found in areas near the cities. These amphorae with a characteristic clay composition present both generalised types (Dressel 2/4) and particular types specific to the region (Pompei 5 and Agora M54), are rather well distributed between the 1st and the IInd centuries in the East and in the West and represent a clear indicator of how the city and its region in general were able to produce agricultural products above all wine and olive oil in such surplus quantities as to allow for a considerable export. From Pliny and other authors we know that the sweet wine from Cilicia (passum) was highly appreciated in the West but also were well known other products besides olive oil such as saffron. Besides amphora the local manufacturers seem to have dedicated themselves to producing common pottery using the same impasto with different domestic forms like multi-functional basins, jars or olla for preserves etc…

Concerning tableware in the course of the 1st and II nd centuries A.D.  ESA pottery continues to predominate with sporadic arrivals of other products from the Aegean (ESB and, even if less represented, the Çandarli sigillata), from Cyprus (the Cypriote sigillata) and more rarely from the Western Mediterranean and from Africa.  Common-ware (tableware and kitchen pottery) continues to be imported mostly from the specialised regional centers that produce and will keep on producing  high quality and thin-skinned pottery  with decorations that conforms to new fashionable morphologies but keeps on applying the traditional technology developed during the Hellenistic age. For what concerns evidence of amphorae trade since the first half of the IInd century the greater part of imports came from the Agean (Dressel 5 or amphorae from Kos) with less frequent arrivals from the Syro-Palestinian area and sporadic from Africa and the Western Mediterranean.

From the second half of the IInd century onwards the arrivals become more varied with the presence on Elaiussa’s market  of products coming from the greater part of the Mediterranean, from Portugal to the Syro-Palestinian area even if the most diffused continued to be those produced in the Agean and on the western coast of Turkey. Even for what concerns glassware the types generally diffused throughout all of the Roman empire can be found in Elaiussa most probably imported from specialised cities and centers.

During the IIIrd and IVth centuries the picture offered by  ceramic artefacts does not sensibly change. Only as far as fine tableware ceramic is concerned  a more rarefied presence can be noted throughout the greater part of the empire of sigillata products only partially replaced at Elaiussa by African sigillata. It seems possible that during this period there was a major widespread use of  wooden or metal tableware. In what concerns the local production of amphorae a development of new types that replace the previous ones, is noted, and which leads to the development during the IVth century of the amphora model (proto LR1) characteristic of Cilicia which is the basis of the type most widespread during the Byzantine age.

Due to the evidence provided by the Cilician models it seems that the distribution of the region’s products between the IIIrd and IVth centuries was subject to a recession  in respect to the past and that their  use was mainly concentrated in the area comprising Cilicia, the Syro-Palestinian coast and Cyprus.

This fact seems to indicate that the system of production entered into a crisis which certainly lead to its demise towards the end of the IVth century in coincidence with the creation of the Oriental empire as an autonomous entity.

However during the first Byzantine age there is a recovery of ceramic production in Elaiussa same as within the eastern Mediterranean area in general. New productions are born which will be characteristic of the period between the Vth and the first half of the VIIth centuries and which will have an extensive distribution throughout all of the Byzantine empire. Elaiussa fully participates in this development with an ample production of the most distributed type of amphora (Late Roman Amphora 1) in the Mediterranean basin. In the part of the city  investigated till now six kilns have been found for the production  of these amphorae and scrap deposits were brought to light practically everywhere in the area which was occupied by the city in antiquity. Various deposits brought to light, for example like the cistern in the domestic and manufacturing quarter into which were thrown 750 amphorae, many intact and others in pieces, which allowed to distinguish the different variations of this type of amphora and to follow their development between the IVth and the first half of the VIIth centuries. In the same kilns and with the same type of clay composition of the  amphorae, during the same period, all types of common pottery were produced, from tableware to kitchen pottery with the exception of plates. Among the products can be found jugs, cups, small amphorae, bowls and basins of various types, perfume burners, incense burners, lamps and lanterns. These wares also present decorated pieces, engraved or painted and above all a variety which seems typical of the city with engraved decorations and which was frequently exported. The patterns were either simple as well as more complex and graffiti with names or appeals are not missing. For kitchenware the urban market still seeked imports from the region’s specialised areas which were able to supply particular pottery more refined  from the technological point of view and only for special types of pans imported from the Aegean . The  types found in Elaiussa are the same as those found in the area between north of Syria , Cilicia and Cyprus. The refined tableware that circulates throughout the city during this period is all imported and coming from Cyprus and the Phocaea’s area on Turkey’s western coast.  A secondary role is played by those products imported from north Africa, more common in the western mediterranean,. The amphorae prove how trade with other productive areas was very intense. Special oils such as sesame oil and above all high quality wines come to Elaiussa from cities in the Syro-Palestinian area, from various Aegean centers, from Egypt, from Nubia, from today’s Tunisia and from the Black Sea.

With the coming of the second half of the VIIth city, the city’s production is subject to a brusque contraction and comes to a complete halt within the space of a quarter of a century. This phenomenon which coincides with the progressive abandon of the urban center is most probably to be related to the instability due to the Arab incursions which made trading of Elaiussa’s products, the city’s principal source of income and the basis of  its life, ever more difficult.

Some evidence ascribable to the last quarter of the VIIth century shows how the arrival of merchandise becomes more rarefied and how the remaining rare communities  counted for their needs on the sporadic arrival of goods from Cyprus, Egypt and above all the Aegean.

After a long period of demise some evidence attests an occasional occupation of the site during the period of the crusades with products that come mainly from centers within the kingdom of Antiochia and in less account from Constantinople.