The Macellum: July 6-14, 2008
The collapsed section of the east portico's stairway with, below, the original gutter and above the smaller gutter in the upper step
We started excavations at the Macellum on July 6, under direction of Julian Richard (K.U. Leuven), Karin Schuitema (U. Leiden), Sevgi Ger çek (Istanbul University), and Aude Goovaerts (K.U.Leuven). Following the 2005-2007 excavations, we focused on the east side of the central courtyard, where last year, our architects registered a large amount of architectural members belonging to the original elevation.
The cornice block reused as a selling table
We excavated three sectors in the southeast, where the staircase and full width of the east portico (both of which underwent later structural modifications) were exposed. We found the colonnade staircase, symmetrical to that of the west portico excavated in 2006, to be in a relatively good state of preservation. Like the western one, it is ca. 0.50 m high and consists of two steps made of large-sized limestone blocks. It is bordered below by a curved limestone gutter that collected water from the portico's roof. The northern section of the staircase was obviously modified at a later date, as a smaller gutter was carved into its upper step, which might point to a slightly backward positioning of that part of the roof at a later phase. This new gutter seemed to end into a partial collapse of the original steps and water evacuation system. The chronological sequence of these modifications is still unknown, but the sinking of the staircase and of the adjacent pavement section may have been caused by the collapse of the northern drainage tunnel, which we found in 2007, that runs just below them.
One of the preserved door lintels of the shop doors
The half-columns (with full flutes) forming the lateral sides of the doorposts
As in the Macellum's western wing, the east portico was not found in its original, late second-century A.D. state of preservation. Over most of the exposed front steps there were no remains of the original columnar front, except for a piece of a cornice block, fixed with mortar onto the uppermost step, where it might have functioned in Late Antiquity as a table to display goods for sale. Most excavated structures can be assigned to the sixth-century A.D., when the porticoes and the shops at their back were rebuilt, possibly after the earthquake that struck Sagalassos around A.D. 500. Afterward, the original floor was levelled and new walls erected, but the original staircase and also likely the colonnade (though now gone) were maintained in their original state. The front wall of the shops exposed thus far is largely made of mortared rubble and some brick layers, which are not preserved to a great height. They are interrupted at regular intervals by doors, apparently three in total, of which only the northern one has not yet been completely excavated. The door sills consist of two long smooth limestone blocks, most probably still the original ones, supporting doorposts on either end. These consist of a normally fasciated door post on the inner (door) side, with a fluted three-quarter column attached to them on the other side. Two years ago, several doorposts of the same type were found in the opposed western portico, be it no longer in situ and neither respecting their original interdistance or level. This made us believe then, that they had been recycled from another building, as the 3/4 columns should be facing real columns on their outer sides, whereas one rather expects a closed wall for a shop. Yet, the whole arrangement in the east portico is so regularly spaced, with one of the doors still having its lintel lying on the square in front of, that one should assume that the original disposition had one real column (with filled up flutings) in each interval between two doors (because of the space in between), either free standing or rather interconnected by walls half their height or provided with large windows. For instance, the latter was the case in the late Flavian "colonnade" with half-columns of Frontinus Street at Hierapolis. Here the "colonnade" consists of Doric half-columns with flutings, with in between them a full wall to almost half their height and a latticed (travertine) window above. While the southern portico was an open columnar screen (see Macellum 2007), the eastern portico seems to have been composed of three identical shops, each accessible by a nicely framed doorway attached to a half-column in their middle. One might expect there were two three-quarter columns in each intersection between two successive doors. A similar arrangement may have existed in the west portico, though originally with probably just two identical shops accessible by the same kind of doorways as those mentioned above. Here, however, the central shop seems to have been an open sacellum (chapel) framed by pillars that were still found in situ (see website 2006, Macellum, July 10- August 10); we expect that the north portico--to be excavated next year--will contain a total of four shops, two pairs each on either side of the entrance.
The sixth-century encroachment room established in the walkway of the east portico with its lateral doorways made of original architrave blocks
One of the Macellum complex's most striking features is its lack of complete symmetry, despite an original very rigid regularity, whereby the building used as much as possible of the available space. The frontal walkway of the east portico thus is wider than that of the western one: 5 m vs. 4.30 m. These differences were also maintained during later alterations: while the encroachment rooms in the original shops of the west portico and certainly those in its frontal walking way are very irregular, with walls that were not really straight, the corresponding encroachment in the eastern portico is much more regular. In the front walkway of the east portico such encroachment is confined to a single small room (4.45 x 1.47 m), occupying the whole width of it and placed between the central and the southern door to the shops behind. This room surprisingly was not accessible from an entrance on the front of the portico, but by two doors in its north and south side walls. Its walls consisted exclusively of mortared rubble, except from four re-used architrave-frieze blocks from the original columnar front. These were reused with their inscribed architrave fasciae (stepped profile) set horizontally, either as upper or as lower surface, and covered by mortared rubble, but showing their simple "soffits" (decorated sunken profile on the bottom of an architrave carried by free standing columns) as inner door frame. They thus still reflected a sense of aesthetic maintenance of the portico. At current, this small room's function and chronology remains uncertain. In the southern part of the eastern walkway, we found a burned feature on the beaten earth floor level, together with a ceramic deposit. This context will be investigated further in the next few days. As a whole, the chronological spectrum of the ceramic evidence points to the sixth-century A.D. dating assigned to the later occupation phase of the Macellum (phase 8 of SRSW).
During the next two weeks, the excavations will focus on what we think to be the row of shops at the back of the east portico. Our activities will be extended to at least two sectors toward the east.