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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
General view of the palatial mansion from the southeast at the beginning of the campaign. The 2006 excavations are taking place in the upper right corner of the complex.
View of the Italian-style "atrium" (room XLV) of the palatial mansion with the "impluvium" in the foreground. In the background is the monumental entrance and adjoining large window (see blue arrows) of "representative" room XLVI.
Plan of the palatial mansion. Different background colors identify the subdivision of the mansion into smaller housing units in the late sixth century A.D.
Courtyard XXV was eventually transformed into a stable. See the troughs below the arcades and the vaulted sitting room (oecus) XXXVIII in the background.
The northeast corner of the mansion with the location of the "atrium" (room XLV) and the real edge of the complex as revealed by geophysical research in the upper left corner
View of the start of the excavations in the northeast corner of the palatial mansion. The northwest corner of the reception hall (IL) on the fourth level/terrace of the mansion is visible in the middle of the exposed section. To the left of it is space L. The twin rooms XXXI and XLIV (at different levels) are to the east of the newly exposed earth surface and to the right of them is dining hall XXII.

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

Domestic Area: July 10-13, 2006

Since 1995, excavations have been conducted in the eastern Domestic Area, a residential district to the east of the monumental city center. It was created during the city's expansion in early Imperial times, outside of the early Hellenistic fortifications. During the past ten excavation seasons it became clear that we were investigating a large, late antique mansion belonging to a family from the city's proteuontes, a land-owning provincial aristocracy. Together with the bishop, the proteuontes appointed officers to govern the cities, but actually ruled through their influence over the officials. In their palatial mansions, these aristocrats imitated the Imperial lifestyle.

Despite the fact that none of the edges of this terrace house, spread out over three different levels of a natural slope, have been recovered, no less than 49 rooms or other spaces, including courtyards, have already been exposed. On the lowest level, they include a richly decorated private bathing complex composed of four rooms, three of them once provided with a hypocaust system (heated floor) and two of them still covered with mosaics. Other spaces on the same level are a larger and a smaller arcaded courtyard with a private nymphaeum, a private dining room, and servants' quarters. Some of the latter occupied an intermediate level in the southeast corner of the house. The northern half of the mansion is occupied by a representative wing, containing an Italian-style atrium (room XLV) with a compluvium, a roof opening sloping inside, and an impluvium, a water basin collecting rain water below it. To the east of this is an elaborately decorated room (room XLVI), and to the south an L-shaped corridor (room XXXVI) with windows in arcaded niches and a staircase composed of purple schist slabs. The stairs lead to a vestibule and a waiting lounge on the third level of the house (rooms XXXV and XVII), still covered with polychrome mosaic floors. A monumental door in the waiting lounge gave access to a large "official" vaulted dining room (room XXII), and to the north are two smaller, but otherwise identical and symmetrical rooms (rooms XXXI and XLIV) only accessible from room XXII.

The building materials, construction techniques, and stratigraphical data allowed us to distinguish several building phases in the house. Whereas the main construction phase of this elite mansion, including its representative wing and bath complex, date to the fourth century A.D., some date to later periods, and still others earlier, to the second or third centuries A.D. The mansion was partially rebuilt and restored at various times, with the largest changes made after an earthquake occurred around A.D. 400. Around the middle of the sixth century, the home was subdivided into at least four smaller housing units. The gradual ruralization and decline of Sagalassos is clearly visible in these later transformations. The smaller of the two arcaded courtyards (space XXV) seems to have been used, at first, for the storage of imported and locally produced amphorae, among other things. However, towards the end of the sixth century it became a cattle stable, as shown by the high troughs below the eastern arcade, and the identification by Thijs Van Thuyne from K. U. Leuven of macrobotanical remains from rooms XXV and XXXVIII as a mixture of burnt cattle fodder and threshing remains. Together, this represents burnt, dried cow dung cakes, which in antiquity were used as fuel. At this location, they were stored in a former sitting room (room XXXVIII). All material and stratified evidence suggests that most, if not all of, the mansion was no longer occupied when it collapsed during the mid-seventh century A.D. Except for the rooms with the mosaics, all of the floors had been removed and all of the walls were stripped of their marble veneer or painted stucco coverings. The artifact assemblages clearly represent the leftovers from rooms which had been carefully emptied before their final collapse during the seventh century earthquake. This adds to the growing evidence that when the mid-seventh century earthquake struck, most of the city was already abandoned.

In line with previous excavation campaigns, we will focus this year on the late fourth-century to early fifth-century A.D. representative area in the northeast corner of the mansion. In 2005 (Domestic Area, July 24-28, 2005), geophysical research by a team under Branco Music of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia identified the northwest corner of the representative wing. It was located exactly below the middle of the road, which in the 1990s we had constructed ourselves in order to take cranes and other machinery to the Upper City. Its location suggests that there are probably two more rows of rooms to the north of the already excavated section.

Our first aim this year was to fully excavate room XLVI, located at ground level to the east of the atrium. It has a monumental entrance, a domed tetrapylon flanked by two large windows opening onto the atrium, and we found fragments of a polychrome mosaic once covering the floor of a room above it (see Domestic Area, August 7-18, 2005). Clearly, this room must have been very official in character.

Excavations in room XLVI, supervised by Dr. Inge Uytterhoeven of K. U. Leuven and students Rob Rens of K. U. Leuven and Sevgi Gercek of Mimar Sinan University in Instanbul, started on Monday in the area north of room XLIV, at the highest level of the natural slope. During removal of the topsoil, we immediately discovered two walls, each an amazing 1.75 meters wide, forming the northeast corner of room XLVI. The room's total dimensions were established as 6.0 by 6.8 meters. While excavating the next erosion layer (Layer 2), another wall with northwest-southeast orientation appeared in the northwest area of our trench, proving that we had not yet reached the northern edge of the mansion. As we had assumed earlier, another room (room IL) separated it from the street to the north of the complex. Toward the end of the week, we started the excavation of Layer 3, the debris of the gradual collapse of the building, in room XLVI. It became clear that towards the east, room XLVI ended as a large apse, with a width of about 5.20 meters and with walls standing 6.5 meters above floor level. However, on the very last day of the week a small stretch of mosaic floor was found in situ, attached to the central part of the apsidal wall. It was composed of white tiles alternating with brown, pink, blue-gray, and yellow and bordered by a thin line in green-black mosaic stones. The presence of the mosaic at this height, clearly representing a floor level, proves the existence of yet another room (room L) and yet another terrace (level 4) above room XLVI, of which the height of the ceiling can now be established as about 6.2 meters. This discovery also brings the total number of identified rooms in the mansion to 50. We believe that either apsidal room L or room XLVI below it must have functioned as a large audience hall, located near the entrance of the mansion.

The palatial mansion of Sagalassos conforms to the typology proposed by S. Ellis, who has distinguished three kinds of "representative" rooms in the late antique aristocratic house. The first group is comprised of large rectangular audience halls, mostly with a single apse on one of the small sides, in which the patronus appeared to his clientes, the dependent family heads. In general, these halls were located close to the main entrance of the house and could thus be reached easily by visitors without passing through the more private areas of the mansion. Our room XLVI could represent an example of such a hall. It was clearly separated from the more private parts of the mansion and could be entered from the atrium located behind the main entrance. The entrance to room L above it could not yet be established, but the latter certainly was not accessible from the representative spaces immediately to the south of it (rooms XXII, XXXI, and XLIV).

The second group Ellis describes is composed of triclinia, or dining rooms. Our room XL in the southern part of the complex likely belongs to this category. However, its location at the far end of the house opposite the main entrance, and the fact that it was surrounded by more private quarters, suggests that it may have been used for dining with only with family or close friends.

In large houses, a second large room with three or more apses, forming the third type of representative space, was sometimes located next to this triclinium. In this hall that could be reached by means of an individual corridor, formal dinners took place. Although our room XXII is rectangular in shape, its dimensions (14.6 by 9.3 meters), its large vaulted ceiling, and the fact that it was preceded by a richly decorated vestibule and "waiting lounge" that offered no glimpse of the private quarters of the home seem to mark this room as the "official" dining room. This hypothesis is reinforced by the fact that a door in the room's south wall gave access to a number of food storage rooms, originally located at an intermediate level, but filled up to correlate with the floor of room XXII at a later stage. During the final occupation phase some of these raised spaces were used as an open air dump for food waste, such as room XIV, which contained more than 20,000 fish and poultry remains. A staircase leading to a storage cellar (XVI) was used for dumping kitchen and serving vessels, as well as kitchen refuse like fish scales. A kind of settling tank just below the doorsill, which could be flushed with water, seems to have been used as a collector into which the food remains thrown on the floor of room XXII during dinner were swept. The leftovers of such dinners, spread over the floor of the dining room, were such a common sight that a mosaic theme of leftovers called asaroton became popular in Roman houses.

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