A team supervised by Inge Uytterhoeven, Ine Jacobs (both KULeuven) and Mustafa Kiremitçi (Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, Turkey) resumed excavations in the eastern Domestic Area, where a large urban villa has been investigated since 1995. Especially during late antiquity (fourth/fifth century A.D.) the mansion assumed enormous dimensions with 44 rooms (so far) distributed over three successive or terraced levels. During its long building history, the house was enlarged many times, repaired, and eventually subdivided into smaller units. Thus far six major building phases have been identified. They belong to early Imperial times, most probably the second and the third centuries A.D., the fourth/fifth century, the first half of the sixth, and finally the later sixth and early seventh century A.D. During this last period, the mansion was subdivided into three to four smaller units. Gradually it lost its previous grandeur, when more and more luxurious spaces were transformed into storage facilities and some eventually even into a stable. At least part of the complex remained occupied throughout the later sixth and seventh century A.D. Whether or not the end of the occupation coincided with the earthquake that destroyed the site completely around the mid or later seventh century A.D., can not yet be established with certainty. More and more evidence suggests that by that time, the major part of the city may no longer have been occupied.
During the 2004 season, the excavations focused on the presentation rooms of the mansion located at the highest level. They consisted of a vestibule (XXXV) and waiting lounge (XVII), both paved with polychrome mosaic floors, and a large vaulted reception room (XXII) that was completely stripped of wall and floor coverings, either before or after its final abandonment. Two almost identical rooms to the north of the reception hall excavated last year (Rooms XXXI and XLIV) belonged to the same fourth-century A.D. building phase and may have fulfilled a presentation function as well (see report 2004, July 4-8). Although their decoration was robbed in antiquity, they remained impressive by their remarkably well-preserved walls (maximum height: 4.08 m). After the excavation season, the study of animal remains revealed that room XXXI had contained a leopard's skin, either a hunting trophy or a carpet. This part of the house possessed its own separate entrance, shielding it completely from the more private sections of the mansion: in 2002 a stairway covered with purple schist slabs (room XXXVI) and leading to the vestibule was partially excavated. Its north wall was composed of at least two arched recesses, apparently provided with small windows, indicating the existence of an open (?) space, an alley, a street, or a courtyard (?) to the mansion, to the north of it.
In this year's excavations, we aim to expose the continuation of this area, including its monumental staircase, and clarify the accessibility of the highest level. We will also check whether or not the mansion still extends to the northwest by excavating the area west of Rooms XXXI and XLIV. Besides, the research of the building history of the mansion will be continued by a detailed study of the building technology of individual walls by Inge Uytterhoeven. Last year, Marc Waelkens had already identified the chronological phases of each wall and undertaken a vast sampling program of five centuries of building mortars to be analyzed by Jan Elsen. These results of these analyses now need to be looked at in relation to the materials (brick, ashlars, rubble, tuff stone, pumice) that were bound together by these mortars. At the same time, Uytterhoeven and Luke Lavan will study the spolia (reused stones) in the walls in terms of the date when it first began and in terms of the evidence it provides for the abandonment of certain public or other monuments.
This week, we started excavations in two-and-a-half new sectors, measuring each 5 by 5 meters. After the removing the topsoil, we excavated a dark colored loose layer full of erosion material and a second, lighter-colored destruction layer (layer 2) across the entire excavation area. These layers held several larger limestone blocks, including five fragments of smooth columns, part of a door lintel, et cetera. The most remarkable find, however, was a small funerary altar dated to the second half of the second century A.D. showing a bearded bust next to a smaller person on the front, a wreath that usually refers to the civic virtues of a person on the left side, and an eroded figure on the right side. An inscription above the front relief identified the tombstone as that of Antiochos and his son Zotikos, set up by respectively their wife and mother, Zotikè. The style of the characters and of the reliefs suggests a later second to early third century A.D. date. The altar must have been reused as a building stone.
During the excavation of Layer 3--a yellowish-brown destruction layer--in the sector immediately west of Room XXXVI, the spring of two arches became visible. They form the continuation of the already partly excavated arches in the north wall of staircase XXXVI. Next week, we will continue our excavations in this area in order to clear the complete north wall of this separate entrance.