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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
Section of the Tiberian Gate at the entrance of the Lower Agora
The Lower Agora's northern side
Poseidon bust from a terrace wall
Aerial photograph of the nymphaeum on the Lower Agora
Tyche statue from the nymphaeum
Model of the colonnade leading to the Lower Agora

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

The Lower Agora


Our excavations in the Lower Agora started in 1995. This second major city square must already have existed in late Hellenistic times, but its current layout mostly dates to the first half of the second century A.D., while its pavement may go back to the reign of Augustus (r. 27 B.C.-A.D. 14). The Southwest Agora gate, first constructed during the reign of Tiberius (r. 14-37), may have occupied its current position then, but this elegant U-shaped gateway was later rebuilt with somewhat shorter lateral wings. Most probably this happened during a refurbishment of the north and west sides of the square around the start of the second century A.D. This refurbishment included the construction of the 50-meter long west portico, reconstruction of the Apollo Klarios temple, inaugurated in A.D. 102-103, the construction of the Odeion on a terrace north of the square, and most likely also that of the first nymphaeum on the square's north. An Ionic portico with a row of shops behind it must have been built during the first half of the second century A.D., perhaps simultaneously with the impressive Roman Baths on a slope to the east of the square. Near the northwest corner of the Roman Baths, two successive street pavements (one early second century A.D., one early sixth century A.D.) were discovered. The latter was clearly connected with the A.D. 500 earthquake.

After the earthquake, the western portico was repaired reusing most of the original building elements. The Southwest Agora gate, however, was damaged beyond repair. Many of its architectural elements were reused as steps in a monumental stairway that henceforth gave access to the square from the south. The west wing and the first adjoining column of the gateway's central part were used to form an honorific monument.

At that time, the sanctuary of Apollo had already been transformed into a church, and in the seventh century a graveyard was established in the small passage between the west portico and the sanctuary. Meanwhile, shops or workshops had been established inside the west portico, but these were destroyed, together with the other Lower Agora monuments by a major mid-seventh century earthquake. After this catastrophe, the debris was never removed from the square or from the stairway leading to it. Instead, some 50 simple graves were dug into the debris for approximately 70 adults and infants, sometimes placed in multiple burials. They may have been victims of plague, which came back recurrently in this period. After one or two generations, the survivors seem to have abandoned completely this part of the city.

In 2000 and 2001, we exposed two new nymphaea, or fountains, one built only a mere half meter in front of the other, along the north side of the agora. The older fountain was most probably built during the first three decades of the second century A.D., while the more recent seems to date to the reign of Caracalla (early third century). East of them, we excavated the western half of a semicircular gateway with corresponding stairway providing access to the Lower Agora from the northeast. The original construction of this semicircular terrace wall in rusticated stone blocks may date back to the first century A.D. at the latest. Near the beginning of the second century, this area was reorganized, possibly in conjunction with the start of construction of the Roman Baths and of the rearrangement of the Agora's north side. The terrace wall contained beautiful busts of Herakles, Hermes, Zeus, Athena, and Poseidon. Probably at the end of the second or in the early third century A.D., when the more recent nymphaeum was built, the semicircular terrace wall with smooth slabs replaced the rusticated one. It included relief blocks representing the local pantheon. The original stairway may go back to this period as well. Somewhere between the third and the sixth century A.D. a gateway may have been built on top of the stairs.

Possibly after the A.D. 500 earthquake, as was attested in other areas at Sagalassos, the pavement slabs were removed in this area, leaving it open for later encroachment by shops or simple dwellings. The latter structures--not yet excavated--clearly extend into the eastern portico of the Lower Agora. This last occupation phase at Sagalassos forms a good parallel with the western portico. Hopefully, the contextual analysis of the find assemblages within these early Byzantine structures may reveal functional patterns.

Aims of the 2003 excavations

During the 2003 season the excavation in the northern part of the Lower Agora will continue, in order to:

  • Study the road on the terrace behind, and at a higher level than, the nymphaea along the north side of the agora. The eastern section of this road was uncovered in 2002, and the aim is to continue the excavation in the direction of the Hadrianic nymphaeum on the north side of this road. If time permits we'll start removing the fallen blocks from this nymphaeum.

  • Complete excavation of the early Byzantine construction identified in 2002 in front of the semicircular terrace wall. This structure encroached upon the street and may be related to butchering practices, as deposits associated with the building to its west and northwest contained an exceptional amount of butchery refuse. Two rooms have been identified, but their contents have not been excavated yet. They might form part of a larger shop or workshop complex, illustrating the typical early Byzantine urban re-arrangements, which are a clear break with the more structured classical urban traditions.

  • Resume excavation of the shops of the eastern portico. Two of these shops were studied in 1993. We want to know if this row of shops extends northward toward the early Byzantine structure, and from what period this extension dates.

The excavation will also be extended southward, in order to study other shops and the area in front of the southwest corner of the Roman Baths. This row of shops was closed and backfilled in the construction of an early Byzantine gutter. So it will be necessary, after detailed photography and architectural recording, to remove sections of this gutter in order to examine the shops to their full extent. This is necessary for dating the various building phases and for reconstructing the functions of these shops through detailed contextual analysis.

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