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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
The stylobate of the East Portico of the Lower Agora, where we found the original location of the pedestals now in front of the steps
Luke Lavan looking for the original location of some of the honorific monuments along the East Portico of the Lower Agora

View of the reused pedestals in front of the entrance of a late antique shop or eatery encroaching upon the West Portico of the Lower Agora. In front of the lowest steps, some of the seven round holes carved into the pavement slabs to support a wooden porch can be seen (see arrows).

Pedestal set up during the later third century A.D. by a governor of Pamphylia to an unknown emperor. Later, the pedestal was laid down and turned, so that a game board could be carved on one of its sides. It lay in front of the Hadrianic Nymphaeum.

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

Surface Archaeology: July 16-August 9, 2005

Surface archaeology consists of the careful study of minor indentations, scratches, cuts and water-borne deposits on stone surfaces, which have often been overlooked by excavators and surveyors. This technique aims to spot traces of human activity cut into the stone--in the form of graffiti, game boards, wheel ruts, holes for the foundations of wooden buildings or traces of statue bases now lost. Although these traces can be difficult to date, they often form patterns, which can be reasonably interpreted when other types of evidence are considered. The most detailed surface work done this year by Luke Lavan (postdoctoral fellow at the KULeuven) has taken place on the Lower Agora. Here it has been possible to identify the original position of missing column bases along the East Portico, traced through mapping calcium deposits and areas of frost-damaged stone, which revealed where the bases had touched the portico stylobate, and water had accumulated. Through the same technique it was possible to trace the position of three statue bases along the West Portico and 6 along the East Portico, in front of columns. The dimensions of the statue base footprints were measured in order to match them to bases known from the agora. It is hoped that in this way the final display arrangement of statues along the portico will be established.

The study of indentations in the stone also revealed much about the former appearance of this space. Cuttings ca 0.5 cm deep and ca 0.20-0.50 cm were observed between columns on the West Portico, associated with damage to the corners of column bases. These probably once supported encroachment walls of the sixth century A.D., still present elsewhere in the complex. After cleaning of a great quantity of dust, a line of seven regularly spaced round holes, 10-11cm in diameter, came to light cutting into the pavement just in front of the West Portico. It seems likely that these supported wooden posts for a porch, at a time when the portico was occupied by building work, as previously, with an open portico, this roof was unnecessary. It seems very probable that the roof is associated with a porch (entrance to one of the dwellings in the encroached portico) that is defined by two reused bases on the plaza, found in front of an obvious doorway.

Perhaps most intriguing of all evidence was noted for several phases of a late drainage system for the Severan nymphaeum, probably when it no longer functioned as a monumental fountain. This included the installation of drain of irregular width along the western portico, at a late date, when the pavement had already been badly damaged. This system was never finished and was replaced by a haphazard attempt to drain the nymphaeum into its existing overflow drain. This too proved inadequate, and a second messy drain was installed, to push the water draining out of the nymphaeum away from the western portico, which was at that time probably occupied with shops and houses.

Trace evidence for everyday life was visible in many parts of the agora. Markings for a possible market stall were visible in the plaza against the western portico. Two game boards (simple cross in a circle, and a rectangle) were detected on the south side of the agora and nymphaeum steps respectively. A professionally carved game board originally coming from the Lower Agora was also identified in an adjacent stone platform. In the coolest corner of the plaza, a series of late antique Greek graffiti and a possible depiction of a man and a dog, were noted, on the northernmost column of the portico, left by generations of ancient Sagalassians.

The plaza in front of the Hadrianic Nymphaeum, the steps of the Doric Temple and the colonnaded street also revealed numerous game boards, some only visible in very low sunlight. The dating of these games is difficult, but a professionally cut game board coming from this plaza was identified with the help of Professor Werner Eck, cut onto the side of a reused statue base of the 3rd century A.D. carrying one of the very few Latin inscriptions found at Sagalassos. The base once carried an Imperial statue set up by a governor of Pamphylia. This reuse therefore must date to late antiquity, after the removal of the statue, fragments of which have been found nearby. Graffiti had been carved on the Hadrianic nymphaeum too, on a column identified in 2004, but relocated and photographed in 2005.

In the Upper Agora numerous inscribed crosses were identified, some of which could be definitely dated to the sixth century A.D., thanks to the dating of the surface on which they were inscribed. Thanks to the help of the site sculptor, it was possible to discern how long these and other such marks took to make, and if they were carved by professionals or amateurs, and with what tools. New inscriptions were located in the theatre, and on west face of the Doric Temple.

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