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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The beautifully preserved fortifications of Kepezkalesi, an important Early Iron Age to early Hellenistic site
Late Hellenistic drinking cup similar to material found at Kozluca/Kormasa

One of the locations of a suburban Roman villa in the hills southeast of Sagalassos

The early to mid Byzantine sites in Sagalassos' territory
A mid Byzantine import amphora in the Burdur Museum
One of the faults in the territory of Sagalassos

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

Conclusion: Territorial and Suburban Surveys

We've carried out extensive interdisciplinary surveys at Sagalassos since 1993 to document climatic, landscape, and vegetation changes, assess the economic potential of the area for craft or industrial production, and establish settlement patterns throughout the area's history.

Geomorphological research has provided us with insight into the region's landscape formation, including traces of rather recent volcanic activities. Now-extinct volcanoes around Lake Gölcük, approximately 10 km north of Sagalassos, covered the region with a thick fertilizing ash layer roughly 13,000 years ago (see Seismological Studies, August 10-16). These volcanic deposits also later provided inhabitants with building material (tuffo), especially popular in early Byzantine times when the technology for quarrying harder stone had apparently been lost. Volcanic sand could also be used to produce waterproof mortars and Roman concrete, as well as fireproof cooking pots. The most recent volcanic deposit proved to be Santorini tephra, making the Sagalassos area currently the most eastward one connected with this middle Bronze Age catastrophe.

Our palynological research has helped us establish the vegetation history of the region since the beginning of the Holocene (10,000 years ago). The geomorphological team's new core drilling in the Bereket basin are likely to allow a detailed paleo-environmental reconstruction of the late Holocene (see Geomorphological Survey, July 27-August 2) and will complete the picture gathered from coring in the Gravgaz marshes and the Aglasun valley, where previous coring reached depths with a calibrated age of around 6550 B.C. (see Geomorphological Survey, August 3-9). The region had steppe-like vegetation at the beginning of this period, with isolated black pine and cedars on higher slopes and fertile lake sediments south of Lake Burdur, where the first farming communities would establish themselves during the Aceramic Neolithic. By the sixth millennium B.C., the central part of the city's Roman territory was covered by lush vegetation--open oak forest on the lower slopes and wet valley bottoms covered by marsh plants.

The first glimpses of human presence in the Aglasun area are documented around 4200 B.C. by a sudden disappearance of marsh plants and an extensive clearing of oak forest accompanied by the introduction of secondary anthropogenic plants. Thus far no settlement can be connected with this occupation, probably a result of massive erosion in later periods. We identified several large alluvial fans built up before the last Ice Age and therefore only carrying archaeological material on their surface. We also found thick colluvial fans, organic deposits, and coarse alluvial fans without any datable material. However, we found historic deposits covering older sediments where the two most important secondary valleys meet south of Sagalassos. Colluviation in the valley bottom thus seems to have started when the valley bottom and lower slopes were transformed into terraced fields, burying a lot of the older occupation evidence (see Geomorphological Survey, August 3-9).

Oak woods recovered towards the end of the Hellenistic period and flourished again in Imperial times. Our research also revealed that the area had recovered to some extent by the early Iron Age (ninth century B.C.). However, a second deforestation took place from the eighth until the fourth century B.C., probably reflecting the development of larger urban settlements. We found no certain evidence from this period during our first surveys (1993-1997), but a systematic revisiting of potential candidates since 2002 has been very successful. We've identified several larger settlements dating to the eighth to sixth century B.C.--both larger settlements located at higher altitudes and fortified residential strongholds of local rulers.

We paid detailed attention to two clearly urban sites this year. A site at Kepezkalesi (17 km southwest of Sagalassos) protected by beautiful early Hellenistic city walls contained Iron Age semi-fine tableware along with a slipped fabric variety and two types of cooking wares with disc bases. Kepezkalesi continued only a small amount of Hellenistic material, suggesting it fell into Sagalassian hands at an early stage though it remained inhabited throughout late Roman times. The site of Kozluca just beyond Sagalassos' southwestern territorial border can probably be identified with the small Pisidian city of Kormasa which was located along one of the main thoroughfares of ancient Anatolia. The majority of surface material we sampled this year was typical Hellenistic tableware including molded bowls, gray ware, and a precursor of the Sagalassos red slipware. There were also at least four different common ware varieties of which the most frequent may date to Classical times. All this material will help in reconstructing this fairly unknown phase in the regional ceramic development corresponding with the gradual settlement between the Phrygian and early Hellenistic periods.

At the fortress more than 2000 m above Sagalassos, we found an Early Bronze Age stone axe and one body sherd of a grayish common ware that may fit into the regional Classical/Hellenistic common ware series. Both finds may corroborate our assumption that this fortress, the central point of all watchtowers located in the territory of the city, was in fact of pre-Hellenistic date.

The Hellenistic period saw the introduction of the olive, previously unknown to the area. Wealthy landowners gradually introduced olive yards in the Gravgaz area, the Basköy valley, and the Canakli valley. This kind of cash crop would have flourished in Imperial times when it was a major part of the local economy with grain production and the ceramic industry. Eventually a 1,800-square-kilometer network of specialized villages provided Sagalassos with its basic subsistence needs, except for perishable goods (vegetables) that must have been cultivated in the suburban area. The fact that grain culture gradually moved away from the urban center seems to be corroborated by the fact that lead pollution in cattle--the draught animals used for farming--decreased considerably between the second and fourth centuries as their activities moved away from areas polluted by the city's pottery kilns and metal furnaces. This meant that the suburban area could be used to some extent for leisure during the heyday of the city. Our suburban survey this year showed that luxurious villas--many with fine tablewares, glass, mosaics, marble wall revetments, and heating systems--were present around the city. We found several such dwellings spread out on the hills south of Sagalassos, often located rather close to an industrial area with olive-crushing stones (see Suburban Survey, July 20-26), oil press weights, and storage vessels. This points to the presence of large estates in the valley below the city in Imperial times that were partially for leisure but also linked to industrial activities.

The picture may have changed during the instability of the fifth century A.D. when Ostrogothic mercenaries and Isaurian tribesman started to raid the region. Around the middle of the seventh century A.D., they were succeeded by Arab raiders. This resulted in a gradual shift from extensive farming to goat breeding with a real breaking point (abandonment of olive yards) from the last period onwards. Eventually, this caused a massive deforestation (see Forestry Survey, July 6-12) followed by severe erosion.

All of this didn't mean a complete abandonment of the region. In the Akyamaç area southeast of the city, a small settlement suggests continuous occupation from the Early Iron Age to the post Byzantine period. In the wider territory, some sites such as the Dereköy Kale fortress or the larger fortified hilltop site of Ulalan (see Territorial Survey, June 16-23) were producing ceramics in the early and mid Byzantine period. This year, we found mid-Byzantine material at the northern portico of the Hadrian and Antoninus Pius sanctuary. We hope ongoing analysis will establish what remained of Sagalassos' monopoly of ceramic production at that time. Occasionally, contemporary amphora sherds attest to some degree of exchange. Unfortunately the metal-producing sites at Tekeli Tepe and Dereköy didn't contain any datable pottery. The ceramics we did find were jugs and containers produced until a decade ago at Canakli. This is the more regrettable as both sites produced ample evidence for metal working, including smelting and smithing using harder ores than those processed at Sagalassos (see Metallurgical Studies, July 27-August 2 and August 3-9).

Disease (plague from A.D. 541 onwards) and natural catastrophes must have further contributed to the decline of the city and its dependent villages. The epicenters of at least two major earthquakes, one around the transition from the fifth to the sixth century A.D., another around the middle (or second half) of the seventh century A.D. were located at or near the city and caused a severe decline in its occupation. Ramguts core drilling identified several faults. At the same time a test sounding north of the Doric Temple and the northwest Heroon identified a shear zone along a degraded active normal fault plane, suggesting that both faults on the site had been reactivated in historical times (see Seismological Studies, July 27-August 2, August 10-16, and August 17-23). We identified several faulting events in the area of Sarikaya, ca 8 km west of the city, correlating with the larger plate tectonic setting of southwest Turkey and existing stress fields (see Seismological Studies, August 3-9). We found lineaments on satellite images at other locations showing characteristics of active normal faults, though only the Sagalassos fault bears evidence of historical seismic activity (see Seismological Studies, August 17-23). We didn't establish the expected lineament in the Quaternary Canakli depression, but we identified a new fault scarp with the same orientation as the one at Sagalassos. This may have had important consequences for the region at large (see Seismological Studies, August 24-30).

We can now see how Sagalassos' growth into a middle-sized provincial center was made possibly by its environment (safe location, abundant water supply, important raw materials in the vicinity), but also how it eventually was destroyed by the latter's less favorable characteristics (seismic activity and disease) combined with the decline of central authority over the area.

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