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Cengiz Cetin repairs damage caused by the fallen brick face of the vault in the "northern six-piered hall." Notice the vertical position of the bricks.
The exposed section of the "central hall" with the small pool against the western wall

The debris layer covering the mosaic floor of the "central hall." Notice that the bricks did not fall vertically.

The octagons and fish scales of the "central hall's" mosaic floor

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

Roman Baths: August 14-18, 2005

During the first day of the week, the RB1-team directed by Mustafa Kiremitçi, Hasan Uzunoglu, and Markku Corremans reached floor level in the "northern six-piered hall." A mosaic floor, similar to the one found by the end of last week by the RB2-team in the central hall (frigidarium 1) was exposed. Like it, the floor consists of white and black tesserae, with the odd exception of some red ones. The tesserae are square, rectangular, trapezoidal, or irregular in shape and measure about 2.5 to 3 cm in length and width. Broad bands of geometric patterns quite similar to the ones of the "central hall," were found. The patterns consist of curved and linear shapes, as well as fish-scale motifs, leaf-like shapes, rectangles, and semicircles. As the floor levels of both spaces show a difference of only 1 cm, this seems to suggest that we are dealing with one continuous floor. By the end of next week, we want to uncover the entire floor. Although it is almost entirely intact, part of the floor, along the eastern extremity of the trench, has been heavily damaged by a huge section of the room's concrete vault faced by one or two layers of brick set in a vertical position, which must have fallen directly on the floor during the seventh-century A.D. earthquake. The conservation team has started to conserve the damaged section. If, as we assume, a continuous mosaic floor is present in the "central hall" and in its adjoining "northern and southern six-piered hall," we are dealing with a mosaic surface of approximately 1,150 m2.

As during previous weeks, large amounts of white plaster still attached to the piers have been found. Once again, a plaster section with faint incised graffiti was found, at a height of 1.20-1.50 m above floor level, or a level corresponding within an arm's reach. Three rows of Greek letters, as well as a cross, could be discerned. The last line--with the cross at the end--seems to be "of the Christians." This proves once again that the baths continued to be used by the Christian population of early Byzantine times, in this case undoubtedly during the sixth century A.D. or even later.

A peculiar find was that of a cluster of tiny bones, some 0.25 to 0.40 m above floor level near the south-western pier of the hall. The bones were investigated by the archaeozoologists, who could identify them as belonging to mice, hares, hedgehogs, partridges, and small birds. Their conclusion was that the cluster represents the remains of pellets regurgitated by eagle owls, which must have lived in the ruins. In the case of the hedgehogs, after skinning, these animals were swallowed whole. In the owl's stomach bones, which could not be digested, were transformed into pellets (see Archaeozoology, August 14-18). These pellets were vomited by the owl and fell onto a still rather thin destruction layer. Just like the remains of a meal digested by 50 to 100 people found halfway through the 5 to 6 m thick layer of debris in the adjoining frigidarium 2, this discovery shows that the seventh-century A.D. earthquake did not make the roofs of the baths collapse in one go. Whereas the eastern section of the roof of the "northern six-piered hall" gave way immediately, the section adjoining the western piers seems to have remained in place, at least for some time, as the pellets of an owl that nested in the ruins fell upon a mosaic floor covered by a mere 0.25 to 0.40 m of debris.

Toward the end of the week, the RB 2 team, supervised by Johan Claeys and Onur Özer, had exposed some 70 m of the central hall's (the supposed frigidarium 1) floor. Our hopes were more than fulfilled, when we noticed the remarkable state of preservation of the mosaics covering it. A few small patches were missing and treated immediately by the conservation team, as soon as the floor was uncovered. Whereas the western extremity of the mosaic floor already exposed in 2001 existed entirely of interconnected circles, the newly exposed floor section, however, shows black-and-white patterns of fish scales and octagons. As was noticed in 2001, the mosaics at first sight seem to deflect somewhat from the room's architecture. But after a closer look, it appears that the circles cover the western extremity of the floor (with the semicircular bath), whereas the 3 m wide band of fish scales connects the northern and southern brick walls protruding from the western row of piers and the octagons connect the piers themselves. As the conservation team has not yet cleaned the tesserae yet, we are eagerly waiting to see the floor in its full glory in the course of next week.

In the mean time, there is an impressive profile in between both main western piers: 12.5 m long and 2.5 m high (from an original fill of ca. 5.50 m). This profile clearly shows different packages of collapsed material. Along walls and piers we recognize a layer of mortar and plaster covering both piers and vaults that gave away first and protected the mosaic floor, when, at a later stage, the roof collapsed. Near the small semicircular pool against the west wall, this mortar was mixed with water that must still have been in the pool, so that it formed a very hard layer above the tesserae. Only at a later stage, did the row(s) of brick composing the outer face of the concrete vaults (opus latericium or testaceum) fall down. The fact, however, that the bricks are not oriented vertically, as was the case in the above mentioned part of the "northern six-piered hall," and are more fragmented and lying in all directions suggests that this protective layer came loose gradually. It was only later, possibly as the result of another seismic event, that the concrete vaults gave away forming a thick mass of rubble, brick, and mortar, above the already thick brick layer. At that time, the 12.10 m wide span between the western piers was still carrying an arch made of huge limestone ashlars that had supported the hall's concrete vault. They came down last, thus causing minimal damage to the mosaic floor. The whole process may have taken some decades, or rather some centuries.

As usual, the bottom layers yielded more finds. Beside the owl pellets, already mentioned above, small glass tesserae once covering part of the vault above the central hall were found as well. We collected several hundreds of them, from all over the room. But even with that amount, because of their small size (on average half a centimeter) they could only have covered a very small surface. The same accounts for the very few pieces of stucco and crustae that were found. The absence of more fragments disqualifies the idea of a possible painted stucco or marble decoration on even a small part of the walls (see also earlier reports). Once more, a lot of bricks and tiles with stamps were collected, most of them with the ΕΧΙΩ mark stamped on them. Yet, two of them bore a unique stamp: ΑΚΠΦ[...] and ΑΖ(?)[...]. Close to the northern wall, immediately above floor level, we retrieved the first coin of the campaign. Conservation will be necessary to identify the emperor.

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