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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
Serdar prepares the mosaic panel in room XVLI before lifting.
The purple schist staircase in the palatial mansion after the repair of one of the landing slabs
Turgay treats a lacuna in the mosaic floor of the "central hall" of the Roman Baths.
Nilgün conserving wall plaster in the "central hall" of the Baths

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

On Site Conservation: August 14-18, 2005

Closing in on the end of the campaign, our team, directed by Cengiz Cetin and further composed of Esra Aydemir, Serdar Akgönül, Nilgün Akkara, Turgay Arikan, and Hüliya Ercan, focused on the completion of the initial intervention program as well as on the consolidation of the sections exposed by the archaeologists.

Most of the planned interventions in the palatial mansion in the Domestic Area have been completed now. Hopefully the rest of the program will be finished by the next, in other words the last, week of the campaign. At the Domestic Area, we have repaired some partially collapsed walls according to the available documentation and in collaboration with the archaeologists of the area. Part of our team has been working at the Lower Agora as well. The walls of the East Portico were in a very bad condition mainly because of the lack of capping. Our team managed to cover all necessary wall tops with appropriate tcapping to prepare them for the winter.

Last week, part of the mosaic floor found in recently excavated room XLVI of the palatial mansion had to be lifted. The beautiful piece of mosaic must have belonged to the upper floor and was found collapsed and standing almost vertically in the middle of room XLVI. Application of a thin layer of PVA and cotton tissue stabilized the tesserae. Only then were the tesserae of the mosaic section were transferred onto a sheet of plywood, without causing any damage and leaving the thick mortar bed behind. At the hands of our conservation team the difficult task of mosaic lifting proved to be an elegant and simple task. As an excavation director I have never seen this happen so swift, smoothly, and professionally.

This week, the mosaic floor of room XXXV and the adjacent landing of the beautiful staircase of the Palatial Villa were also opened for inspection. This gave us the opportunity to see the entire staircase together with its lower sections that have been excavated this year.

One of the slabs of the staircase that was found displaced and broken in two pieces was repaired and returned to its place. The two parts of the slab were carefully moved onto sand and the fitting surfaces were joined using epoxy mortar with aerosol (filler). The join and cracks were later sealed with lime mortar. For presentation purposes as well as the obvious need of preservation of this fragile stone staircase, all steps were covered with a layer of geo-textile, sand and pumice. Netting was used between the geo-textile and sand layers in order to facilitate future maintenance. Attention was paid to cover the staircase in such a way that the steps could remain legible for the visitor.

Another 200 m2 of mosaic floor was exposed in good condition in the Roman Baths as expected, however with some lacunae especially along the eastern edge of the "northern six-piered hall."

Many plastered wall segments were exposed all over the site and the conservators of our team had to work at all of them, this means at the Domestic Area, the Roman Baths, the Macellum, the Odeion, and the Temple of Apollo Klarios. As an excavation director I am every day more and more impressed by the professionalism and efficiency of this year's conservation team coming from the Ankara Yüksek Meslek Okulu. I can only state that Turkey's rich cultural heritage is completely safe in their hands.

Last week, our conservators also inspected the mosaic floor of the Neon Library. The same team had been responsible for the in situ conservation project of this mosaic floor in 1997. The floor was found only in need of a light cleaning; it was brushed and cleaned by non-ionic detergent. A small inspection was also made to see the condition of the mosaic floor of the Basilica at the Upper Agora. It was found to be in urgent need of better conservation measures. The thick protective layers of sand and pumice could have better served the purpose if a layer of polythene had not been used in between, which obviously does not prevent water penetration but certainly prevents the evaporation of it. Therefore even at temperatures as high as we have at the moment, the sand and geo-textile layers as well as the tesserae were found wet. Tesserae, especially the terra-cotta ones were in a bad state of preservation and sounded hollow beneath when lightly knocked.

Treatment of exposed in situ mosaic floors and formerly lifted mosaic segments from the palatial mansion seem to be in urgent need of conservation. The site conservation team suggests a program of treatment for all mosaics, to be started next campaign.

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