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Map of the Roman Baths with the central frigidarium 2 and the hall with six piers to the north of it
View of the north hall with six piers and the central frigidarium 2 with four massive piers
The crane at work in frigidarium 2

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

Roman Baths: July 17-21, 2005

As noted last week (see Roman Baths - July 10-14), excavations this year focus on the huge bath complex's eastern side. There, a squarish central hall defined by four huge ashlar piers, most probably a frigidarium or cold-water bath, was flanked north and south by two identical and symmetrically placed halls each defined by two rows of three smaller piers. Our excavations are now concentrating on the frigidarium and the hall north of it.

This week, both teams once again had to remove large numbers of ashlars originating from the frigidarium piers and one or more arches, which they carried on the shorter sides of the central structure (span of 12.10 m). Until now, no fewer than 213 ashlars, some weighing several tons, have been removed by the mobile crane skilfully operated by Tufan Ayan and transported to a stone platform. As yet, it still is unclear what kind of roof these piers supported. At least the west and east row of the latter carried a large arch made of ashlars. The four piers still stand to a height of 7.20 m. After measuring the height of several rows of ashlars, apparently fallen from the southeastern pier, we calculated that the minimum height of the latter was between 11.46 and 12.18 m. This central hall must have been a masterpiece of ashlar construction. As both teams are still removing the top layers, no major finds have been made yet. Once again pottery, pieces of marble revetment slabs (crustae), as well as metal clamps and nails represent the most common finds.

At the end of the week, the RB 1 team excavating the northern hall discovered painted and carved characters on two piers in the western row. Blocks of the central pier had four inscriptions applied in red paint. One was so worn that it has become unreadable, the position of another one at the moment makes it too dangerous to read. But the other two were found in a fairly good condition. One, about 30 by 9 cm, reads NEIKO, probably an abbreviation of Neikosthenes. The other, 20 by 19 cm, and written as a monogram could be identified as AL (for Alexandros). As this monogram upside down, the paintings must have been applied before the placement of the blocks. On the northwestern pier, a carved marking measuring 22 by 19 cm was found, but has not been read yet. The function of these painted and carved characters is clear. In antiquity, stone carvers who gave blocks their final shape on a building site were paid per stone. So it was common practice for carvers to indicate their names on the stones. Usually, this was done with carvings that were removed when the walls were smoothed after the completion of the building, but here most were painted. They are so well preserved because the blocks were never smoothed. Clamp holes show that these piers were originally covered with marble revetment slabs set in a mortar layer. Possibly after the earthquake around A.D. 500, the marble veneer of the upper part of the piers was replaced by a layer of whitish stucco that sealed the inscriptions. The conservation team of Selçuk Baser has treated the paintings to preserve them.

[image]Painted stone carvers' marks on the
central pier of the north hall
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