Interactions between settlement history and landscape evolution of a hill-top settlement on the West Anatolian Coast near ancient Pergamon (modern Bergama) were studied by a combination of archaeological and geographical investigations. Ceramics, ancient literary and epigraphic texts, numismatics and architectural remains show that the hill-top had been populated since late Bronze Age times. From the sixth century BC until the change of the eras, the hill was occupied by a Greek polis – Atarneus – and was abandoned afterwards. It was newly populated in the second half of the twelfth and the first half of the thirteenth century AD.
The lithostratigraphy of nine drilling cores, arranged in three transects and dated by AMS radiocarbon dating, shows that during the past 4000 years the sedimentary plains surrounding the settlement hill were aggraded by braided and meandering rivers, while colluviation and alluvial fan deposition occurred at the foot-slopes. Sedimentation totaled about 5–7 m in the past 4000 years, evidencing a “drowning” of the landscape in terrestrial sediments. Although channels shifted repeatedly and alluvial fan deposition fluctuated, the depositional system did not change in general during the past 4000 years. This striking resistance to the changing settlement and land use intensity is an effect of the distinct modification of the slopes through terracing that countervailed erosion and likewise increased the buffering capacity of the sediment storages on the slopes. There is no evidence that landscape deterioration contributed to the abandonment of the settlement hill. Rather, socio-economic factors were crucial for the rise and fall of the settlements occupying the hill.