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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The heavily damaged eastern arcade of courtyard XXV with the limestone mortarium on the left and the trough for animal fodder under the right arcade. On the right, note the support keeping the very inclined upper structure in place.
View inside vaulted room XXVIII. The older north and east walls can be seen to each side. The east wall doorway that was filled and bisected when the arcaded courtyard XXV was built and the wall shortened is visible on the right. The blocks above it belong to this transformation phase.
Director Marc Waelkens identifies the various building phases of courtyard XXV.
View of the reception hall on the second floor. The two doors in the north (back) wall gave access to the norhteast corner of the complex where excavations started towards the end of the week.

Photos courtesy Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project. Click on images to enlarge.
by Marc Waelkens

Domestic Area: July 4-8, 2004

Courtyard XXV
A team supervised by Ine Jacobs, Jeroen Vermeersch (both KULeuven), and Mustafa Kiremitçi (University of Trakya) continued excavating the large urban villa, which during late antiquity (fourth/fifth century A.D.) had enormous dimensions with at least 43 rooms spread out over three different levels.

See plan of the palatial mansion

During the first part of the week, the team worked in courtyard XXV, which was once surrounded on three sides by brick arcades. One of these arcades separated it from a larger arcaded and paved courtyard farther to the west. During this building phase (tentatively dated to the mid-second century A.D.) the eastern courtyard XXV in the southeast corner of the villa must have been part of the more private quarters of the house as illustrated by mosaics and fragments of rich figural and vegetal wall frescoes (see Field Notes 2003). During phase 8 of the locally produced Sagalassos red-slip ware pottery (ca. 450-550/75) and probably after a damaging earthquake around A.D. 500, the villa was thoroughly transformed and some of its rooms began to have a different function. The original courtyard pavement was removed and the space was apparently transformed into a storage facility for imported amphorae. In the vaulted space to the north, of which the original purpose remains unknown, study of remains retrieved through flotation suggests that this space became a storage facility for dried cow dung cakes. These dung cakes were used as fuel, a practice that Strabo observed in ancient Anatolia.

Of all arcades surrounding both courtyards only three arches of the eastern courtyard were preserved after the seventh-century A.D. earthquake that leveled the city. Of those three, their upper part was almost completely separated from their piers and inclined heavily toward the front. It has only been possible to maintain them in their precarious position through the continuous efforts of the conservation team of Paola Pesaresi, which constructed a support. The maintained position of the arches serves as a testimony of the final seismic violence that struck the town.

During the first half of the week, the removal of the layers still filling the space in between the piers was done simultaneously by both the archaeological and the conservation team. The procedure helped to prevent a complete collapse of the sometimes heavily damaged piers. Eventually we reached the final floor level made of cobbled stones. It still carried a tall limestone mortarium (a vessel for crushing).

We think this courtyard and the vaulted room to the north of it had become rural storage facilities in the Early Byzantine period. This week we exposed a fodder trough still in place below the central arch with holes on either side to attach ropes for animals. Below the southernmost arch, which could not be excavated for safety reasons, a corner of a second trough is visible. Thus it is clear that courtyard XXV and its eastern arcade had been turned into a stable during the early sixth century A.D. (as suggested by the cow dung). This evidence is further proof of the growing ruralization of Sagalassos in early Byzantine times, which may coincide with the fact that suburban villas seem to have disappeared then, which possibly suggests that part of the farming activities of the land-holding elite was transferred to their urban residences.

In the meantime, director Marc Waelkens has begun studying the complicated building history of the mansion in this area. It is clear that the brick arcades around the southern courtyards (thought to have been built during the middle of the second century) were preceded by at least one older building phase. This older phase is represented both by the current north wall of room XXVIII where the vault is much higher, and by its east wall, which contained a doorway (?). The doorway is now is half-buried and half-removed from when the arcades were built. Originally this wall continued towards the south. This pattern may imply that originally the paved courtyard XIII extended as far east as this wall, which was removed when the courtyard area was expanded towards the east and divided in two units that were separated from one another and surrounded by brick arcades. Architect Özgür Isik (Istanbul, Technical University) is completing the elevations of all walls in order to make study each wall section in detail.

Room XV
During the heyday of the villa in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., a private bathing complex was installed that was composed of four units placed next to one another. The two western rooms (an undressing room and a caldarium) are still covered with mosaic floors; they maintained their original function until the final days of the occupation of the villa. However, the hypocaustum floors of both eastern units were removed possibly after the early sixth-century A.D. earthquake, so these rooms must have served another purpose. However, because of the instability of the meters-high walls, neither of these two could be fully excavated before we completed the conservation of these walls, which was finished during the 2003 season. One of the purposes of the excavation campaign of 2004 is to identify the final function of room XV, the only one where conservation work is almost finished. In the destruction material inside the room, we found a very large amount of mostly black and white mosaic tiles and stucco fragments of various colors. On the southern and western wall some well preserved pieces of plaster are still visible. Because the conservation team had to consolidate those remains first, we moved to the northeast corner of the upper level of the house, where we hope to establish the northern limit of the enormous residential complex.

The northeast corner of the villa
The second and highest floor level of the villa, located in the northeast corner of the structure, seems to be supported partially by bedrock and partially by vaulted corridors of the first floor. The rich owner must have belonged to the provincial aristocracy of late antiquity. In their lifestyle they imitated the palatial mansions of governors and emperors and ruled the cities not from public buildings but from their houses, where large reception halls and dining rooms became essential features. The very large vaulted room XXII originally must have been such a reception room, accessible by means of a separate entrance over a stairway covered with purple schist slabs, a vestibule, and a waiting lounge with an impressive doorway that gave access to room XXII and eventually went through its floor. Both vestibule, waiting lounge and the room to the south of it were covered with well-preserved polychrome mosaics (see Conservation, July 4-8). After the earthquake around A.D. 500, this reception hall was repaired and the floor level of the original storage rooms to the south of it was raised to the same level. During the last occupation of the villa (after the middle of the sixth century A.D.) these rooms, and especially room XXIV and the stairway leading to cellar XXVI, were used to dump food refuse and broken table wares, cooking pots, and drinking vessels. This use suggests that the reception hall may have become a dining room or even a kitchen. Either before or after its final abandonment, it was completely stripped of its rich wall and floor coverings. In its north wall, two doors, including the still-arched eastern one, gave access to one or two rooms which may have formed the northern extremity of the house. We think this because the north wall of the separate corridor leading to the whole reception area is composed of arched recesses apparently provided with small windows, suggesting the existence of an alley or street to the north of it. Therefore, towards the end of the week, we removed the topsoil and the first destruction layer in what could become the northeast extremity of the villa. Thus far, no walls have been exposed.

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