Home | Archaeology Magazine | More Digs | AIA
Archaeology's Interactive Dig
July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The entrance hall seen through the arched passageway leading to the podium. In the right (south wall) the "opening" (window?) becomes visible.
The third-century A.D. console of a door belonging to the stage building
The entrance hall seen from the East. In the left wall the simple door or window is clearly visible. The western (right part) of the corridor is still filled with dumped material.
The 4.80 m high northern vaulted passageway in the entrance hall leading to the auditorium by means of a staircase (lowest step just visible).
The neatly arranged column drums against the east wall of the entrance hall. The stones blocking the first column drum from moving are clearly visible.
The early Byzantine dumped material full of cattle bones in the entrance hall.

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

Odeion: August 21-30, 2005

Excavations in the southeastern part of the Odeion (concert hall) located immediately behind and in its southwest corner, even touching the Hadrianic Nymphaeum (see Hadrianic Nymphaeum 2004), continued to produce one surprise after the other (see Odeion, August 14-18). The amazing state of preservation of the building is more than stunning. Previously, we believed that the visible depression corresponding with the curved auditorium, of which none of the seats were visible at the surface, indicated that the structure had been largely depleted of its building materials for constructing the nearby caravan route to Isparta, which crosses the stage building diagonally. Instead we exposed an almost completely preserved corridor with vaulted accesses to both the seats and the stage proper. The walls of this corridor had completely been buried and still stood 6.23 m high in a perfect state of preservation (see Find of the Week, August 14-18).

During the first part of the week, we continued digging in the southeast corner of what must have been the podium, were we reached a level of 1.70 m below the top of the door lintel of the eastern door of the scene building (see Odeion, August 14-18). A lot of big and small architectural fragments were concentrated near to that entrance, undoubtedly one of five. An interesting find was a fragment of an architrave with a small part of an inscription in large nicely carving characters. This fragment possibly belonged to a building inscription either located above the excavated entrance to the podium or to the entablature of the actual stage building. Unfortunately the inscription fragment consisted only of 3 characters so that no interpretation could be made. Yet, it is more than likely that other parts will turn up next year. A closer look at one of the doorposts also revealed a late antique graffito reading: "everything belongs to the Christians". Among the finds, there was a console, once supporting a doorlintel of the stage building's back wall. Yet, as it is clearly of 3rd century A.D. date, this means that the stage building inside the Odeion was either built or repaired at a later stage.

The remaining part of the week, the team returned to the entrance hall where it reached the ancient floor level in a sondage in the southeastern corner. The structure is even more impressive than we already thought as the east wall of the entrance hall and the adjoining sections of the north and south walls still stand to their original height of 6.23 m. A kind of slightly projecting plinth runs along the entire wall just above the foundations and the floor level. Unfortunately the original floor was already removed in ancient times, as is often the case at Sagalassos. Most probably it consisted of limestone slabs as some of those were discovered below the western arched passageway (see below). During the last day of the excavations, a small test sounding was made along the vaulted passageway in the north wall of the entrance hall in order to date its foundation layers. Underneath two late antique substrates, a layer connected with the original construction of the Odeion was encountered. Unfortunately, this layer contained very few pottery sherds, but a provisional date for the first half of the second century A.D. could be established. This corresponds with previous assumptions that the very rigid style of the entablature fragments, best corresponded with the local building tradition between the reign of the Flavians and Trajan (ending in A.D. 117). As some of the stones of the back wall of the late Hadrianic nymphaeum, were clearly incorporated at a later stage into the southwest corner of the Odeion's facade, a Trajanic date for the Odeion seems likely. The completion of the nymphaeum thus created a wedge-like opening between both monuments, which respectively followed the orientation of the upper city focused on that of the Bouleuterion (Odeion) and that of the lower city oriented towards the Apollo Klarios shrine and the Lower Agora (Hadrianic nymphaeum).

On the final days of the excavations some limestone slabs turned up in the vaulted entrance to the podium, whereas, as expected, the arched passage in the north wall proved to have contained a staircase, of which only the first step was exposed. The arched passage must have been leading to the middle part of the auditorium, where hopefully next year the seats will still be found in place. This passage is very impressive as it is 4.80 m high. The southern "entrance" proved to be less monumental with a height of 3.15 m, but it was an interesting place to document the stratigraphy of the fill of the Odeion and different building activities. In contrast with the northern and western vaulted arched passages leading respectively to the auditorium and to the stage, the opening in the south wall was rectangular with only a small arched recess carved in the middle part of its upper lintel. The whole is not surrounded by a fasciated (i.e. a three step-like profile) frame, suggesting that one is dealing here with a large window bringing in the necessary light to the completely covered corridor, rather than with a real entrance from the outside. In view of the size of Sagalassos, which at its zenith did not have a population of more than ca 3500 to 5000 (even if there may have been another 10.000 or more living on its vast territory), the size of the Odeion is absolutely stunning. It is larger than the Odea/Bouleuteria of Ephesos and Aphrodisias, which were much more important cities. As the same conclusion also applies to the size of the colossal Roman Baths and to the theatre seating some 9000 people, one can only assume that the central role, which Sagalassos played in the Imperial cult of Pisidia (it was twice neokoros, meaning that it had two officially recognized temple for the emperors' cult serving a large region, undoubtedly Pisidia, of which it was also recognized as the first city) must have attracted thousands of people to the city on the days of official festivals and games, offering the visitors all kinds of facilities in structures that were much too large to serve only its own population, but that must have impressed any visitor and the city's claim to be the "first city of Pisidia."

The excavations also revealed a lot about the later stages of the Odeion's history. It is clear that at one point, the structure must have been heavily damaged by an earthquake, whereby the apparently aediculated stage building (i.e. made of projecting tabernacles carried by columns) collapsed, as well as parts of the back wall itself, as some later repairs even using brick are visible in its lower part. The earthquake, which struck the city around the transition from the fifth to the sixth century A.D., is the most likely candidate for causing this damage. In fact, against the east wall of the entrance hall a very interesting discovery was made. While trying to reach the floor level there, five big and well-preserved column drums were found, four of them fluted and one facetted. These certainly did not fall from above, but were intentionally and neatly stored there in a horizontal position on a compact layer situated about 0.40 m above the original floor. One of the column drums was even placed on top of the others and the stones wedged in to prevent the lowest drums to move were still in place. Deposits of columns were often made in antiquity, when a building had collapsed or was seriously damaged with the intention to reuse them in a later reconstruction. In Late Antiquity, it often happened that this rebuilding never took place. Where these columns came from is not clear at the moment. As access to this corridor from the outside may not have been easy, the most likely provenance is the Odeion's stage building itself, as one roof slab of an aediculated facade was recovered inside the Odeion, but a provenience from another building nearby is certainly not excluded. Later investigation of the podium and the scene building should resolve this question. As for the date of this storage activity, the material found inside the compact layer on which the drums rest can be dated provisionally around the middle of the sixth century A.D., which fits very well with earthquake damage around A.D. 500. After this earthquake monumental repairs started all over the city, probably interrupted forever by the plague of A.D. 541-42, which transformed the city in a rural settlement. Above the compact layer upon which the columns were situated, the remains of a very thick dump full of animal bones (mainly cattle) was discovered last week (see Odeion, August 14-18). This material must have been discarded here during the final stages of the city's occupation. The partial blocking of the eastern door of stage's back wall by a rubble wall supported by a fill dating to the sixth-seventh century A.D. can be connected to this dumping activity. The discard of refuse took place all over the city in abandoned structures during the first half of the seventh century A.D.

Next year, the Odeion is certainly to become one of the most rewarding excavation sites as far as new and unexpected evidence is concerned.

Previous pageNext page

InteractiveDig is produced by ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine
© 2010 Archaeological Institute of America

Home | Archaeology Magazine | More Digs | AIA