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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
View of the Lower Agora and of the exposed part of the N-S Colonnaded Street to the south of it
The exposed section of the Colonnaded Street. In the front and back, remains of the medieval sheep pens are visible; in the center are the removed street slabs.
The test sounding below the removed original street slabs
The excavated section of the portico. In the background, the top part of the foundation wall of the shops' facade is already partially visible.
The late antique inscribed panel probably originating from above one shop's entrance

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

Test Trenches on the N-S Colonnaded Street: July 31-August 4, 2005

This week, the street team directed by Femke Martens and assisted by Bart De Graeve (both KULeuven) finished work at the North-South Colonnaded Street. The goal was to answer a number of questions: what was the date for the layout of the pavement of the street and its portico? What was the magnetic anomaly traced on the street by last year's geophysical research? Finally, how do our new insights relate to those of a 1998 test sounding, which we carried out 5 m farther west on a presumed side street?

To meet our first aim, four slabs were lifted in the center of the street and a trench of 2.25 by 0.70 m was excavated over a depth of ca. 1.75 m. For the layout of the Colonnaded Street there was a substratum 1.45 m thick and consisting of a fill of at least 1.25 m (excavated depth), completed on top by a level of medium-sized stones of ca. 0.20 m thickness on which the slabs were set. At a depth of 1.75 m below the paved surface, the bottom of this foundation level had not yet been reached, but the trench became too deep to be safely excavated. The pottery found within this lowest foundation level could be dated in the later part of the first half of the first century A.D. The upper level of medium sized stones contained only few sherds of pottery that could be dated to the first two centuries of the Imperial period. Generally, this evidence seems to corroborate last week's hypothesis that this street may have been laid out in Early Imperial times, possibly under the emperor Tiberius, when two impressive gateways were built at its northern and southern ends.

The layout of the street, its pedestrian walkways, and the shops behind them is really grand for this period and may have been influenced by the contemporary layout of the main streets of Pisidian Antioch, the greatest Roman colony in the East. Unfortunately, almost no elements of the actual colonnade have been preserved: most of the current pedestals or column bases seem to have been placed here at a later date. Many fragments belong to Ionic capitals, which need to be studied as far as their date is concerned. In any case, several egg-and-dart fragments from Ionic capitals or other architectural elements are early Imperial in date. Together with the wide pedestrian sidewalks and the shops, this suggests an early Imperial date for the colonnade as well, thus making the Sagalassos Colonnaded Street one of the oldest preserved ones in the East.

Previous research had already shown that geological and geomorphological features of the site determined the layout of the monumental center of Sagalassos. The buildings around the Upper and Lower Agora were laid out perpendicular to the west-east orientation of the two main platforms upon which the Upper and Lower town had been built, thus causing a certain shift of orientation, where the plans of the Upper and Lower town met. The orientation of the Colonnaded Street followed the direction of the plan of the Lower Town. Yet, whereas a 1998 test on the Upper Agora showed that at this platform the natural sediments had been scraped off to lay out this market square, last week's investigation below the slabs of the lower part of the North-South Colonnaded Street showed that here instead a considerable effort had been made to create an artificial level upon which this street could be laid. To further investigate the character of this enterprise, next week geomorphologist Veronique De Laet will carry out core drillings in the bottom level of this test trench below the street's pavement.

Apart from this test sounding underneath the paving of the street, excavation within the western portico of the street was continued, to confirm the construction date and establish the history of the use of this portico. Last week, both the former floor level of the portico and part of the front wall of an adjoining shops, which seemingly stood upon this floor level, had been exposed. By expanding our trench to the west, however, and by digging deeper below the early first-century A.D. floor level of the portico, it became clear that the exposed wall of the shop in fact stood upon a high foundation wall. Because of time constraints, we could only dig 0.70 m below the top of the floor level, whereby different fill levels could be distinguished and the foundation wall was exposed over a height of 55 cm. At the base level of our excavation, however, this wall still continued. The pottery of this lowest level belonged to the second half of the first century B.C. At the eastern edge of this level, along the edge of the street, a second water pipe appeared. Both this water pipe, as well as the one found last week little further to the east seemed to have been dug into the floor level. The excavated soil surrounding these pipes contained only a few diagnostic sherds, which all belonged to the first century A.D.

In general, the excavation of this part of the portico thus allowed establishing a construction date for the portico of the colonnaded street (A.D. 25-50). The pottery of the first century B.C. of the levels below may comprise older waste material reused in a fill to create the first century A.D. floor level or may be related to an older occupation phase here. The late Roman component in the upper part of the floor level of the portico seems to relate to the removal of the pavement of this portico in late antiquity or possibly also to a rebuilding of the adjoining shop. In fact, a closer look at the inscription found last week inside the entrance of the shop, now clearly points to the reuse of an older panel in late antiquity.

Another goal was to investigate an area on the Colonnaded Street that showed an extremely high magnetization in the 2004 geophysical survey. This could be explained either by a dense concentration of metal objects, which in the case of metal slag would point to the presence of metal-working activity along the street, or a concentration of tiles. Clearing of the soil upon the pavement at the location of the anomaly showed that the latter was the case. Dense concentrations of tile finds appeared when excavating (likely deriving from the adjoining shop), but at the spot of the anomaly the street surface also appeared to have been damaged and repaired with large tiles.

In general, the pavement of the southern part of the excavated 25 m long stretch of the street proved to be in a less good condition than the northern part. In both parts ill-constructed "walls" or rather alignments of blocks had been laid out upon the pavement, seemingly for sheep pens and likely of a very late date. This was also suggested by the pottery found upon the street surface, which ranged from early Imperial times until the Byzantine period (few sherds of the twelfth-thirteenth century A.D. were found). Two other finds from this week stand out. One being a beautiful Early Byzantine horse-shaped fibula (see Conservation small finds, July 31-August 4, 2005), the other a very well-preserved city coin of Sagalassos, showing Lakedaimon (the mythical founder of Sagalassos) and Tyche, the city goddess, on one side and the head of a third-century A.D. emperor on the reverse side.

Finally, to meet our last aim the excavation trench was also expanded toward the northwest, in the direction of the 1998 test. This expansion showed that the edge of the Colonnaded Street continued northward, although some slabs had been taken out and the street had been blocked, which suggested an altered use of the street at this point. Although further excavation would be required to determine the chronology and reason for this particular alteration, the architectural arrangement of the continuing edge of the street obliterates the existence of a western side street at this location, as was initially reconstructed on the basis of an architectural survey of the late 1980s. Therefore, the 1998 trench did not show a late encroachment of shops upon the former western side street. Instead, the north-south wall structure in this trench can now be connected to this year's trench as the continuation of the line of shops, in front of which the original portico floor had been removed as well.

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