Nearby Sites

 The steep, rocky coastline surrounding the Orontes river delta is rich in Paleolithic sites. To the north of the river mouth, a series of small caves located near the modern town of Çevlik preserve Pleistocene deposits. Many of the caves were enlarged and modified during the Classical period, disturbing or removing earlier sediments. During the 1950's and 1960's, Prof. M. Senyürek and Prof. E. Bostanci of Ankara University excavated three of the sites. Tikali and Merdivenli yielded exclusively Middle Paleolithic assemblages. The third site, Kanal cave, contained both Middle Paleolithic and early Upper Paleolithic deposits, the latter similar in age to those at Üçağızlı cave. Unfortunately, most of the sediments in Kanal cave (Image #1, Image #2) were removed when Roman emperors commissioned a deep trench to be cut through it as part of an extensive system designed to divert floodwaters around the port city of Seleucia Pieria.

Kanal Cave (Image #1)

Kanal Cave (Image #2)

The coastal cliffs south of the Orontes delta contain the remnants of many caves, both small and large (Image #1, Image #2). Like Üçağızlı I cave most of the larger ones have collapsed, probably due to seismic activity. Others, particularly those closest to modern sea level, do not preserve archaeological deposits at all. Thousands of years ago, during times when sea level was lower than today and before the big earthquakes, the area must have resembled places such as the Balzi Rossi in Liguria (Italy) or some of the valleys in Dordogne, France with dozens of occupation sites. Scattered along cliff bases and cave outlets, a few of the remnant chambers along the Orontes Delta, such as the cave known as Kara magara (Image #1, Image #2) do contain substantial amounts of sediment, including cultural horizons.

Kara Magara
Kara Magara

One large collapsed cave, located just 250 meters from Üçağızlı I cave, was identified by Minzoni-Deroche in the 1980s, who called it Üçağızlı II (Image#1, Image #2, Image #3). Once a massive, high-domed chamber, most of the archaeological sediments nearest the sea have eroded away. Deposits containing Middle Paleolithic artifacts are preserved within the dripline and cemented to the cave wall. Archaeological deposits are also preserved in a small, narrow side chamber, the vault of which remains intact.

Üçağızlı II
Üçağızlı II


In 2004 clandestine excavators dug a large pit in the back of the narrow intact chamber at Üçağızlı II. The illegal excavators did not discover the gold and treasure they were seeking. Their pit instead revealed a deep Middle Paleolithic sequence roughly two meters deep. The Paleolithic layers sit on top of an elevated marine beach deposit (Image) representing a high sea stand, possibly OIS 5a. We are currently trying to date this formation using OSL and U-series methods.


Although small in area, intact Middle Paleolithic deposits in Üçağızlı II are rich in artifacts and faunal remains. The upper part of the sequence is characterized by intact layered hearths , some cemented by calcite (Image #1, Image #2). Retouched tools are common compared to the number of cores and debris. The assemblage of modified artifacts consists mainly of points and pointed chipped stone scrapers, suggesting a relatively specialized use of the site. Deeper in the sequence, just above the ancient beach, sediments are nearly black in color and extremely rich in artifacts, bone and marine shell (principally very large specimens of Patella ). These facts suggest that the earlier Middle Paleolithic occupation was more prolonged or frequent. .


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Orontes Delta


















Coastal Caves


Collapsed Caves









Üçağızlı II










Üçağızlı II Beach Deposit



Üçağızlı II Hearth