Urban Survey: June 25-29, 2006
This year, the usual intensive survey, intended to identify the changing borders of the urban settlement and establish occupation density and functional zoning within the city, took a different turn. On July 27, the researcher in charge of the survey, Femke Martens, gave birth to her first baby, Zita. The arrival of this news during the afternoon made the mountains above the site echo with spontaneous applause, and cheers broke out throughout Sagalassos. This happy event did not mean that all survey activities were given up; the urban site remained the scene of large-scale excavations and geophysical research in specific areas.
In order to be able to start the excavations immediately following the arrival of the excavation team on July 8, two major preparations had to be made. First, a team of workmen began to remove the dense, prickly vegetation in those areas of the site where the Slovenian geophysics team would conduct their investigation this year: the northern slopes of Sagalassos and the zone between the Neon Library and the Domestic Area. This parcel of land seems to have been partially abandoned and transformed into a more artisanal area around A.D. 400.
Since the site was officially protected and partially fenced off three decades ago, the vegetation within the fence has grown unhindered and completely changed the landscape. Covering the area in abundance are prickly kermes oak, Artemisia, spiny mosses and other plants that are no longer found beyond the fence. Also, the grass grows higher every year. Because of the dense vegetation, the herds of sheep and goat that cross the city slopes no longer contribute to the displacement and erosion of screes on the upper slopes. However, this vegetation has also attracted scores of snakes, some poisonous, and made intensive surveys nearly impossible in many parts of the town, due to reduced visibility-and the threat of a snake bite! All my admiration goes out to archaeologists Inge Uytterhoeven, Hannelore Vanhaverbeke, Veerle Lauwers and Nathalie Kellens, all of K. U. Leuven, who, day after day, taking turns, had to supervise this unpleasant task. At the same time, the excavated areas were continually cleaned manually of weeds, which usually proliferate after the early spring.
A second preliminary, yearly activity is the preparation of the grids for the various excavation sectors, in dimensions of five by five meters. This is done so that the different teams can start immediately after arriving, and so that the structures registered at the end of the season can be seamlessly incorporated into the city map, at a scale of 1:500. For several years this work was done through a sponsorship from professional topographers Patrick Casier and Marc Olijslaghers, who throughout the years developed a very strong attachment to the site. Their white outfits, and Patrick's whiter hair, made them blend completely into the landscape, with its white limestone screes. Architects Uygur Guersoy and Serdar Saygi (M.E.T.U. Ankara) also started their topographical work on the buildings that will be further excavated this year.
For the first three days of the week, our work was disturbed by thunderstorms with heavy rains and even hail. Luckily, the large depot at the entrance of the site offered some shelter. Springtime is not always blessed with sun at our altitude, not even in Turkey!