N-S Colonnaded Street: July 8-12, 2007
Last years season had shown that the major artery of Sagalassos, the N-S Colonnaded Street, apparently a pedestrian way and one of the oldest colonnaded streets in the Near East, had already been created under the reign of Augustus. Even more striking was the discovery of our geomorphologists that this street did not follow a natural ridge, but on the contrary had been laid out on an artificial fill of rocks and earth of several thousand cubic meters in between two limestone hills/platforms separated by a very steep and deep ravine, a major enterprise of Roman engineering (see Field Notes 2007, Introduction, second illustration).
This year, the activities here are directed by Ine Jacobs (K.U.Leuven), assisted by Koen Demarsin, Ralf Vandam (both K.U.Leuven) and Tayfun Isiklar (Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir).
The N-S Colonnaded Street of Sagalassos is a 280 m long, ca. 9 m wide artery, with a strongly sloping surface, in order to overcome the difference in height between the southern and northern ends. During the campaigns of 2005 and 2006, a section of 45 m long was already cleared (see N-S Colonnaded Street 2005 and 2006). The western colonnade, which is by far the best preserved, has been examined by two trenches, while in 2006 a sounding within the shops behind the actual colonnade was executed.
This year, the excavation on the N-S Colonnaded Street started to the north of the sections excavated in 2005 and 2006, in the direction of the staircase leading up to the Lower Agora. The team concentrated on uncovering the road surface in between the walls bordering the street to the west and the east and carrying the colonnades. Initially, it was expected that both the pavement as well as the borders of the stylobate (stone course supporting the columns) would be identical to those uncovered during previous campaigns. However, in contrast to the sectors immediately to the south, the pavement in the present excavation area did not consist of neatly arranged rows of slabs laid perpendicular to the N-S direction of the street. In the outer south of the excavation area, the rows possessed a more NW-SE direction, whereas the pavement section more to the north has a strong NE-SW orientation. As a consequence, a roughly triangular area was created in between, filled with small and deteriorated slabs. Its northern section was mainly made of large and thus presumably also thick slabs (max. ca. 1.50 by 1.30), which must have been taken from somewhere else for the following reasons: firstly the size of the slabs is larger than is normally encountered at Sagalassos for streets and plazas, and secondly, they possess a dowel holes, indicating that another structure, presumably a freestanding monument, was once standing here. The condition of the deteriorated smaller slabs in the immediate surroundings suggests these were placed on top of the street surface as the original (?) pavement had deteriorated to such a degree that it could no longer be used.
It was once assumed that the Main Colonnaded Street possessed side streets forming a regular grid system, of which at least one could be located more or less in the middle between the Agora Staircase and the supposed Hellenistic South Gate. At this location, the western stylobate wall bordering the street turns into a western direction. The presence of several Hellenistic weaponry reliefs in the area led to the identification of this structure as "Hellenistic monument" with a very nicely executed weaponry frieze, which must be roughly contemporary with the one of the Council House (ca. 100 BC). As a sounding located on this supposed side-street just to the west of the main street, executed in 1998 by Femke Martens only encountered remains of what is now presumed to be a shop, the existence of this side street had become dubious. However, during the first week of this campaign, we again encountered evidence seeming to confirm the existence of this street. Firstly, a heart shaped pillar, certainly a corner element with half-columns on two adjoining sides and crowned by a double corner Corinthian capital (see Find of the Week), was found at a distance of approximately 3 m from the corner of the bordering wall. Its six components were found in the collapse just next to and on the road surface itself. The position of the two lowest pillar blocks indicate that the pillar was turned away from the street, with the engaged columns facing south and west, and thus suggesting that it was intended to limit the northern end of a stoa like structure or other colonnaded monument. The undecorated face of the pillar turned towards the road could have been decorated by a statue positioned in front of it, as was suggested by the presence of a small square plateau on the road surface. The second piece of evidence suggesting that originally there had been a side street here, was the absence of a stylobate adjoining the heart shaped column. The situation is, however, still unclear as this area is covered by collapsed material originating from several structures to the west of the street. The planned removal of some of these blocks and further soundings on this location aim at clarifying the situation. Our present working hypothesis assumes that a side street was certainly present in the original phase of the street, according to the Corinthian double corner capital probably even before the Augustan building phase, but that it was blocked in a later period, possibly at the time of rebuilding the back wall of the portico during the later Roman Empire. The existence of a South Gate in the Hellenistic circuit wall (see next week's update on South Gate, ) suggests that at least the northern part of the Imperial N-S Colonnaded Street, had already a late Hellenistic predecessor. The geomorphological section of the surface below the street shows in fact, that this area is still located to the north of the very deep ravine, which had to be filled in Augustan times, and that the fill to level the Hellenistic street was less thick than that of its Augustan southern extension (see second illustration in Fieldnotes 2007, Introduction). The Augustan N-S Colonnaded Street would then at this location have been divided into two halves, of which the northern one just below the Lower Agora existed already before the final incorporation of the city into the Empire in 25 BC.
The Lower Agora was laid out on a terrace to the north and above the northern section of the street. Planned test soundings at some well-chosen locations on this square might provide us with datable material related to its initial layout, which probably was very close in date to that of the late Hellenistic part of the N-S street. In any case the east side of this square contains a honorific statue pedestal, which spans the transition from late Hellenistic to Augustan times.
Assuming that at least the lower half of Sagalassos was laid out according to a regular city plan, the existence of a side street running into a western direction, suggests a corresponding street leading to the east. Indeed, at that side of the street, the eastern stylobate wall of the N-S Colonnaded Street also turns eastward. Moreover, just below it, the pavement seemingly extends beyond the main street itself. However, this eastern section of the street is very badly preserved: ca. 2 m (E-W) of the pavement is completely missing, so that the absence of a stylobate wall in this area cannot be taken as a confirmation the existence of a side street. The situation is further made difficult as this area is again covered by numerous architectural fragments.
The main evidence for the existence of a side street however at this very location, remains, however, the fact that at both sides of the street the stylobates of the N-S Colonnaded Street turned away in opposite directions. The western side street was bordered on its north side by a nicely executed Corinthian late Hellenistic building decorated with a weaponry frieze.
The excavation of the pavement uncovered a large amount of architectural fragments. As mentioned above, some of them, as for instance some Ionic/Corinthian cornices, clearly originated from the "Hellenistic monument" to the west of the street. The provenance of other blocks, mainly those in the eastern half of the street cannot be so easily clarified. Among them were two inscribed blocks, one a statue base, the second one a very large door lintel of a public monument standing east of the street. A late antique architrave decorated with a Maltese cross on one side indicates ongoing building activity in that period in this area. The presence of all these blocks sharply contrasts with the small collection of columns and column bases/capitals discovered in the area belonging to the colonnades themselves.
As the clearing of the pavement in this area for the moment raised far more questions than it solved, we will extend the excavation by at least one sector more to the north. This should clarify whether or not the bordering walls actually belonged to buildings or were only intended as terrace walls for a continuation of the colonnade on top of them. This will be supplemented by a series of soundings, as indicated above.