Home | Archaeology Magazine | More Digs | AIA
Archaeology's Interactive Dig
July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
View from the central tholos (see curved entablature) towards the west portico of the Macellum, with to the left, the activities in rooms 3 and 4.
Room 4 seen from the Southeast. In the left back corner, the blocked off door leading to Room 3; to the right of it, the blocked doorway once connecting it with Room 4. On the right side, the upper side of the stairway/counter (?).
Room 4 towards the end of its excavation. In the foreground a stepped surface be seen in the alignment of the blocked off door to room 1 (left). In the background, the step-like "counter" is clearly visible. The front wall contains a lot of reused half-fluted columns partially recarved as door posts documenting a first recycling before they eventually ended up in the facade of the shops; one of the kaplan postu columns is seen lying down in the portico.
Metal artifacts as well as two buttons made of bone with star-like cuttings are still lying on the counter.
The copper-and-lead alloy cross emerges from the rich deposit layer in Room 4 (left) and after preliminary cleaning (right).
Esra and some of her workmen are cleaning and conserving the plaster in Room's 3 northern alcove.
The very rich and exquisitely worked-bone finds from Room 3; notice the knife handle ending in an animal, below, and the flute, above.
Architrave of the west portico with the fragmentary building inscription

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

Macellum: July 16-27, 2006

The excavations of the Macellum continued under the direction of Julian Richard and Christine Beckers of K. U. Leuven, and Mustafa Kiremitçi of Dokuz Eylül Universitesi, Izmir.

During the 2005 season, the excavations along the western side of the Macellum showed that behind the row of shops and workshops in the back of the portico, there is a wedge-shaped void that separates these shops from a still unexcavated building that frames the southern edge of the Upper Agora. We found that this void was actually filled with additional spaces. The northern, triangular Room 2 proved to be a storage facility from the sixth century A.D., full of large jars and other storage vessels, left there until the room was filled up with dumped material and eventually collapsed (see Macellum, July 17-August 4, 2005). This storage facility apparently had nothing to do with the Macellum proper: it is located at a much higher level and seems to have been accessible only from the southeast corner of the Upper Agora. Therefore, this room was probably related to the final function of the still unexcavated rectangular structure along the southern edge of the Upper Agora. However, the function of the rectangular structure, has not yet been determined. Frangeska Megaloudi of the University of Rhodes, who in 2005 analyzed the macrobotanical remains retrieved by Koen Deforce (VIOE, Flanders) from Room 2, suggested that some of the containers may have stored barley and other subsistence goods, especially fruits and nuts. Possibly, they stored the Celtis sp. and Pinus pinea bracts and nuts that were very popular in Sagalassos. These species were also frequently found in contemporaneous layers in the large late Roman to early Byzantine palatial mansion.

To the south of this storage facility, another rectangular room was discovered, not connected to the first one and located at a much lower level. This Room 3, part of the Macellum, was only partially excavated in 2005 and was found to contain a great deal of metal objects. It was connected, through a door in its east wall, to a still unexposed frontal workshop in the west portico of the Macellum. This Room 4, which had been left untouched in 2005, adjoined the central Room 1 of the Macellum, and was originally perhaps a kind of shrine, and was later transformed into a workshop. While in use as a workshop, antler bones of fallow deer were used to produce beautiful artifacts there (see Macellum, July 31-August 18, 2005; Small finds conservation, 2006).

During the second week of the current campaign, the team focused its activities for the first time on Room 4. Under a thick layer of collapsed roof material, mainly tiles, one of the richest deposits of artifacts ever discovered at Sagalassos was found. The pottery from this layer, studied by J. Poblome and Ph. Bes, both of the ICRATES Project, K. U. Leuven, provided a date during the transition from phase 8 to phase 9 of the locally produced Sagalassos red slip ware. This would date the layer to the second half of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century A.D.) Thus, this layer was not immediately covered by debris from the earthquake of the A.D. 640s, but was already abandoned by then and left to fall into decay, without even removal of many of its valuable contents. We have no explanation thus far for why this might have been the case. It is even more striking considering that the complex was located along one of busiest streets in the whole city and in the immediate vicinity of the Upper Agora. However, a more in-depth study of the ceramic remains during our last days indicated that Room 4 contained much more phase 9 material (ca. A.D. 550/75-650/75) than previously assumed, and sherds from different findspots were joining. A more careful study of the type of pottery and its breaks, compared with the type and function of the other materials left behind, should establish whether or not the richness of Room's 4 artifacts was a result of the fact that it was destroyed by the severe earthquake of the A.D. 640s.

[image] Left, some of the ceramic vessels retrieved from the rich deposit layer in Room 3 (a Christian rider saint and an oil flask, a miniature jar and an oinophoros, which could have been used for carrying holy water.) Right, some of the many glass flasks found inside the room. [image]

The room itself (4.70 by 3.65 meters) was bounded on the east, the north, and the west by three walls built of mortared rubble and brick masonry. The northeast corner contained what looks like a short staircase; however, it does not seem to connect to another staircase descending towards the walking level of the portico. Therefore, one cannot exclude the possibility that the "staircase" may have actually served as a kind of counter in a window opening onto the portico. Its stepped shape may be the result of the southern edge of the counter being knocked off during the building's destruction. On top of this counter, a small deposit of metal and worked-bone objects was found. The room also contained two doors filled in at a later date. They show that at some time, Rooms 1, 3 and 4 formed a separate unit within the Macellum, and room 3 opened to a now blocked-off room in the west part of the Macellum.

The chronology of, and the reason why the late Roman-early Byzantine four room complex of the Macellum was subdivided into further individual spaces and eventually went out of use remains unexplained thus far.

During the phase just preceding this, Room 3 could only be reached from Room 4, which itself was only accessible from Room 1. The deposit lying just above the floor of Room 4 yielded an impressive quantity of ceramic, metal, glass, worked-bone artifacts, and faunal remains. The variety of metal artifacts was particularly striking: knives, suspension and locking devices, nails, pins, bells and belt pieces, parts of a necklace and of earrings, and exquisite metal figure of a goat (see also Small finds conservation, July 30-August 3, 2006) have been recorded, together with a 13-centimeter-high decorated cross in copper and lead alloy, which was found completely preserved (See Find of the week, July 16-27, 2006). The cross had four holes, indicating that it was meant to be attached to something else. According to N. Kellens, its decoration of dotted circles is rather peculiar, as this motif is usually considered to be a kind of pagan apotropaic symbol against disaster. Therefore, its presence on the cross here might reflect an effort to obtain a double protection for a shopkeeper or his clients, whose religious convictions were not yet very solid. The presence of worked-bone artifacts--handles, pendants, buttons, hair pins--and of antler remains confirms the evidence for antler processing activities pointed out by the zooarchaeologists last year in Room 1. Whereas Room 1 contained mainly the rough or only partially worked antler material of fallow deer, Room 4 contained the finished artifacts in bone or metal, some of them among the highest quality artifacts ever discovered at Sagalassos. This might explain their storage in Room 4, which could be locked. Among the ceramic finds, there were several dolia (large, spherical vessels) and small pilgrim's flasks (oinophoroi). Soil samples were also taken from the deposit in order to carry out further contextual analysis based on flora and fauna remains. They should provide us with further information on the function of the room.

We continued the excavation of Room 3, which had already begun in 2005. Room 3 was accessible by a door in the west wall of Room 4. Under a thick layer of collapsed material, a rather peculiar structure was unearthed against the north wall. It consists of a kind of vaulted alcove or arcosolium (1.88 by 1.11 meters) that was plastered inside. It is located in the northeast corner of the room, just behind the blocked off door that connected with Room 4. Its exact function will have to be determined at a later stage, although it seems likely that it was an alcove for the shopkeeper's bed. In the collapse deposits filling the room, several ceramic and metal artifacts were discovered, such as chains and a late oinophoros representing a hunting scene.

During the third week of the campaign, it was decided to focus on two sectors located immediately to the south of the two rooms explored so far. The aim of extending the excavation area was to locate the southwestern edge of the commercial complex, together with the southern half of rooms 3 and 4. Almost immediately, these south walls emerged. They are formed by a well-preserved wall running over the two sectors, following an east-west orientation. The wall, made of large limestone blocks set in a mortar bed, is preserved up to a height of 1.55 meters. It probably represents the south enclosure wall of the Macellum complex. The first zone selected for excavation was the southern half of Room 3. Underneath the collapse/erosion layer, we reached the dark deposit lying just above the floor level. We had noticed this layer in the northern part of the room and it could be dated to the second half of the sixth and the early seventh century A.D. It yielded the same impressive amount of high-quality artifacts, mainly glass and worked bone. Among the best preserved finds were fragments of glass flasks and extremely well-preserved worked-bone artifacts, such as pendants, buttons, and a knife handle carved in the shape of an animal head. Two ceramic oil lamps and one dolium (large terra-cotta container) were also found. At this stage, we can already conclude that the content of Room 3 is slightly different from that of Room 4: Less metal artifacts were found, but we recovered more high-quality worked bone and glass. The floor of the room, made of beaten earth, should be excavated over the course of the next week.

The southern half of Room 4 was excavated during the second half of the third week. In the debris layer, two fragments of the west portico's inscribed architraves were found. They are carved in beautiful characters over the fasciae (stepped subdivisions) of the architrave. As the fasciae decrease in height from top to bottom, they in turn decrease the height of the characters, sometimes resulting in the same character being represented in different shapes. The most important inscription, spread over only two of the three fasciae of the architrave, had not been read in the 1880s by the [early excavator] Polish aristocrat Karl Count Lanckoronski. However, with the help of other fragments from his published text, which covered the entablature of the Macellum's internal courtyard over at least three sides, we could decipher it easily.

The lost characters are mentioned between brackets, but do occur on other pieces of the architraves. Those that are a mere assumption stand between accolades. The preserved characters on our specific architrave are shown in bold. Thus, the first two lines must be read as follows:

[Publius Aelius Antiochos Akulas, son of Neon, grandson of Rhodon, great-grandson of Konon and after-great grandson of Konon, has built for eternity, because of the victory of the Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius C{ommodus}] Antoninus and dedicated, [to his most brilliant and sweetest fatherland, the first city of Pisidia, the friend and ally of the Romans, as high-priest of the emperor]s, next to other generosities which he had bestowed on it (= fatherland), [the Macellum for a price of 13,000 denarii.........].

This P. Aelius Antiochos Akulas was the first scion of a local aristocratic family that was granted Roman citizenship under Hadrian. Antiochos Akulas had married a noblewoman whose family had also received Roman citizenship under Hadrian, P. Aelia Oulpiana Noe. After her divorce from Akulas, Noe led the construction of the Antonine Nymphaeum, as well as a well-preserved mausoleum along the road leading to the city from the southwest for her second husband, P. Flavius Severianus Neon. It seems that the members of this estranged couple were trying to surpass one another by building impressive, but utilitarian monuments, for the city and respectively assuring the city's water supply and providing a place for the sale of luxury goods. There can be no doubt that, even if Akulas' building was more valuable economically, his wife's structure surpassed his in opulence and sheer visibility.

H. Devijver identified the imperial victory in the inscription as the victory of Marcus Aurelius over the Parthians, and dated the whole construction to A.D. 167. Conversely, a kappa recorded by Lanckoronski after the name "Aurelius" on one of the other architraves after the name Aurelius seems to identify the emperor as Marcus Aurelius' son and successor, Commodus (A.D. 180-192). Commodus, after his murder, suffered the damnatio memoriae. This means that throughout the Empire, his public images were destroyed and his name was erased from all public inscriptions. It is clear that on this architrave, the name before Antoneinos has been carefully removed, so the identification of the emperor as Commodus becomes likely. Yet, later in the campaign, other entablature pieces with much longer erasures were identified, suggesting to our epigraphist Prof. W. Eck that we are dealing with the removal of two imperial names. This requires further study.

Below the layer with the inscription, the same rich deposit found in the north part of the room was reached. Once more, it yielded a large amount of high-quality finds: dolia, a few worked-bone artifacts, metal (mainly nails and locking devices), and a very well-preserved stone plate. We also found a statuary fragment depicting an eagle. Unfortunately, the head was missing and some of its other parts were damaged. The greatest concentration of high-quality goods ever found at Sagalassos, in Rooms 1, 3, and 4, confirms the literary evidence that macella were not aiming for the lower classes as their primary customers.

The excavation of so many floor levels was an occasion to send many soil samples for flotation. The results of the research should be available in the following weeks, together with the information yielded by the other scientific analyses. At first glance, however, the macrobotanical evidence seems to be rather meager, which is not surprising for a workshop that specialized in high-quality ceramic, metal, bone, and glass products.

Next week, we should finish the excavation of Rooms 3 and 4 and begin to focus on the zone adjacent to them on the eastern side. We hope to find the portico surrounding the Macellum's courtyard.

Previous pageNext page

InteractiveDig is produced by ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine
© 2010 Archaeological Institute of America

Home | Archaeology Magazine | More Digs | AIA