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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The location of the test soundings west of the eastern residential area
The bichrome mosaic in the northern room part of which has clearly gone down slope
The southern room viewed from the south. In the background, the old cobbled walking level is visible in the deepest part in front of the north wall.

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

Street Test Soundings: Introduction

Within the framework of the study on the urban development outside of the monumental center of Sagalassos, this week a program of test soundings was initiated by Femke Martens (KULeuven, Belgium) in the eastern residential area of the town, where geophysical research produced a very detailed map. The aim is to obtain insight into the concept and chronological evolution of the street pattern and urban planning of this quarter, which apparently was only established from the early Empire onward. A first trench was opened at the point, where a secondary west-east street gave out to an important north-south axis, ultimately giving access to the area of the Library-Fountain complex from the south. The course of both streets could be traced by following the ashlars visible at the surface. In order to establish the chronology of the layout of these buildings, a 5-by-5 m trench was opened along the eastern edge of the north-south street. In a second phase of this research, the street proper will be excavated.

Within the trench, a room was excavated bounded by three walls, of which the southern and western ones were made of ashlars, the northern of mortared rubble. This probably means that the former were a street facade, whereas the latter was an internal division of the complex. The room's east wall is beyond the trench. The north-south dimensions of the room thus could be established at 4.20 m, whereas in a west-east direction it was excavated over a width of 2.30 to 2.80 m. Inside the room, mortared-rubble walls were built against the facade's ashlars, giving them a total thickness of 0.75m. The interior facings proved to be extremely well preserved and had been finished with a mortar coating to receive a stucco finish in blue and red shades, remains of which were found in the excavated layers. Within the northern profile of the trench a third wall appeared, built of mortared rubble and brick. When the trench was extended just 1 m to the north (to establish the wall's thickness), a rather well preserved mosaic floor in opus tesselatum was recovered a mere 0.60 m below the top of the wall. The eastern, well-preserved part (1.05 m west-east:; 0.50 m north-south), showed a nice geometric decoration in blue-gray and white tesserae. The northern part of the mosaic probably eroded down slope. This floor, which because of the impossibility to conserve it this year, was immediately covered again. Its discovery, together with the concentration of polychrome stucco fragments in the southern room and the many tesserae found there, match with the interpretation of the building as a house in a well-to-do residential area, as already suggested by the results of the 2002 geophysical survey.

In order to obtain a date for the layout and use of this building, it was decided to dig to the sterile subsoil, which was reached at ca. 3.20 m below the modern surface. This subsoil also supported the north and west walls of the room, which thus had been preserved over a height between from 2.30 to 2.80 m. The south wall was only exposed over a height between 1.40 and 2.20m. At the level of the subsoil, in the western part of the trench, a cobbled surface was found. The cobblestones had been placed in the original clay, which was partly covered with the same volcanic tuff from Gölcük (see Near the Theater, August 1-5), as seemed to have been used to stabilize the level of the walls proper. Clearly this must have been a very old stratum, as the cobbles were entirely worn and decomposing. However, as could be expected, no ceramics were found below this level to provide a date for this walking level, which must have pre-dated the layout of the building itself. The different strata above it all appeared to have been fills containing lots of ceramics, bone, waste products of glass production, tesserae, stucco fragments, metal nails, and some completely worn coins. No actual floor level was recovered inside the largely excavated southern room. However, the stratigraphy in the western part of the trench showed somewhat different features. Here, the euthynteria (i.e. the lowest layer partially emerging above the walking surface) of the north wall was covered by layers (7 and 6), which at first sight contained ceramics dating to the later second and third century A.D. A silver coin found within layer 7, minted by the emperor Gordianus III (A.D. 238-244) complied with this chronology. Especially layer 6, but to some extent also layer 7, contained burned soil, charcoal fragments and burned ceramics, and may correspond with a destruction of the original house, of which the floor had been removed. A second floor level may once have covered layer 6, but apart from its compaction, no other positive indications for this hypothesis were found, so that the floor covering as well must have been removed at a later date. The fillings covering layer 6 contained a concentration of pure mortar in the western part of the room, which so far remains unexplained, unless it fell down from the wall, when the second phase of the room was destroyed. All other fills above layer 6 mainly contained ceramics dating to the fourth and possibly fifth century A.D. Two coins, found within these fills dated to first-third century and to the reign of Constans (A.D. 337-341) do not contradict this date. Based on the currently available information the excavated part of this possibly originally second-century house thus seems to have been abandoned at some point in time from the fifth century onward, when the excavated south room was entirely stripped from its interior furnishing and filled. As the partial preservation of the mosaic floor in the north room shows, clearly some of the upper levels of the housing unit may be largely lost to erosion. However, the planned expansion of the trench to the west, toward the supposed street level, may bring more clarity on the sequence of events.

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