The Lower Agora - Hadrianic Nymphaeum: August 17-23, 2003
The team led by Bernard Van Daele and Kerim Altug continued its work at the third nymphaeum on the Lower Agora. This nymphaeum dates to the second half of Emperor Hadrian's reign (ca. A.D. 128-138) and collapsed during a major earthquake in the seventh century A.D. Only a little erosion has covered its ruins, therefore the building's stratigraphy is less complex than that in the northeast corner of the Lower Agora.
We exposed three meters of the nymphaeum's 28-meter back wall. The water basin in front of the structure is 2.8 m long and .9 m deep, and the floor is made of large rectangular limestone slabs. It would have been approached by a monumental stairway, shifted slightly in the seventh-century-A.D. earthquake. The original street pavement in front of this stairway is still completely preserved.
What is most striking about the nymphaeum is the fact that most of its original statuary seems to be present, collapsed inside the water basin. We took 23 crates of sculpture fragments (foots, arms, hands, legs, and other body parts) to the excavation house one evening. We found the remains of two giant marble statues representing an imperial couple--a head of the Empress Sabina, identified by her nicely decorated diadem, and a giant hand belonging to her male consort. Other clearly identifiable statuary are gods or mythological figures. We found a female torso, joined it with pieces found last week, and identified it as Aphrodite. Another well-preserved statue fragment was uncovered that represents a beautiful satyr dressed in a goat skin draped over his right shoulder holding a variety of fruit. We also unearthed a sculpture of Poseidon in pieces over several days. The god is almost complete, though broken into various parts. Only the head is missing. A sculpture of a child was also found. More than 100 statue fragments were recovered in a mere three days. Many of them may belong to the satyr, the Poseidon, the Aphrodite, or the child, but some must come from other sculptures.
Three small fragments of bronze statues were discovered among the rubble of the nymphaeum's earthquake debris. One of these pieces showed traces of quicksilver gilding. On the last day of the week, another inscribed stone turned up below the relief representing Terpsichore (see August 10-16). It honors a certain Papeirios, probably another member of the Tiberii Claudii. Other interesting finds were Corinthian capitals and several architectural blocks (friezes, cornices, and gable blocks) with decorations such as floral motives, Medusa heads, rosettes, and meanders.