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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
View of the first-century A.D. water supply system
The southwest corner of the excavated area with the fourth-century A.D. wall in the middle surrounded by kiln 6 to the left and by the two small kilns for mold-made wares to the right.
The central section of the fifth-sixth century A.D. potters' workshop with its larger kilns.
The start of the excavations in the "gymnasium" area. The long sidewalls of the structure can be seen by as a slightly higher surface.
The north wall of the complex with the wall separating the two westernmost rooms along its north side

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

Excavations near the Theater: July 11-15, 2004

The workshops
During the final week of archaeological exploration of the Potters' Quarter of Sagalassos (immediately east of the theater), the stratigraphical sequencing and relative chronology of the occupation of the site became clearer. In contrast to the eastern section of the Quarter, the mother rock turned out to be not the expected ophiolithic melange and weathered clays, but rather weathered volcanic tephra. The tephra probably comes from the extinct volcanic area around Lake Gölcük, ca. 10 km north of the site. During the last years, its volcanic deposits have been identified in larger areas at and around Sagalassos. Its last activity was dated to ca. 13,000 years ago.

We could date the first occupation phase of the workshop area to early Imperial times. Contrary to our earlier presumption, the preserved structural remains associated with this period were restricted to a section of a terra-cotta water conduit imbedded in an occupational horizon. Occupation of the workshop seems to be interrupted until the fourth century A.D. We could assign a short wall section to this period. This section was modified in later times, so it is unclear whether these architectural remains imply the actual origins of the artisanal complex. In general, production of mold-made wares started in the second half of the fourth century A.D. Thus we can assume (but not yet prove) an association.

The main period of occupation of the complex has been confirmed as spanning the second half of the fifth century into the sixth century A.D. Apparently the workshop was modified on several occasions. At various spots we noted structural fills, over which, for instance, kiln no. 6 was laid out. In its turn kiln no. 6 was also raised to the floor during another modification. After the change, the workshop possibly accommodated the better-preserved kilns. During the final week we located another two kilns in the south-west corner of the excavation area. Both kilns are variations on the concept of the key-hole shaped kilns. Their surprising feature, however, was their small size. Their length measured 0.92 m and their width measured 0.88 m, as opposed to a usual length of 1.31-1.48 m and width of 1.23-1.37 m for the other kilns. No direct association with potting activity can yet be proven. To our knowledge there are no parallel structures in the eastern Mediterranean. The recycling of the complex as a lime-burning facility was further confirmed. Also, we again noted the thorough cleaning and systematic recycling of useful building materials. The detailed interpretation of the phasing and functioning of the artisanal complex now waits final processing of the finds.

The gymnasium (?) area
During the second half of the week, our team that excavated the Potters' Quarter moved to the area immediately east of the theater of Sagalassos. This area was selected for excavation following the results of the 2003 geophysical survey, which revealed a large rectangular building complex to the east of the theater measuring some 65 (north-east) by 53 m (east-west). It consists of a large courtyard in the center (the sports' place or palaestra?), lined with a series of large rooms to the north (the usual larger class rooms with the area for the older youngsters in the middle?) and a row of smaller rooms to the south. The latter were preceded by an elongated structure (length: 50 m; width: 14 m) with a semi-apse (projected vault structure) on its western extremity. This complex was tentatively identified on the basis of its plan as a gymnasium. The gymnasium was essentially the location where the men of the city could train in rhetoric, in physical and military exercise for warfare, and for various athletic festivals. It was also where the epheboi (male youths) as well as the paides (boys) received their physical and intellectual education.

The aim of our current excavations is to check the nature, functionality, and chronology of the related structures. We plan a series of three trenches on the northern side of the building. We laid out a first trench measuring 3 (east-west) by 10 m (north-south) near the building's northwestern corner in order to expose the northern boundary wall of the complex and the northwesternmost rooms. As in the workshop area, the archaeological test sounding confirmed the results of the geophysical survey. We exposed two walls that could be identified as the northern wall of the complex and the east wall of the first room. Within the building we removed a layer of architectural debris (most probably the collapsed remains of the excavated walls) which appears to have been systematically dismantled to a certain height, leaving only the mortar remains as well as fragments of tuff blocks and a few tiles behind as debris. Perhaps it is no coincidence that during the 2003 campaign aerial photography in this zone revealed very regular lines, possibly corresponding to later vineyards. Covering the debris was a layer containing huge amounts of ceramics dating to the third and fourth centuries A.D. The remains of slaughtered animals are also present and allow the layer to be identified as occupational debris. This material, which was also present north of the complex, was apparently dumped here upon the abandonment of the building.

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