Dana Island (ancient Pityoussa) is the largest island of the Taşucu Gulf in Rough Cilicia (Turkey). It is strategically located ca. 2.5 km off the shores of the rugged mainland along an ancient maritime route. The reconnaissance survey in 2011 and 2015, followed by the systematic pedestrian, architectural, and shoreline survey since 2016 revealed a lower settlement along the northwestern shore and an upper settlement associated with a fortress on the south summit. The ceramic assemblage and the architectural remains in the lower settlement indicate that it was built in the Early Roman period and reached its largest extent in late antiquity, when five basilical churches were constructed. As such, it likely functioned as a maritime station offering various services to travelers. The fortress on the southern summit of the island, which has a much earlier history, was refurbished in late antiquity and received a basilical church.
Dozens of structures with simple rectangular plans and a strikingly large number of bell-shaped cisterns or containers lined up along the coastline suggest that this was a well-supplied anchorage and/or settlement servicing the maritime traffic through Kargıcak Strait. Indeed, the island is mentioned in the late 5th century CE Acts of St. Barnabas as a refuge for the saint’s ship caught in stormy weather. During the team’s reconnaissance survey in 2011, a small number of rectangular indentations in the northern and southern ends of the northwestern shoreline were tentatively suggested as areas used for ship repair and beaching small vessels; or, alternatively, as remains of quarries exploited for the construction work on the island or elsewhere. Indeed, our comprehensive study and documentation of these coastal features revealed a complex shoreline consisting of building foundations, drainage channels, quarries and ramps for stone transport, alongside a handful of slipways which may have been opportunistically used for small operations.
Generally identified as ancient Pitusu/Pityoussa, this island was reportedly the setting of a major naval confrontation between the Babylonian King Neriglissar and the Cilician king Appuašu in 557/6 B.C.E. (ABC 6). In the Stadiasmus Maris Magni (possibly fifth century C.E.), Pityoussa is listed as a maritime landing in the vicinity of Palaia and Aphrodisias. According to the fifth-century C.E. pseudonymous author of the Acta Barnabae (11), Pityoussa was likewise visited by the Christian St. Barnabas during his ill-fated voyage from Antioch to Cyprus. Due to a storm, the ship Barnabas and his companions were voyaging on was forced to moor for three nights at Pityoussa. After a long gap in the textual record, the island figures in late medieval portulans and marine maps under the name of Provensale, a toponym still used by sailors in the nineteenth century (Beaufort 1818: 207). Modern visitors recorded the remains much as they exist today. Having visited or seen the fortress complex at the top of the island’s mountain on the south crest in 1811–12, Beaufort (1818: 206) observed, “A citadel stands on the highest peak; and the whole island presents such means of natural and artificial defense, as to make it probably that it was once a station of great military strength.” When Heberdey and Wilhelm (1896: 98) visited the island in 1891– 92, they saw several churches, graves (house-tombs, sarcophagi, and other unspecified tombs), and several houses, among which one was preserved up to 4–5 meters with its door posts and windows still intact. They related that local inhabitants visited the island’s ruins to gather grindstones.
At its peak, Dana Island was the site of a permanent settlement; a maritime station comprising a large variety of services, including baths, hostels, restaurants, churches, boat repair, shops and provisioning facilities, etc., as well as accommodation for workers. Most significantly, it functioned as an extensive stone quarry to procure limestone blocks for the development of neighboring settlements such as Boğsak. However, there is scant evidence to suggest any significant level of occupation in earlier or later times. We found no prehistoric artifacts and indeed few pre-Roman ones. All Classical/Hellenistic and Medieval/Early Modern ceramics were recorded in but a handful of survey units at the far northwestern end of the shoreline. This suggests that in most periods the island functioned as an occasional, opportunistic port and refuge for sailors. We should also rethink any conjecture of a significant population of Crusaders or Provençale merchants resident on the island. Rather, the Knights may have used the island as a stronghold and watch point (cf. the Hospitallers’ imprint on the Dodecanese, Zarifis and Brokou 2002).