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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
View of the valley of Bereket taken from the southeast. The village of Bereket is visible in the middle. The ancient village of Moatra is located on the hills immediately to the left of it.
Hand drilling, while David Kaniewski prepares the tubes of the Ramguts drill
Mechanical drilling with the Ramguts drill in the Bereket basin
A core sample taken between 6.15 and 7.15 m showing different sediments

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

Geomorphological/Palynological Survey: August 14-18, 2005

Geomorphologist Veronique De Laet was now joined by geomorphologist Etienne Paulissen and palynologist David Kaniewski (all KULeuven) as well as paleobotanist Koen Deforce (University of Ghent). This multidisciplinary team returned to the Bereket basin (surface: 20.6 km2; altitude 1410-1440 m a.s.l.), about 25 km southwest of Sagalassos. One ancient settlement is known immediately southwest of the modern village of Bereket. Its ancient name, known through an inscription, was Moatra and it certainly was one of the major villages within the territory of Sagalassos inhabited at the latest from the Hellenistic to the Early Byzantine period. The Bereket basin is well watered by many springs and several drainage ditches have been dug. The lowest part of the basin was a marsh that has been drained in 1960 and is nowadays a very fertile area.

Two reconnaissance borings performed here in 2003 have been studied David Kaniewski. In order to evaluate the age range of these deposits, one sample in each core has been carbon dated by means of Accelerated Mass Spectrometry. This has made clear that the complete Bereket sequence presents a unique opportunity for a high-resolution paleo-environmental reconstruction in a restricted area during the last 3,000 years.

To stress the importance of Bereket, the pollen analyses show an important arboriculture phase included within the so-called "Beysehir Occupation phase", during which large parts of the landscape were taken into cultivation. At Bereket, this phase can be subdivided in two parts. The oldest part, Phase 1 (from 680 to 520 cm in the core sample), starts in the middle Hellenistic period and corresponds to three anthropogenic phases separated by two periods of abandonment of agricultural activities. The second part, Phase 2 (starting at 520 cm), more or less starting in the Early Imperial period is related to the full development of arboriculture, which has an estimated age of about 50 B.C. according to the mean accumulation rate of the sediments.

Phase 1 is characterised by an increase in humidity not because of climate, but human impact causing an increase in overland water flow. The deforestation generated a decrease of infiltration and consequently an increased overland flow and soil erosion, resulting in wetland formation in the lowest parts of the basin. During the periods of land abandonment, the valley bottom became dry as soon as the tree vegetation regenerated. The floodplain re-colonization by trees caused a huge evaporation of water (via the trees), resulting in a drying up of the basin. This explanation is supported by important decreases of aquatic herbs at the same time.

Phase 2 corresponds to the full development and continuous practice of arboriculture in the basin.

Evidence of a clear decrease in agricultural activity was gathered in a third unit, Phase 3, with major changes in anthropogenic pollen frequencies (at a depth of about 200 cm). These environmental changes could be because of the end of the cultivation phase around the seventh century A.D. (estimation - dates in progress). However, the exploitation of land has continued suggesting the return of agricultural practices after the seventh century A.D.

According to these observations, we suggest that there was no deliberate olive tree cultivation (Olea europaea) before an estimated age of 50 B.C. in the Bereket basin. Olive tree farming is directly related to the onset of the Imperial Period. Before the Imperial Period and after the abandonment of agricultural activities, Olea europaea seems to be included in Forest-Steppe assemblages. In other parts of the territory, as for instance in the Gravgaz basin closer to Sagalassos, olive cultivation seems to have been introduced already immediately after the conquest by Alexander the Great. Pistachio (Pistacia) is defined in this study as an anthropogenic indicator. Despite the fact that this genus was not mentioned as a farmed tree in other Anatolian palynological studies, Pistacia had a long cultivation history and a variety of uses: edible green kernel, incense and varnish, and Chian or Cyprus turpentine. Moreover, in our diagrams, the cultivation of Pistacia occurred and disappeared simultaneously with that of Olea. So, we suggest that there was a mixed culture of olive, pistachio, and grapevine Vitis vinifera near Bereket. As with olive, pistachio seems to be included in Forest-Steppe assemblages before the Imperial Period and after the abandonment of agricultural activities.

The fieldwork for this week had different aims: coring and detailed sampling of the entire sequence, geomorphological and geological mapping, and sampling of mosses that are ideal pollen traps for current vegetation studies. We have succeeded in coring the entire alluvial/colluvial sequence, which has a total thickness of 12.10 m and resulted in 500 samples for high-resolution studies. The sequence is composed of different lithological units of which in 2003 only the upper soft part had been sampled. We can already state with certainty that in addition to Gravgaz and the Aglasun Çayi sections, we havee again a unique site, the study of which will be continued by an interdisciplinary team.

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