Odeion: July 8-20, 2007
Excavation of the Odeion, or concert building, at Sagalassos--supervised by Bart De Graeve, Katrien Hoet (both K.U.Leuven) and Ugur Altay (Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul)--started in 2005.
In the two campaigns, they uncovered the southeastern part of the building. An entrance hall, consisting of two connected, parallel corridors, is astonishingly well preserved, with ashlars still standing for almost 7 m high. The northern hall could be entered from the east (outside) through a rather small door (2.4 m wide) and contained several staircases on either side of a landing accessible by a small staircase from the large vaulted connection between the parallel corridors. These small staircases lead down to corridor 1, which opened onto the stage. Two larger staircases lead from the landing respectively to the eastern entrance and towards the west up to the sitting places, and more specifically to a place for VIPs above the vault that connects corridor 1 with the stage. In 2006, they also uncovered part of podium and orchestra, but these appeared to have been changed and stripped off their tabernacles of an aediculated stage facade in late Antiquity, so they are not that impressive as the entrance hall, and also a lot more difficult to interpret. However, the most important result of the excavation in this area was the discovery of a foundation fill, which made it possible to date the building of scaenae frons in the Severan period, between A.D. 180 and 210, while the small foundation trench of the outer wall suggests a start of construction in late Hadrianic times. This means that the latter was finished much later than the Odeion's outer facade which is intertwined with the outer courses of ashlars belonging to the back wall of the late Hadrian nymphaeum (ca. A.D. 129-132) (see Odeion, July 10-August 10, 2006).
In 2007, we intend further excavation of the eastern half of the Odeion. To gain an idea of the whole layout of the building, and also because of practical reasons, we decided to start this year in the northeastern part of the structure, where the benches of the spectators were situated (the so-called cavea). As we have learned from local people that seats have been removed in the 1920s to construct the road to Isparta passing diagonally across the Odeion's stage building, we did not expect to find many traces of the original benches, at least not in the upper part, which is not covered by a very thick layer of debris. We hoped, though, to find the foundations and maybe some original sitting places in the lower sector of the cavea.
During the first week, we concentrated on the upper part. A lot of topsoil has been removed, and the semicircular back wall could be uncovered almost everywhere. It soon became clear that two main phases can be distinguished. The upper part, which is still well visible on some spots, consists of a facing of ashlars, including a lot of spolia (re-used stone blocks), with a mortared-rubble back fill. Below this later phase, which cannot be dated at the moment, is a well-preserved concrete wall. We suspect at the moment that these are the remains of the original construction. Part of the foundation has also been found. While moving further to the west, we discovered that a large part of the back wall seems to have been demolished intentionally. It seems to be connected with a rubble wall appearing at a lower level and oriented perpendicularly to the stage wall. The meaning of this construction, in any case not belonging to the original building, is totally unclear at this moment, because only a small part could be uncovered. To have better possibilities to interpret the evolution of the back wall and later changes, we decided to expand our excavation in a western direction. Unfortunately, the state of preservation of the back wall proved to be worse and as further excavation in these sectors would cause huge stability problems, it was decided to cease digging this part of the Odeion. Only after a rigid safety control and conservation measures, excavations can hopefully be resumed here.
In the mean time, we moved to the southeastern part of the cavea and started to dig just north of the entrance hall with its double corridor system uncovered in 2006. Close to the back wall, a deposit was exposed with some special finds, such as an antefix (a piece of terracotta roof decoration, being the front of the lowest row of covering tiles, see Find of the Week), a rare type of oil lamp, and several decorated pottery sherds. In the excavated area, only few traces of the foundations could be found, but we hope they will be better preserved in the lower levels, which are covered by a much thicker layer of debris. At the last day of the second week, we discovered the upper part of a wall, which is parallel with the northern wall of the entrance room, excavated in 2006. This makes us think that maybe we have to deal here with a direct entry to the upper part of the cavea, as the space between the two walls is almost as wide as the other hall (2.35m). Excavation next week will certainly give us more information about this new architectural feature.