We continued our activities--supervised by Inge Uytterhoeven (KULeuven) and Philip Bes (Leiden University)--in the southeast corner of this enormous late Roman to early Byzantine mansion. We removed a third layer in the eastern and southern arcaded galleries (room XXXIII) around the small private courtyard (space XXV), which had been turned into a stable during the sixth century A.D. On the east side, three of the four arches were still in situ, but two of them were detached from their supporting piers by the mid-seventh-century earthquake and are leaning heavily toward the courtyard. Paola Pesaresi's conservation team will try to preserve them and put them back. On the south side, the solid-brick piers are now well exposed. To the east, the arcade seems to have preceded a series of private rooms, but to the south, so far, it doesn't seem to have given access to any other space. As we cleared more of the wall's north face, it turned out that the "doorway," which we thought might have led into southern rooms, was in reality a 2.02-meter high niche, of which the bottom part was still covered with white plaster. The same wall contained another, yet smaller niche farther west. Here a doorway in the southern arcade's southwest corner, connected the arcade with room XXXIX located to the west of the private courtyard. Finds from layer 3 consisted mainly of large amounts of nails and clamps from the wooden roof attested by many beam holes in the arcade's back walls and of painted stucco fragments of a light blue color.
Room XXXIX seems to have formed a transition between the arcaded private courtyard XXV and the much larger peristyle of the house (space XIII) farther west, reached through a door in room's XXXIX southwest corner. Inside this room, layer 3, which is a destruction layer, was also partially removed. Both excavated sections contained pottery fragments: locally produced Sagalassos red-slip fine table wares, but mainly coarse ware, dated to A.D. 450-550/75. In room XXXIX, layer 3 also contained large mosaic fragments with white tesserae attached to a pinkish mortar base, which must have fallen from a floor above it. There was also a coin from the reign of Theodosius I (A.D. 393-395).
Our assumption that the rich mansion originally had a series of rooms south of the arcaded private courtyard cannot be confirmed yet, and may even become rather doubtful. In fact, in this area we exposed, over a length of more than 12 meters, the northern section of a very large room. This large space (XL) may have belonged to another building immediately south of the large urban villa. So far, there's no access through its north wall--made of fieldstones and corresponding with the so-called "later" south face of the southern arcaded gallery--to the rest of the mansion. The vaulted niche with the Christian fresco (see last week's find of the week) is in this wall. We have found in the wall's western half two rectangular recesses on either side of a central "buttress" with a semicircular recess, still almost completely covered with red wall plaster (see restoration and conservation). We'll put it back after conservation in the lab. The two smaller niches on either side of the rounded niche may have been to for lamps, some of which were in fact found around them. The whole wall once was covered with white, green, and red stucco. Just above floor level, part of a yellowish band with an inscription painted in red characters was exposed. At a later stage, possibly corresponding with the Christian painting in the vaulted niche discovered at a higher level last, a bench was built against the eastern section of the north wall. The length of the exposed wall, together with the alternation of rectangular and rounded recesses, clearly suggests some kind of public or religious function of the room. We hope to expose part of its south wall in the weeks to come. The room's floor level is only preserved against the north wall and currently composed of a pinkish mortar layer containing small brick and tile fragments, clearly the support of a lost mosaic floor.