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Kilis at the Syrian border

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Kilis is a city in South-Central Turkey on the border with Syria and capital of Kilis Province. It is generally associated with the city of Kilisi, noted in Assyrian texts.Read More The Öncüpınar Syrian border crossing is 5 km (3 mi) to the south and the large city of Gaziantep is 60 km (37 mi) to the north.

Indeed until 1996 Kilis was a district of Gaziantep, being made into a province by Tansu Çiller following an open vote-winning gambit in the 1995 general election.
Kilis is a small town with a rural feel to it, the traffic consisting mainly of young men on mopeds. The population of the town was 20,000 in 1927, 45,000 in 1970, 60,000 in 1980 and 85,000 in 1990. It then fell in the 1990s to 70,000 by 2000. (The population of the town is 80 542 as of 2009).
Being a border town Kilis has long had a reputation for smuggling and drug trafficking and although this has apparently been reduced, even today cigarettes, spirits and cheap electrical items can be bought for cash at low prices. The local cuisine is a mixture of Turkish and Arabic dishes, the local kebab is renowned, and also the breads, baklava and stuffed vegetables.
Natives of Kilis speak a dialect of Turkish called Inkilisce, which has a distinct lisping quality and a large number of English cognates; the first ever comprehensive language documentation project on the dialect was begun in late 2009, led by noted linguist M.A. Erdoğmuş.

In June 1995 President Demirel approved the bill that allowed the government to name the south eastern border township of Kilis as a new province of Turkey. 
Kilis, situated near the Turkish-Syrian border in the South-eastern Anatolian Region en route to Gaziantep is an especially charming area, dotted with vineyards and olive groves on all sides. It was originally known as Kilis (mentioned in the Assyrian archives) and was a very important town in Asia Minor in ancient days for frontier commerce. It is still famous today for its cotton, silk weaving and leather products. 

Though not definitive, the history of Kilis is believed to date back to 3000 BC. The city lived out the times of the Assyrians, Hurri-Mitani, Hittites, Persians, Romans, Byzantine and the Ottomans. In 636 AD the area was occupied by Caliph Omer and used as an outpost against the Byzantine Empire. Kilis was attached to the County of Urfa during the Crusades and subsequently lived under the Seljuks and Mamelukes. It was finally annexed by the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Yavuz Sultan Selim. Early in this century, following the First World War, Kilis was regained from the occupying forces upon Ankara Treaty acted on 7 December 1921 during the War of Liberation. Kilis was given the status of province on 6 June 1996 with its administrative districts of Elbeyli, Musabeyli and Polateli. The province has 138 villages (51 of them attached to the central district, 46 to Musabeyli, 23 to Elbeyli and 18 to Polateli), a sub-district (Yavuzlu) and 69 sub-villages. 

The city has a distance of 10 kilometres to the Syrian border and the length of its border with this country reaches 120 kilometres. Resul Osman and Kotal are the mountains of the province while Afrin and Sabun Suyu brooks constitute its main water resources. 
Canpolat Mosque, built in 1553, is one of the first specimens of Ottoman structures. It was built in the time of Canpolat Bey, a local ruler. It is an Ottoman style mosque having square plan and single doom.

Akcurun Mosque was built by Seyyide Fatma in 1334 and it has Mameluke features. 
Ulu (Grand) Mosque was built by Abdullah Bin Haci Halil in 1334. The mosque is made of cut stone and has a rectangular plan. 
There is no definite information about the time that Ravanda Fortress was constructed, but some say that it was built by the Crusaders. Its walls and watchtowers have survived. There are water storage, remains of houses, galleries and dungeons in the fortress. Being a stronghold during the time of the Egyptian Mamelukes, Ravanda Fortress later became a centre governed by the Crusaders' County of Urfa. It particularly flourished in the 12th century. The fortress is believed to have an underground city as well. However, satisfactory information could not be obtained so far since no archaeological excavation took place. 
The old city of Kuzeyne (Kuzuini) and the fortress are located at a distance of 5 kilometers from the city. Remains found date back to the times of the Hittites, Romans, Byzantine and the Abbasid. It is an open air museum as a whole with its castle and mosaics. 
Sirahbil bin Hasane Tomb, the Old Turkish Bath, Hoca Bath, Tekke Dervish Lodge, residences reflecting the features of Kilis architecture, fountains and bridges are other historical assets worth seeing. 
Korus (Kiriz) is 20 kilometres east of Kilis where an ancient Roman centre with castle ruins, a temple and theatre are definitely worth seeing. 

Excavations at Oylum Höyük, Kilis Province: Oylum Höyük was a regional centre on the boundary between Anatolia and Syria from the 4th millennium BC to the Persian period. One of the largest ancient settlement mounds in South Eastern Turkey.

Location of Kilis

The Kilis Plain lies south of the foothills of the Taurus mountains and forms the northern edge of the Syrian Plain, halfway between Gaziantep and Aleppo. The area is the continental watershed between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates and is drained by the River Qoueiq. Oylum Höyük (ill.: Oylum Höyük, aerial view (1991)) is located on the Akpınar River, one of the headwaters of the Qoueiq, and forms the ancient centre of this region. 

History of Kilis City

Excavations took place between 1995 to 2002 in a cooperation between the Istanbul Section of the German Archaeological Institute and Hacettepe University, Ankara. Since 2003, the results of the project began being prepared for publication. 

Oylum Höyük was continuously settled from the Neolithic period to Hellenistic times and formed the regional centre during these four millennia. The place lost importance only during Roman times, when the settlement moved to the opposite side of the river. Occupation continued there into the byzantine period. The regional centre moved to Cyrrhus, now located on the Syrian side of the border. 

Objectives

The first objective was to produce a stratigraphic sequence for the western Euphrates region, as the history of this region was virtually unknown, when compared to the intensively researched regions of Cilicia and the Euphrates Valley. The second, specific levels were investigated, in particular the Middle Bronze Age levels were uncovered in large areas. In this period, Oylum Höyük was the centre of a small state, the direct neighbour of the Hegemony of Yamhad (Aleppo), but its name is unknown.   Surface surveys by U.B. Alkım (1968) and by an Italian mission(1971) first established the central postion and strategic sigificance of Oylum Höyük on a branch of the trade route north from Aleppo. Systemstic investigation began in 1984/85 by E.Özgen. Since 1987 there have been regualr excavations at the site. Since 1995, the DAI has participated in a German-Turkish cooperation in these works.  

Previous Activities

1. Excavation of a step-trench on the eastern slope (in 3 levels of 9m x 15m;17m deep) and connected investigations of the Middle Bronze Age levels. 
2. Open area investigation of Hellenistic to Iron Age occupation levels on the north summit.
3. Clearance of a massive mudbrick building of late Iron Age date on the western summit. 
4. Investigation of late Chalcolithic levels in several trenches on the West Terrace. 
5. Initiation of open area excavation of the late Bronze Age occupation levels on the southern slope. 
6. Rescue excavation of a early Byzantine church in a field on the opposite bank of the river.  
Current Work
1. Postexcavation analysis of the step-trench on the eastern slope, in preparation for publication. 
2. Continuation of the step-trench into the Chalcolithic levels. 
3. Continuation of the open area excavation of the Late Bronze Age levels on the southern slope. 
4. Detailed investigation of the architecture of the late Iron Age monumental building on the west summit (Liverpool University).

Results The oldest excavated settlement at Oylum Höyük dates from the middle Chalcolithic.Levels with Amuq E material was found in the bottom of the eastern slope. 300 metres away, the south-western foot of the mound, a massive terrace wall of the early fourth millennium BC was uncovered. After a hiatus, there followed a late Chalcolithic village occupation (ill.: mass produced coba bowls, from the Late Chalcolithic village (5.-4. mill. BC.)). Contemporary material was found on the surface of the eastern slope, but whether or not these finds belong to the same settlement or neighbouring places, is not known. The latestphase of the late Chalcolithic is found elsewhere in the eastern step trench, where three late Uruk bulding levels were discovered. 

In Early Bronze Age III a massive settlement was established, as shown by architectural reamins on the eastern step-trench. The significance of the Early Bronze Age evident from its rich grave goods, from pithos burials, cist graves and chamber tombs on the eastern slope (ill.: Typical burial inventory, EB III period). Further graves are found under the modern village. 
So far it appears that at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age Oylum Höyük, in common with many other sites in the surrounding area, was unoccupied. In Middle Bronze Age II, a massive split level building was constructed on the eastern slope (ill.: View over the MB II building, with kitchen area and courtyard, c. 1550 BC.). An entrance with massive basalt block uprights and rich contents, under which a stele depicting a warrior-goddess (ill.: Limestone stele showing a warrior godess, MB II period, c. 1550 BC.), reflects the social standing of the owner of this building. In the Late Bronze Age, the character of the settlement on the eastern slope changed, now more typified by village houses and working areas. The archaeological record shows a secure and unbroken transition to the Iron Age. On the eastern slope, the character remains that of a village community. 


During the later Iron Age, a massive mudbrick building was constructed on top of the western summit (ill.: Massive mudbrick building, second half of 2nd mill. BC.). In the Hellenistic period, there was a prosperous settlement on Oylum Höyük. From a Hellenistic building on the western summit of the mound came a jug containing a silver coin hoard, the latest of which dated from the reign of Antiochus III. Late Roman graves from the north summit of the mound are the site's most recent finds. Apparently, the mound was abandoned as a settlement in favour of a new settlement on the western bank of the Akpınar river. A Byzantine church of the 5/6th century AD belongs to this settlement (ill.: Church from the Early Byzantine period, c. 5.-6. cent.).  

Cooperation

From 1995 to 2002, the excavations at Oylum Höyük were a cooperative project of the Istanbul Section of the German Archaeological Institute and the Insitute of Archaeology and Art History of Hacettepe University, Ankara. Since 2003, the Eurasian Section of the German Archaeological Institute continued the cooperation. Since 2001, Liverpool University has conducted a project at the site.

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