Our team led by Peter Talloen (KULeuven), after having worked in the Potters' Quarter and in the "gymnasium" region, moved to the Imperial sanctuary in the southern part of the city dedicated to the emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius. Unlike the other areas under investigation by the sounding team, geophysical survey here did not produce any keys to the structures present below the surface. This was a result of the strong anomalies caused by concentrations of rubble and other stones. The team laid out a first trench within the sanctuary west of the temple. Our goal of putting in this trench was to uncover further traces of Middle Byzantine occupation that had already been registered last year (see Field Notes 2003). We also hoped to expose possible traces of the sanctuary's main altar. This altar should be situated on the central axis of the sanctuary, somewhere between the propylon (monumental entrance) and the steps leading to the pronaos (vestibule) of the temple.
The oldest phase of occupation exposed so far can be dated to the second century A.D. and consists of a layer of small stones on top of the bedrock. This material was probably deposited in order to create a foundation for the slabs of the sanctuary courtyard. The latter were removed, likely when the sacred precinct went out of use sometime during the late fourth or early fifth century A.D.
On top of this was a fill of occupational and architectural debris, a construction level for a first encroachment phase. Within the trench, this secular re-use of the sanctuary is represented by two 7-meter-wide parallel walls running north-south made of dry-laid temple spolia (reused marble) and rubble stones, seemingly enclosing a space with a width of 2.60 meters (the length is unclear). Artifacts we retrieved from this floor allowed us to date it to the early Byzantine period, more precisely to the fifth to sixth centuries A.D. The exact nature of this occupation remains to be determined. As the first encroachment phase we exposed in the north portico of the shrine last year did not contain any temple spolia, we assumed that the latter collapsed only as a result of the A.D. 500 earthquake. This current encroachment could correspond with that one, which did make use of temple remains.
This week, we uncovered a second encroachment phase of the sanctuary. In the eastern part of the trench, a large L-shaped space has been partially unearthed. As three rooms are opening onto it, this space may have been a central room or perhaps a small courtyard. We've also excavated part of two of the rooms. The first, situated in the northwest corner of the trench, opens by means of a 1.4-meter-wide door on its eastern side onto room 3. Three walls, two partly reusing walls of the older encroachment phase, delimit the space. The other room in the southwest part of the trench is connected with room 3 on its north side through a .7-meter-wide doorway. Four walls of this structure have been excavated, two of which the structure has in common with room 1. Again, all walls consist of dry-laid rubble stones as well as spolia from the sanctuary.
The archaeological material retrieved from the floors of those three rooms include Middle Byzantine artifacts (coins as well as ceramics) dating between the ninth and eleventh centuries A.D. There are as yet no indications as to the function of these rooms. The top layer covering the structures contained abandonment material, especially numerous metal objects. Among these were an enkolpion (a cross for relics), as well as a small balance dating to the Middle Byzantine period. These excavations were also recorded in detail by the new system handled by Tijl Vereenooghe (see Recording, August 1-5).