On Site Conservation: June 25-July 6, 2006
Throughout the years, conservation of architectural remains all over the site has become one of the most challenging, time- and budget-consuming issues at Sagalassos. Constantly interior brick or mortared rubble walls are being exposed, which even in their ancient protected environment were coated with plaster or covered with marble veneer. Once excavated, however, they are directly subjected to the harsh climate of current Sagalassos with its many frost cycles, humid and cold winters, hot and mostly dry summers. In most cases the mortar crumbles, whereas fired brick and pumice soak up rain water, which just like that absorbed by the earth-filled cracks in ashlar blocks, causes cracks and disintegration once frost sets in. Water is not only absorbed horizontally into the walls, but especially melting snow also penetrates vertically into them, causing destruction from within. Other stones, e.g. the schist pavement slabs of the palatial urban mansion, are not fit for direct exposure either (see Field Notes 2005, Domestic Area, August 14-25), neither are some painted wall frescoes or mosaics composed of sometimes very fragile tesserae. All of this needs every year protection against both man and the forces of nature.
Over the years, the first visit to Sagalassos after the winter season has always been a frustrating experience, with freshly pointed wall sections of the previous years crumbling down, or even whole mortared rubble walls or vaults disintegrating. Since 2005, however, the combined effort of an architects' team under the direction of Ebru Torun (KU Leuven and METU Ankara) assisted by Mehmet Koeyütürk (METU Ankara), who lost his heart to Sagalassos, and Goeze Uner and of a conservators' team of Ankara University Baskent Yuksekokulu started to give very good results. The latter group--composed of excellent students and assistants--was supervised by Selçuk Sener, Hande Koekten, Cengiz Cetin, and Bekir Eskici. Without any unnecessary gesture or undue noise, they not only developed very systematically and silently a perfectly working system, whereby they not only managed to catch up the backlog of pointing, capping and conserving in many areas, especially in the domestic area, but also created a mortar, which for the first time withstood the winter, as well as a new capping technique, which prevented water from penetrating vertically into the walls. As a result, we encountered this spring a site in an almost pristine state, clean and solid, as we never had seen it before.
||Left, conservation of the late walls in the Upper Agora's western portico begins. Right, the late Roman wall in the western portico is being conserved.
A detailed inspection of the condition of the site was conducted at the beginning of the campaign. It only confirmed our first impression. The new methods and techniques that were applied last year had produced excellent results. The Domestic Area, which was the focus of the conservation activities last year and a recurrent nightmare, was found to have survived the winter even perfectly.
Throughout the site, none of the areas of intervention of last year showed any conservation problem, such as displacement, detachment, or deterioration of the conservation mortar. The joint repairs and capping applications were intact, proving the efficiency of our repair mortar and the techniques we devised for its application.
On June 25, the new program of site conservation was initiated under the direction of Ebru Torun, shortly afterwards joined by Selçuk Sener. As we detected last year, the area that required the most urgent interventions, was the West Portico of the Upper Agora, separating the public square from the Bouleuterion and the basilical church in its former courtyard. The mortared rubble walls of the late divisions of the portico into (work)shops were about to be lost because of a lack of structural integrity
A small team of workmen started with a general cleaning of the portico's southernmost space. Using the same repair mortar composition, walls were pointed and capping was applied. These simple but efficient interventions already cleared out the ruined appearance of this section and the spaces became much more legible.
The documentation techniques that were designed and successfully applied last year will also be used this campaign. Architects of our team follow every step of the interventions and document the process digitally.