Balboura Survey

Location: near Altınyayla; Burdur Province

Years: 1985-1993

Project Director: J. J. Coulton

Participants: R. R. R. Smith (1985), L. Bier (1987, 1990), G. Hollinshead (1987), J. Patterson (1987), Pamela Catling (1987-1988), N. Milner (1987), Paul Roberts (1987-1988), A. Greenland (1987), D. Money (1987), P. Bowles (1987), Malcolm Wagstaff (1988, 1992), John Matthews (1988), Teresa Clay (1988, 1991), Dirk Krausmüller (1988), Michael Given (1988-1990, 1993), J. DeLaine (1990), J. Steen (1990), N. Griffin (1990), S. Jack (1990), Hugh Elton (1991), Mark Kesteven (1991), Thurstan Robinson (1991, 1993), Matthew Church (1991), Lu McClintock (1991), Neill Roberts (1992), Henry Lamb (1992), Philip Barker (1992), Carol David (1992), Aygen Erdentuğ (1992), Tyler Smith (1992-1993), Pat Wagstaff (1992), Matthew Armitage (1993), Richard Baker (1993), Martin Richards (1993), Fiona Hogg (1993), Lucy Manson (1993), Juliette Moore (1993), Emma Sercombe (1993), Claudia Wagner (1993), Andrew Wickham (1993)

Government Representatives: Mehmet Çakıçı (1985), M. Şener (1986), Haluk Yalçınkaya (1987), Hashim Yildiz (1988), Nurettin Çelem (1990), Gülsen Ceylan (1991), Menderes Alan (1992), Sehrazat Karagöz (1993), Hale Sekmen (1993)

Funding: BIAA, Craven Committee of the University of Oxford, Merton College, Society of Antiquaries of London, British Academy, Department of Land Survey, Polytechnic of East London


Balboura is a small city in Northern Lycia that was particularly active under the Roman Empire; visited and partially surveyed by travellers in the nineteenth century, it had never been studied in depth.  A survey was proposed, and in 1985 a two-week preliminary investigation was made during the first half of September.  A preliminary plan of the entire city was created, which included areas and details not previously recorded.  The site and its surrounding territory was deemed to be an excellent candidate for a full survey and epigraphic work in the future.

Based on these positive results, a full season of work was undertaken in 1986, with J. J. Coulton directing a six-member team.  One of the main aims of the project was to understand Balboura’s relationship to the surrounding territory in terms of its urban development.  In 1986, they focused on the city and its immediate surroundings, conducting a topographical survey on the lower city and necropolis area.  Some exploration of the city’s water supply was undertaken, and surveys of the two pipelines discovered were made.  Many previously published inscriptions were found within the city, as well as 20 new texts, which in some instances lent insight into the architecture.  The small temple of Nemesis and its exedra, the arched agora gate, aqueduct, mausoleum, and bath building were also studied.  Sherds were gathered and analysed, providing evidence for occupation periods in and around the city.

The second full season of work occurred between 13 July and 22 August 1987.  Two teams of surveyors were successful in mapping the site’s physical features and major archaeological features.  Surface pottery was systematically collected and was subsequently analysed to understand the different types of pottery used at the site, as well as to see how the frequency of sherds from different periods changed across the settlement area.  Six new inscriptions were discovered, bringing the total number found to 58; where possible, squeezes were made.  Approximately 100 sarcophagi were recorded and tile graves were also discovered.  Some rock reliefs depicting the Dioscuri were found.  Outlying sites were investigated, with a settlement site and the ruins of a church and fortification discovered in the process.  Six crates of collected material were taken to the Fethiye Museum for future study.

Work resumed the following year on 1 August 1988 until 3 September.  The focus fell on village territories near the Balboura city site, namely: Karaculhayaylası and Karahasantaşı, Çaltılar, Çobanisa, Bekçiler, and Doğanlar.  About forty sites were found (primarily by asking locals), representing many different periods.  Pottery sherds dating back to the fifth or fourth millennium BC were collected at a prehistoric tumulus near Çaltılar, as well as at Karahasantaşı Hüyüğü.  The Roman and Late Roman periods are represented best, however, by fourteen sites in the region.  Five new inscriptions and nineteen votive reliefs were recorded.               

In the season lasting from 9 July to 3 August 1990 they focused on systematically collecting pottery from the upper city at Balboura and at Büyük Karlıağaç Kayası.  They made some additions and corrections to the city plan, verifying locations of marked monuments.  The upper theatre was planned in detail and plans of three of the churches in the city were created.  New rock reliefs and inscriptions were also discovered.  A study season was undertaken between 17 September and 6 October, at Fethiye Museum, on the pottery from earlier seasons at Balboura.

Survey work continued between 4 August and 14 September 1991.  Work was focused on the region west of Balboura, in Muğla.  Two strips in the Çaltılar-Çobanisa basin were demarcated and then the surface sherds were collected and counted to get a sense of the site density.  The first strip, near Alacam dağı, revealed two Roman settlements with some stone press weights, but very little other occupation.  In the second strip, near Çaylaktepe, a late Hellenistic/Roman settlement was found, as well as some Early Iron Age pottery and some stone tumuli.  The team also explored in the southwest part of Balboura’s surrounding regions, in particular the boundary with Oenoanda.  A house, a tumulus, some more reliefs depicting the Dioscuri, and some tanks evidently used for grape-pressing were discovered and recorded.

In 1992 some new projects were introduced at Balboura, in a season lasting between 6 July and 8 August.   A palaeobotanical study was introduced, in which sediment from the lakes (Yazır göl and Gölhisar gölü in Burdur) was used to study climate history and vegetation in the region.  At the same time, a study was begun of pre-industrialised agricultural practices around Balboura (specifically in the villages of Çobanisa, Çaltılar and Karaculha yaylası), in the hopes that it would allow for a better understanding of agriculture during Roman and early Byzantine occupation.  It was found that dry farming (wheat and barley, specifically) was the dominant method in all, and figures were collected for the seasonal crop yields.  Meanwhile, survey work was continued both west and south of Balboura, specifically around Gökben village, Gölcük village, Seki bucağı, and Gökben.  Settlements, tumuli, and sarcophagi were discovered, and all collected surface sherds sent to Fethiye Museum.

The last season at Balboura was conducted between 9 August and 17 September 1993.  The fieldwork aimed at answering certain questions about the region’s settlement patterns anciently.  To this end they employed a method similar to the one used in 1991, selecting two strips to be intensively surveyed.  The first, located 1km east of the city, yielded some Roman settlements, with pottery sherds also pointing to a primarily Roman occupation.  In the second strip, located southeast of Kızıl Tepe, they found two small settlements and some ruins that indicated at least some amount of Roman activity.  Also investigated was the area just above Gökben Yaylası, where a chamber tomb had previously been discovered.  At Balboura itself, some team members created a plan of an ancient wall along the gorge.  All collected pottery was taken to Fethiye Museum for future study.


1986: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 36: 7-8

1987: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 37: 11-13

1988: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 38: 14-17

1989: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 39: 12-13

1991: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 41: 17-19

1992: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 42: 6-8

1993: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 43: 4-6

1994: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 44: 8-10

See also:

Coulton, J.J. 2012: The Balboura Survey and Settlement in Highland Southwest Anatolia Vol. 1: Balboura and the history of highland settlement. London

Coulton, J.J. 2012: The Balboura Survey and Settlement in Highland Southwest Anatolia Vol. 2: The Balboura survey: detailed studies and catalogues. London

Coulton, J.J., Milner, N.P., Reyes, A.T. 1988: ‘Balboura Survey: Onesimos and Meleager’ Anatolian Studies 38: 121-145

Coulton, J.J., Milner, N.P., Reyes, A.T. 1988: ‘Balboura Survey: Onesimos and Meleager, Part II’ Anatolian Studies 39: 41-62

Money, D.K. 1990: ‘Lions of the Mountains: the Sarcophagi of Balboura’ Anatolian Studies 40: 29-54

Coulton, J.J., Farrington, A. 1990: ‘Terracotta Spacer Pins in Lycian Bath Buildings’ Anatolian Studies 40: 55-67

Bier, L. 1990 ‘The Lower Theatre at Balboura’ Anatolian Studies 40: 69-79

Milner, N.P. 1991 ‘Victors in the Meleagria and the Balbouran Elite’ Anatolian Studies 41: 23-62

Hallett, C.H., Coulton, J.J. 1993: ‘The East Tomb and Other Tomb Buildings at Balboura’ Anatolian Studies 43: 41-68

Bier, L. 1994: ‘The Upper Theatre at Balboura’ Anatolian Studies 44: 27-46

Smith, T.J. 1997: ‘Votive Reliefs from Balboura and its Environs’ Anatolian Studies 47: 3-49

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