The domestic and artisan’s quarter of the Southern Port

The excavation of the south-eastern sector of the promontory has brought to light a domestic quarter, extending over terraces leading down to the port which were developed from the late Hellenistic age until the Byzantine period when the area was occupied by a manufacturing facility. With rare traces of the most ancient periods of which very scarce remains have been brought to light by the excavations, on the whole the complex presents the aspect that it must have had during the last phase of its use, that is during the first Byzantine age (IVth to the middle of the VII century A.D. The houses identified to date are composed of various rooms on more than one storeys that developed around open paved and porticoed spaces. Their access was assured by narrow streets that coped with the differences of level thanks to ramps or stairways. On the lower terrace a manufacturing area has been identified with a kiln for the production of LR1 amphora (in use until the beginning of the VIIth century A.D.) and of various structures related to this activity. Among which a cistern completely dug into the rock-bed the investigation of which allowed to discover a remarkable number of LR1 amphora in good state of conservation.

The domestic and artisan’s quarter of Elaiussa Sebaste’s southern port is located in the south-eastern corner of the peninsula on which the most ancient nucleus of the city was settled, along the front of the port’s basin. The findings excavated belong to domestic buildings that in the course of the Byzantine age underwent substantial transformations that coincided with the installation of a facility for the manufacturing of Late Roman 2 type amphora. The most ancient structures of this area date to a period running between the IInd and the Ist centuries B.C.: thanks to massive works to flatten out the natural rock bank, series of terraces were realized along the promontory’s slopes, at different levels and interconnected with ramps and stairs  to house living units.

The bringing to light of a coin with the portrait of Iotape, wife of Antiochus IV Commagene confirms the dating suggested by the ceramic findings related to a first roman phase (Ist century A.D.). There are very scarce remains of the Hellenistic and Roman periods: some sections of walls in polygonal opus, considerably rearranged in the following centuries are still in part visible, together with, on the western side of the central terrace, a door with a three-slab (trilitica) structure built according to the Late Hellenistic architectural modules in polygonal opus. The organization of the presently visible structures goes back, for the most part, to the final phases of occupation of the area: starting in the IVth century and then more deeply during the VIth century A.D. the area underwent an extensive transformation that obliterated greater part of the roman age as well as Hellenistic structures. The entire complex was abandoned, as seem to suggest the ceramic findings around the middle of the VIIth centry A.D.

The southern terrace immediately overlooking the port, was built by means of massive earthworks on the slope’s profile and is therefore limited at  the rear by the smoothed-out rock bank. Most probably the area which was the original nucleus occupying the slope underwent drastic changes between the Vth and VIth centuries A.D.; the pavement levels were completely removed and with them the strata pertaining to the most ancient periods, whereas the foundations of the perimeter walls were brought to light. During the excavations in this sector, within the most ancient strata that covered the natural rock bank, obsidian findings have been uncovered that prove that the area had already been occupied since prehistoric ages. The terrace is divided lengthwise by a quite wide corridor.

On the terrace south of the corridor are the more important buildings: near the western wall a kiln in good state of conservation and in the center of the neighbouring room a cistern dug into the rock. The kiln was used for the manufacturing of Later Roman I amphora: it was built with sun-dried bricks and is one of the best conserved examples in Elaiussa and probably in all of Cilicia of  kilns of this type.  The cistern on the northern part of the central room must have been functional to the activities related to the kiln; it is completely dug into the rock, only its circular mouth is visible on the floor. Inside were found a remarkable number of Late Roman 1 amphora, of which 750 are intact or in large fragments.

The upper terraces still maintained even during the Byzantine age their function as living quarters or in any case for private use. The single units, of which only the vertical perimeter walls are conserved were linked to each other thanks to inner paths and to an external street network; thresholds and door jambs clearly mark the passing from one housing unit to another. In some cases they were developed vertically to include a second storey as suggested by stairwells and series of steps. The floors were mostly realized in hardened earth, only  two rooms are paved with limestone slabs. The roofing was built with wooden beams and tiles; the floor between the first and the second storey and sometimes the ground floor were made of a pier of limestone chips and cement mixed with river gravel smoothed on the surface,

There are many traces related to systems for water collection and distribution: terracotta piping set into the corners or inside the walls leading from the roofing canalized the rain water into a vast and capillary network of underground channels that included storage cisterns dug into the rock and a well to draw the water.