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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
Plan of Domestic Area after the 2006 campaign
An apse emerges on the "fifth" level of the Urban Mansion.
The few remains of the "polygonal" room on the "fifth" level

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

The Urban Mansion: July 8-12, 2007

Because it better reflects this structure's real character--a colossal mansion, whose outer walls have not been reached yet on any side--we decided to change the name "Domestic Area," as can be found in our web reports covering the years 2003-2006 and now identify this excavation area on the eastern slopes of Sagalassos as the "Urban Mansion."

On July 8, a team under the direction of Inge Uytterhoeven (K.U.Leuven) and archaeologists Sevgi Gerçek (Mimar Sinan Üniversitesi, Istanbul) and Rob Rens (K.U.Leuven) resumed excavations of the enormous mansion. This building is located in the city's eastern domestic quarter, which was created outside the Hellenistic fortification walls during Sagalassos's expansion in early Imperial times.

The previous 11 excavation campaigns had already revealed 51 rooms spread over four successive terraces of a natural slope. The main part of the building was constructed in the late fourth-early fifth century A.D., although the mansion also incorporated some earlier walls of one or more second-third century A.D. buildings that previously occupied this area.

The large domus, which tentatively has been ascribed to one of the proteuontes, the late antique landowning provincial elite living in the city, enclosed a private and a public area. On the lowest level, we have identified eight rooms (Rooms I-VIII) as the service area of the house on the basis of the numerous water-supply systems found there. North and northwest of these service rooms there is a richly decorated private bathing complex consisting of at least four rooms (Rooms IX, X, XV and XVI), of which three were once provided with a hypocaust system (heated floor) and two were still covered with mosaics. East of the bathing complex, at a kind of intermediary floor level, we have partially unearthed a system of three vaulted corridors situated under the damaged vault of the rooms on the first floor (Room XX).

The main part of the southern zone of the Domestic Area consisted of a large private courtyard complex located south of the baths. A larger paved courtyard (Courtyard XIII) provided with an exedra (Room XI), probably a winter oecus (open sitting room) and a smaller court (Courtyard XXV) with a vaulted chamber (Room XXVIII) fulfilling the same function, were enclosed by arcaded galleries and separated from each other by a private nymphaeum (Fountain XIX) and a central north-south running arcaded gallery. Apart from the eastern and southern galleries of Courtyard XXV (Gallery XXXIII), all these galleries were at a later stage subdivided into individual spaces (Rooms XXI, XXXIX, XLI, XLII and small court XII) and the intercolumniations were walled up. East of the courtyards, we have studied two other rooms (Rooms XXXII and XXXIV), while to the south we have unearthed another two large chambers (Rooms XL and XLIII), of which the most eastern one (Room XL) probably functioned as a large private dining room. Apart from the units at the floor level, we have identified four service rooms with restricted dimensions in the area above Room XXVIII, between the rooms mentioned above and the rocky outcrop: Rooms XXIII, XXIV ((waste-deposition place), XXVI (staircase with cellar) and XXVII (with a settling basin and water channel). While these food storage rooms were originally located at an intermediate level, they were later filled up to correlate with the floor of room XXII.

In the northern part of the excavation area, on the third and fourth level, we have found the public wing of the mansion. It was clearly separated from quarters with a more private character at the lower levels in the south. To the northeast, an atrium with impluvium for the collection of rainwater (Room XLV) gave access to two large rooms: Room LI (not yet completely investigated) in the north and Room XLVI (entirely excavated) farther south. Given its location near the "official" entrance of the house, its large doorways through which the room was entered and its large dimensions, we have identified Room XLVI as a reception room. Moreover, on top of this rectangular room XLVI, i.e. on the upper floor, was another room (Room L), which was provided with an apse on the east. The exterior walls of this room were squared off to form a rectangular room. This room, too, must have functioned as a reception or dining room. To the south, an impressive L-shaped staircase of purple schist slabs was accessible (Room XXXVI) from the atrium. These stairs led via two vestibules with polychrome mosaic floors (Rooms XXXV and XVII) to a very large vaulted dining room (Room XXII). Through two door openings in the northern wall of Room XXII two well-preserved identical and symmetrical rooms (guest rooms?) were accessible (Rooms XXXI and XLIV). From vestibulum XVII another residential chamber with mosaic floor (Room XVIII) could be reached. Besides, two other rooms with a still unknown function have been investigated West of XXXV and XVII (Rooms XXXVII and XXXVIII).

After the fourth century A.D., the mansion was rebuilt and restored at various times. Presumably around the middle of the sixth century the house was subdivided in at least four smaller apartments. During its latest occupation phase some of what were the most luxurious, private parts of the villa took on a rural function. Toward the end of the sixth century A.D., Courtyard XXV was used for the storage of imported and locally produced amphoras. At the same moment or slightly later it became a cattle stable, which is clear from the high animal troughs that were built below the eastern arcade (Gallery XXXIII) and from the macro-botanical remains from Rooms XXV and XXVIII. Possibly in the same period Room XLVI was transformed into a storage room, with dolium pits dug in the substratum of the original marble floor. All material and stratified evidence suggest that most, if not all, of the mansion was no longer occupied and had even completely been emptied when it collapsed during an earthquake in the mid-seventh century A.D.

In line with the three previous excavation campaigns, we are focusing this year on the public quarter of the mansion. So, on Sunday we started to investigate two and a half new sectors in the area north of Room XLVI, where we identified last year Room IL. By extending our trench up to the natural rock in the east, we hope to get a better understanding of the relation between our structure with the bedrock that once functioned as a quarry for limestone building blocks and also is provided with a small staircase that may be part of the mansion.

Already on the second day we discovered in the topsoil a kind of apsidal wall, suggesting that Room IL was a twin of the apsidal reception/dining hall L on the upper floor of Room XLVI. However, by removing the second erosion layer the apse turned out to be part of a polygonal room, either hexagonal or octagonal! At first instance, we presumed that the polygonal wall would be 9m high, since it is located at a still higher level on the slope than the 8m high N wall of Rooms XLVI and L. However, we soon reached the lower part of the wall and freed its foundation. Moreover, the two very compact mortar layers we found underneath the erosion layers on top and in between several enormous rubble blocks could be identified as the substrata of the original floor level, similar to those of dining Room XXII. This means that we are actually digging on the fifth terrace of the building and that the huge mansion still continues to the north! Unfortunately, the state of preservation of both the walls (max. height: ca. 1m) and the floor (western part completely destructed) of Room IL is rather bad. In spite of this, it is very tempting to put the hypothesis that this polygonal room functioned as a baptisterium. Indeed, early Byzantine baptisteries (e.g. St. John at Ephesos) often have octagonal (eight was a symbol of perfection) baptisteries, but they are always part of a basilica, never of a house. Unless a basilica would be found next to it, this means that the mansion is certainly not the bishop's palace of Sagalassos. We hope that further investigation during the coming weeks will reveal more on the architecture and function of the rooms on the upper terrace of the building.

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