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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The palatial mansion from the southwest
The arcaded gallery, left, and courtyard with the vaulted room, right, are in the foreground. Behind them are corridors, left, and the paved courtyard flanked by the private bath section, right.
The partially eroded dining (?) room in the southern part of the mansion

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

The Domestic Area: August 10-16, 2003

The Domestic Area team--Inge Uytterhoeven, Ariane Ceulemans, and Nele Goeminne--continued working in the area immediately south of the large paved courtyard XIII. It became clear that, as was already presumed (see August 3-9), this courtyard was accessible from Room XXXIX via corridor XLI. The corridor also turned out to be connected with space XLII, where last week a pavement of large purple schist slabs was found. For conservation reasons these very fragile stones were not completely uncovered. In addition to the two slabs of a staircase leading to the vanished first floor identified last week, a third step was uncovered.

The original double courtyard (spaces XIII and XXV), which was surrounded by arcaded galleries on the west, south, and east, was subdivided into several rooms in the course of the sixth century A.D. The east (see Restoration and Conservation, August 10-16) and south arcade of courtyard XXV were kept, but the north-south double arcaded gallery, which had given access to the southern vaulted opening of a private nymphaeum in the northeast corner of courtyard XIII, was walled in and divided into two smaller rooms XXI and XXXIX. This whole area adopted a more a rural character, as during the sixth century a large vaulted room north of courtyard XXV (room XXVIII) became either a stable or a storage facility for dried dung cakes used for cooking or heating (see Subsistence Studies, August 3-9). Space XXXIX was occupied until the seventh century. On the other hand, the southern arcaded gallery of the larger courtyard XIII was turned into a closed off corridor (XLI) giving access to a second corridor farther west (XLII) that contained a sixth-century staircase leading to a floor level above the arcaded galleries.

To get a better view of the southern zone of the Domestic Area, excavations continued in the large dining (?) room XL, with its alternating curved and rectangular painted recesses along the north wall. Two erosion layers and a destruction layer were removed in two new 5 by 5 m sectors, and although more investigation is required to see if the floor level of Room XL is still preserved farther south, it is already obvious that the main part of this room and possibly also the rest of the southern area of our mansion have been eroded away.

For now, we've identified a total of 42 rooms, arranged on three successive or terraced levels, in this urban mansion. During the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., it must have been the palatial dwelling of one of the proteuontes, the provincial aristocracy, who intermarried constantly and kept good contacts with both the clergy and the provincial governors, many of whom came from their ranks. By then, they ruled the cities, with little power left to the former civic institutions (such as the ekklèsia, or the boulè) and even surpassed by far the wealth and influence of the normal curiales/bouleutai (members of the boulè), who carried most of the financial burdens on their shoulders and tried to escape by whatever means their fiscal duties. Most decisions were now made in the palatial dwellings of the proteuontes, who imitated in their large reception halls and dining rooms the imperial lifestyle. The earthquake that hit Sagalassos around 500, combined with the plague from 541 onward, put an end to their good fortunes. It is clear that during the sixth century our palatial mansion had been divided into smaller units, of which some on a the ground level, became more rural in character, while the previous reception hall on the second floor had been turned into an open courtyard, stripped of its previously lavish wall and floor decoration. Both levels of the now subdivided mansion remained occupied until the seventh century, an earthquake destroyed the site completely (see Seismological Studies, August 3-9).

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