Survey of Medieval Anatolian Castles

Location: various

Years: 1992-1995, 1996, 1998

Project Directors: Mark Whittow, Hugh Barnes

Participants: Antonia Blewett (1992), Niels Hooper (1992), Katrina Batchelor (1993), Kevin Chesters (1993), Michael Harrington (1993), Penelope Tunbridge (1993), Stephen Humphreys (1995-1996), Catherine Holmes (1995-1996), Natalie Mears (1995), Crofton Black (1995), David Pinnock (1996), Camilla D’Arc-Irvine (1996), James Wynne (1996)

Government Representatives: Ahmet Bayram Üner (1992-1993), Celal Şimşek (1995), Necati Kodalak (1996), Şaban Kök (1998)

Funding: British Academy, BIAA, Lawrence Fund, Oriel College


In 1992, a collaborative project between Oxford University and the BIAA was launched to investigate Anatolia’s Medieval castles.  Five castles, none of which had previously been studied, were selected with the intent of covering a representative range of periods, size, and functions: Mastaura kalesi (near Bozyurt in Aydın Province), Yılanlı kalesi (near Kemer in İzmir Province), Çardak kalesi (near Çardak in Denizli Province), Yöre kalesi (near Yöre köy in Aydın Province), and Ulubey kalesi (near Ulubey in Uşak Province).

In the project’s first season, 24 April to 28 May 1992, the team surveyed Mastaura castle, whose primary remains included the castle walls, with four towers and a gate, a circuit wall, cisterns and houses, and the ‘Kızıl Kuşak’ (Red Belt), as the wall that formerly blocked the gully is referred to locally.  No church was found, as was partially expected due to Mastaura’s former status as a bishopric.  Only one construction phase is evident, and is tentatively dated to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries AD.  A site plan was created, including all of the significant features and their elevations, and was supplemented with photographs. 

The next season, 20 March to 28 April 1993, focused on Yılanlı kalesi.  The site, located on a spur of Boz dağ mountain, is comprised of a circuit wall and some inner defences.  No building was found that could have been identified with a barracks or residence.  The wall was investigated and discovered to have been built in three phases.  Some pre-Roman pottery sherds were collected, though the castle structures were thought to be dated to Medieval, then Byzantine periods.  The team believed it likely to have been a locally constructed communal fortress.

In 1995, the fourth season focused on Çardak Kalesi, a small castle to the west of the Acı Tüz Gölü (Bitter Salt Lake).  The castle walls indicated two separate phases: the first in the eighth or ninth century AD, the second in the twelfth.  A very successful pottery survey was instructive: Roman pottery sherds indicated an occupation on the site prior to the construction of the castle, and a lack of Byzantine glazed wares indicated that the castle was not long in use after the second phase.  Four sites around the castle itself were discovered in the course of a field survey: two Roman villages, a settlement, and a lookout point.  Beylerli Höyük, a nearly circular tumulus, was also investigated, and a water mill likely dating to the Ottoman period was recorded. 

In 1996 the season focused on surveying Yöre Kalesi, a castle on a hill with a very good view.  In the course of close investigations, the team discovered many collapses and subsequent repairs, due to its position on a hillside and its insecure foundation which meant that towers and walls were often undermined by erosion.  Features of the castle, and the pottery collected, pointed to a date in the twelfth or thirteenth century.  Beyond work on the castle and its surrounds, the modern village of Yöre and a section 5km north of the castle, near Kayran Deresi, were also surveyed.

In 1998, the project continued with a survey of Antioch-on-the-Maeander over the course of three weeks in July and August.  The fortifcations stretched across a hill located on a key site, important for its proximity to a main road and its fertile nature.  A detailed plan was created, and the buildings (some walls, a small castle, and two enclosures) were shown to date to different periods.  Some marble remains pointed to a possible Hellenistic occupation, prior to the construction of a Roman temple on the site.

The combined research was subsequently published in a monograph, where – put into historical and geographical context – the castles served to provide an overview of Anatolian castles during medieval times.


Barnes, H., Whittow, M. 1993: ‘The Oxford University/British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara Survey of Medieval Castles of Anatolia (1992).  Mastaura Kalesi: A Preliminary Report’ Anatolian Studies 43: 117-135

Barnes, H., Whittow, M. 1994: ‘The Oxford University/British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara Survey of Medieval Castles of Anatolia (1993).  Yılanlı Kalesi: Preliminary Report and New Perspectives’ Anatolian Studies 44: 187-206

Whittow, M. 1995: ‘Survey of Medieval Castles of Anatolia: Çardak Kalesi’ Anatolian Archaeology 1: 23-25

Barnes, H., Whittow, M. 1996: ‘Medieval Castles’ Anatolian Archaeology 2: 14-15

Barnes, H., Whittow, M. 1998: ‘Medieval Castles’ Anatolian Archaeology 4: 17-18

See also:

Barnes, H., Whittow, M. 1998: ‘The Survey of Medieval Castles of Anatolia (1992-96)’ in R. Matthews (ed.), Ancient Anatolia: 50 Years Work by the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. Oxford: 347-358

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