Macellum: July 30-August 3, 2006
The excavation of the Macellum continued this week, under the direction of Julian Richard and Christine Beckers of K. U. Leuven and Mustafa Kiremit¸i of Dokuz Eylul Universitesi in Izmir. This week, the team focused on the rooms discovered during the last three weeks (Room 3 and Room 4), located behind one another to the left of the "official and open" Room 1 (see Macellum: August 7-18, 2005). They started to excavate the area to their east, in the hope of exposing the portico surrounding the complex's central courtyard.
In Room 4 (4.50 by 3.77 meters), the team concentrated the excavations on the floor level discovered last week, which was covered with the finest crafted luxury artifacts of metal, glass, and bone ever discovered at Sagalassos (see Macellum: July 16-27, 2006). An important discovery from this layer, revealed by M. Waelkens's study of the coins found, was a follis (late coin type) minted under Heraclius and his son Heraclius Constantine between A.D. 610-640. It appears that, except for a row of slabs found in the approximate center of the room, most floor slabs had been removed by Late Antiquity. Still, it is possible to accurately assess their original location, by looking at the level of the slabs that corresponds with the level of the bottom step of the room's northeastern staircase. After digging to a depth of ca. 0.60 meters, the team reached the natural bedrock. As the layer below the floor level yielded chronologically heterogeneous ceramic material, it can be identified as a fill used for levelling the floor surface during the sixth century A.D., when the entire west portico was rebuilt. The investigations of Room 4 are now finished.
Excavation work was also underway in Room 3, located behind Room 4 and to the west, at a much lower level than Room 2 (see Macellum: July 31-August 18, 2005). Just above the bedrock, the floor substrate was excavated. It yielded ceramic, glass, and metal artifacts. Among the finds was third century B.C. Ephesian silver coin, of the bee/deer type (see Find of the Week). This rich debris layer contained coins that dated to the second half of the sixth and the early seventh century A.D. (see Macellum: July 16-27, 2006). Further study of the coins revealed the presence of two half folles minted under Justin the Second (A.D. 565-578) and Phokas (A.D. 603-610) respectively. This second coin is close in date to the years of the fatal earthquake (A.D. 640-645). The ceramic evidence from these rich layers in Rooms 3 and 4 suggest that the layers represent material dumped inside the rooms. However, the presence of so many valuable objects, some of them even exposed in the window of Room 4 (see Macellum: July 16-27, 2006), together with the seventh century A.D. coins, prompted us to question the entire interpretation of the building's demise. We wondered whether the rooms were not destroyed or abandoned before or shortly after the last earthquake, although the dumped pottery seems to contradict this. We concede that there may have been a short period between the building's destruction by the earthquake of the 640s and the complete collapse of the roof--represented by masses of tile fragments (see Macellum: July 10-27, 2006). During this period, material--including the pottery fragments, some of which were found in both rooms, but fit together--could have been dumped inside. Yet, it would be highly unlikely that the people dumping material inside would not have seen, and removed, the dozens of highly valuable items on the floors of both rooms.
The floor slabs in Room 4 had been removed, but the date of this intervention and its relation to the earthquake is uncertain. However, a column in the portico in front of Room 4, which has late graffito on it, seems to have been broken in two parts only when it fell on a post-earthquake water supply system. This seems to have been the case with the second column as well. Moreover, the top of the south pilaster of Room 1 also lies on top of this water system. As a result, some parts of the west portico, including some columns, their capitals, and entablature, remained standing upright for a considerable time after the earthquake, so that parts of the roof may have collapsed very late as well. Thus, the idea of a late infill in a section of Room 4 has to be reconsidered. A careful study of the exact location of each object and its date, and of the whole condition of the room at the time of its discovery, is necessary in order to explain these apparent contradictions.
||Left, the white Corinthian capital of the portico. Right, the upper part of Room 1's southern pilaster.
In both rooms, soil samples were collected for flotation and residue analyses. The former technique provided a rich collection of seeds and other botanical remains. Kerlijne Romanus of K. U. Leuven, who will perform the analyses, gathered the residue analysis samples. The analyses should help in determining, in greater detail, the function of these spaces. They should provide us with new insight on shop contexts of the sixth and seventh centuries at Sagalassos.
Once the work in Rooms 3 and 4 was completed, the team's activities moved to six sectors located immediately to the east of the four rooms that had been excavated during the this year's, and other previous, campaigns. We had to remove a large amount of architectural blocks lying in situ all over the Macellum's central courtyard with a crane. This allowed us to examine the central tholos (round colonnaded structure) of the complex, whose circular pavement slabs, column pedestals, balustrades, and architraves were still lying almost completely uncovered in the middle of the courtyard.
The excavations started in one sector, just to the east of Room 4. Underneath the ca. 0.40 meter-thick topsoil, we reached a group of large architectural fragments belonging to the courtyard's western portico. Among them were two white limestone column pedestals, two unfluted columns made of expensive white veined, dark grey kaplan postu marble from Dokimeion (350 kilometers to the northeast of Sagalassos), and a well-preserved white Corinthian capital, which must have provided a nice contrast to the dark columns below. Interestingly, the same combination of exotic material was used by P. Aelia Oulpiana Noè, the ex-wife of Macellum's builder, P. Aelius Akulas, for two columns in the third and fourth tabernacles of her Antonine Nymphaeum (A.D. 161-180). The Nymphaeum is currently under reconstruction on the opposite side of the Upper Agora. Another important fragment found in this sector was the upper part of the original southern pilaster that forms the southern extremity of Room 1 (see Macellum: August 7-18, 2005). This piece had serious consequences for the excavation director's physical health during the rest of the campaign (see Daily Life).
Among the architectural remains we also found an extremely well-preserved, 2.30 meter-long architrave, bearing a Greek dedicatory inscription referring to the name of an emperor to whom the whole complex was dedicated. It is clear that the first part of his name (the given name and family name) had been carved away, on purpose, at a later date. This is apparently a case of damnatio memoria, a condemnation by which all representative statues and all name inscriptions of a ruler or other important figure were destroyed throughout the empire. Only one of the cognomina (third names), Antoneinos (in Latin, Antoninus), remained. This name was carried by several emperors, such as Antoninus Pius (T. Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Pius), Marcus Aurelius (M. Aurelius Antoninus), Commodus (renamed M. Aurelius Commodus Antoninus, when he became sole emperor in A.D. 180), Caracalla (M. Aurelius Severus Antoninus Pius), and Heliogabalus (M. Aurelius Antoninus). Of these emperors, only the last three suffered a damnatio memoriae.
The building inscription on the Macellum may have, at some point, been repeated on the entablatures on all four side of the central courtyard. The inscription discovered this week was not recorded in the 1880s by previous excavator Count Lanckoronski. However, he copied another inscription in the Macellum that reads "For the victory of the Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius C." Although the last letter "C" (in Greek, Kappa) was not completely visible, he seems to have identified the condemned dead emperor as Commodus. A few years ago, our own late epigraphist H. Devijver, doubting the presence of an erasure, identified the emperor as Marcus Aurelius, Commodus' father, and the occasion of the dedication as Commodus' victory over the Parthians in A.D. 166. Yet, an erasure is evident on our new fragment, and the presence of the Kappa in Lanckoronski's copy excludes Caracalla and Heliogabalus. Moreover, the date of their rule, during the early third century A.D., is too late to connect them chronologically with P. Aelius Akulas and his former wife P. Aelia Oulpiana Noè. As a result, Commodus (A.D. 180-192), who had won important victories over the Germans (A.D. 180), seems to be the only possibility. The Macellum could have been dedicated to him in A.D. 180, but almost certainly not before that date, and certainly before his second name change in A.D. 191. This places the construction date of the Macellum during the years A.D. 180-191.
Toward the end of the week, the stylobate of the west portico, the uppermost row of steps giving access to the portico's interior, emerged. Four other inscribed architraves were recorded while the crane removed blocks. These inscriptions contain, among others, the name or parts of the name of the Macellum ("tou makellou"), as well as the building costs and the name of the builder, P. Aelius Akulas. Some of these architraves have been found on the slope just to the east of the Odeion (see Odeion: July 30-August 3, 2006). Their size and shorter texts (one line instead of the western portico's two) indicate that they probably belonged to another portico closing the Macellum's courtyard to the south. It was previously assumed that that side of the complex was totally open and free of any structures.
We also recorded the presence of an encroachment wall running on top of the portico's pavement, later identified as a post-earthquake water supply system, as well as a late acclamatory inscription on one of the columns: "Eutycho neoteri" ("Good luck to the younger ones"). The text is very similar to a late acclamatory inscription recorded by Luke Lavan this summer on a column from the Lower Agora: "Eutycho Isagor" ("Good luck to Isagoras"). They date from the later occupation phases of the portico, which was subdivided into smaller spaces in Late Antiquity.
Next week, the portico excavations will move toward the center of the building, as well as toward the north and south. This will give us further insight in its original layout and later occupation phases. This work will involve the removal of more architectural blocks by crane.