This week, we began a new excavation inside the southeast corner of the Odeion immediately behind the Hadrianic Nymphaeum exposed in 2003-2004 (see Hadrianic Nymphaeum 2003-2004). This structure was a covered small theater used for musical and poetic performances. This small concert hall consisted of a covered half-circular structure with a radius of ca. 24 meters and a scene building. It had a potential capacity of ca. 1,000 to 2,000 spectators. It is the southernmost monumental structure, whose orientation was still inspired by that of the Bouleuterion (Council House) built higher up around 100 B.C. The Hadrianic Nymphaeum constructed in front of it and touching the Odeion only near its western extremity, thus creating a wedge-shaped space in between, already followed the more north-south orientation of the lower city, focused on that of the Apollo Klarios Temple and the Lower Agora. The purpose of the nymphaeum was not only to create an impressive vista in the axis of the main North-South Colonnaded Street, but also to hide the rather plain facade of the Odeion behind it, as well as its different orientation. The whole layout betrays clearly that the Odeion was older than the Hadrianic Nymphaeum. Its plain, undecorated entablature fragments suggest an original construction date during the reign of the Flavians (last four decades of the first century A.D.) or during that of Trajan (A.D. 98-117), when such plain architecture apparently was 'popular' at Sagalassos. The purpose of the excavation was to see whether or not the seats where still in place, but especially to establish its original construction date and that of later interventions.
The operation is supervised by Bart De Graeve (KULeuven) and Ertug Ergurer (Erzurum University). Today, the remains of this building are visible north of the old caravan road leading toward Isparta, which diagonally covers the building's facade and part of the stage building. Some parts of the back wall, clearly representing various building phases, with holes for the roof structure are still preserved, as is the top of a vaulted eastern entrance to the podium, surrounded by a fascinated (i.e. composed of three stepped frames) archivolt just emerging above the surface. On the outside, the same southeast corner of the monument also shows the upper part of a vaulted exit toward the south. The rows of benches are no longer visible. The upper step of a staircase belonging to another entrance to the building from the West, located at a much higher altitude, emerges at the surface of the road to Isparta near the western extremity of the Odeion.
This year, the excavation is concentrating on the area of the eastern entrance because this looks rather well preserved, with two arched gates still visible, and because of the possibility to investigate there whether a part of the podium and the orchestra is still preserved.
Our first activities this week consisted in the clearance of the vegetation and the removal of some big stones lying at the surface. After we started to dig above the arch of the eastern entrance, where some reused cornices placed upside down were visible, we soon discovered that these cornices formed the upper part of a ramp starting on either side (i.e. north and south) of the buried vaulted entrance to the podium and continuing on top of the east wall of a vaulted room behind this arch. The room was accessible both through the podium arch and the plain arch located in the structure's south facade. Traces of mortar and concrete covering the denticuli (teeth in the lowest part of the cornices) indicate that the latter were not visible but hidden by the springing of a concrete vault. The rest of the cornice moldings remained visible and formed a nice molded upper edge along the sloping sidewalls and the straight back wall of the room. Near the eastern corner of the north wall, newly cut blocks presenting the same moldings except for the denticuli replaced some of the reused cornice blocks. The presence on one of them of two protruding bosses used as a support for pushing with a wooden crowbar the block into its final position indicates that the reused cornices from the beginning were part of the current layout and intended to be placed upside down in order to form a molded edge on top of the walls.
Below the cornice blocks, all of the walls of this entrance (?) room are made of nicely carved ashlars. The exquisite workmanship and the perfect joins suggest that--perhaps except for the reused cornices--this whole layout is not one of the later interventions, but still belongs to the original building phase of the Odeion. In the course of the week, a third vaulted entrance, also framed by a fasciated archivolt, was uncovered in the northern wall of the room. It is situated in a higher position than the two already known vaults. This arch probably formed a passage to the rows of benches in the southeast corner of the structure. The fact that the vault is also has a fasciated architrave on its north side, facing the seats, where it does not continue, suggests that it was opening above the adjoining seats.
After five days of digging through a thick destruction layer, we reached a level of 3.5m below surface. Between hundreds of rubble stones, bricks, and tuff blocks, some parts of a fasciated door post and decorated cornices were found, decorated with floral motives between the consoles. Although finds in the debris were very few, the results of this first week are promising. A rather plain rectangular cornice block broken into six pieces and worked on three sides may have belonged to an aedicula (a tabernacle formed by projecting columns) from the upper part of the scaenae frons (the stage building's inner facade).
It is now clear that the Odeion is very well preserved below surface. The ashlar walls that are now uncovered belong to the nicest ones at Sagalassos. Very special was also the discovery of some red painted masonry marks with abbreviated personal names, as was already the case in the Roman Baths during the last two weeks. Some of the names can clearly be read: one is an abbreviation of Theo[kritos or - doulos etc.), whereas another one, doul[ou], may refer to a slave.
Next week, the excavation will concentrate on the eastern inner part of the Odeion in order to establish the condition of the podium and orchestra.