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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
View of the supposed gymnasium from the air
Geophysical map of the eastern quarters of the city shows the areas we will excavate. The eastern domestic area is in blue, the artisanal area is green, and the "gymnasium" is indicated in yellow.

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

Excavations near the Theater: Introduction

During the 2003 geophysical survey campaign of 2003, we registered a concentration of anomalies in the area immediately northeast of Sargalassos' theater. These anomalies seem to include ca. 22 circular units of fired clay or kilns, associated with small and irregularly built structures and strata with dense ceramic waste. At the surface of this area a concentration of misfired slag was noticed. This evidence may imply that the artisanal quarter of Sagalassos extended immediately behind the town's theater. The results must be integrated into our wide-ranging and interdisciplinary reconstruction of craft production at Sagalassos so we can see how this sector contributed to the ancient town's economy. Within this area we want to lay out a series of consecutive soundings in order to study the nature of the newly discovered artisanal structures (was there pottery, metal or glass production?), date the remains, and incorporate the results into our existing knowledge of craft activity at Sagalassos.

To the east of the theater we discovered a large-scale monumental structure last year. It has a wide open courtyard flanked with large rooms along the small sides. We proposed that this newly discovered monument was a gymnasium, a type of structure that we had not yet discovered in the site's urban fabric. We want to lay out a series of test trenches within this area to study the nature and the chronology of this newly discovered monument.

In 1998, we initiated a program of test soundings on presumed streets was initiated. These soundings provided insight in the character and chronology of the urban infrastructure's layout. They also allowed us to get a firmer grip on the spatial evolution of the urban area outside of the monumental center. Through our geophysical survey, we obtained new valuable information on the urban planning of the area to the east of the monumental center. Despite the quality of these results, this evidence can only be of correct use for study on urban development when the street pattern is checked by test soundings, so that a chronological dimension is added to this spatial evidence. Other than providing stratified evidence, these soundings also allow us to resolve particular problems in the reconstruction of the town plan and to illuminate particular anomalies in the readings of the geophysical survey.

We carried out a first test sounding north of the theater in 1999 to trace the course of an important traffic artery, which likely connected the monumental center with the artisanal quarter east of the town. The presence of some wall structures within this small-scale excavation only allowed us to establish the orientation of such a street and provided a chronological framework. In 2000, another test sounding intersected what was probably the continuation of the same street. The results of the geophysical survey now allow us to trace the course of this traffic artery over a much longer distance. To grasp the chronology of this street's layout, as well as possible later alterations that may point to subsequent phases of the urban development here, we must obtain further stratified evidence by means of a small test sounding.

A little farther to the west, on the slope between the theater and the library-fountain complex, the geophysical survey revealed a regular pattern of insulae (house blocks) divided by streets. These results could be compared to both the evidence from the earlier test soundings on this slope and to surface architecture that was mapped here. Whereas the northwestern part of the geophysically surveyed area showed regularly planned, slightly northwest-southeast oriented insulae, the plan of the eastern and southeastern parts of the surveyed slope showed more irregular and less symmetrically planned structures built perpendicular to the slope. Small test soundings on well-selected locations are essential to discern what period this regular urban layout dates to and whether the divergent orientations on the slope were the result of two different building phases.

The geophysical survey also showed that this area was traversed from north-west to southeast by an important street that apparently connecting the library-fountain area with the theater but which clearly did not follow the regular organisation of the insulae. In this area two test excavations were carried out during the 2000 campaign. These trenches provided evidence for the layout of a first-century A.D. west-east street and indicated that the urban development of this part of town probably only started in Augustan times. However, the context of the theater and the building programs around the fountain house would favor a date during the later second or early third century A.D. for the layout of this street. Therefore, a test excavation is required to check the street's particular features when it was laid out and possibly also the impact of the construction of this street or its predecessor on the urban planning of this part of the slope.

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