Odeion: August 5-10, 2006
During the fifth week of excavations, the team of Bart De Graeve and Marc D'Haese (K.U. Leuven) and Ugur Altay (Mimar Sinan Universitesi in Istanbul) concentrated their excavation completely on the area to the west of Corridors 1 and 2. Their first aim was to find the original level of the stage wall (scaenae frons) and of the podium inside the complex, a goal that was reached towards the end of the week. One also hoped to establish the original date of the buildings construction. A test trench along one of the walls last year suggested a date, based on ceramic evidence, around A.D. 180-210. This fits extremely well again not only with the very simple style at the time of Trajan (AD 91-117), but also and even more, because of the fluted frieze (Pfeiffenfries) with that of the Macellum (A.D. 180-191) above it (see Macellum: July 30-August 10, 2006). Yet, most probably one is dealing here with a repair.
It became clear now that the upper part of the ground floor of the stage building had already been altered considerably in a later period, but that the lowest meter still preserved many traces of the original structure. Unfortunately, only the plinth, the orthostats (large upright stones) and few elements of the original moldings above them survive in this area, the last ones only in the receding back wall sections, so that it is difficult to reconstruct the original layout. It is, however, clear that the facade of the stage was of the "tabernacle" or aediculated type consisting of projecting tabernacles (aediculae) formed by free-standing columns, alternating with doors in the recessed wall sections in between them. However, the high podia carrying the tabernacles had been almost completely stripped of both their orthostats and their mortared rubble infill, up to the level of the foundations or of the lowest course of stones. Very quickly the first aedicula) from the East (H.: 1.50 m; projection: 0.70 m; length: 2.40 m) was exposed. Only one corner stone (ca 0.70m x 0.62 m) of it, which functioned as plinth and was provided with a dowel hole and two channels for the outflow of lead after fixing the dowel (vertical iron clamp) to the lost corner socle molding above it , was still preserved above the euthynteria (the row of stones just emerging from the soil, between the lowest completely visible course of stones and the foundations of a wall). Next to it was a stage door (2.70m high and 1.15m wide) that in later times was totally blocked by a wall in mortared rubble. Just below the plinth of the stage, one immediately discovered a very compact layer of ophiolite, which is probably the natural bedrock. This should mean that there was no basement below the podium floor, at least not in this corner. At the same level, one also found a straight wall of 0.75 m is really made of a single row of ashlars located at a distance of 3m in front of the stage wall. This was probably the front wall of the podium, although at the inside of the podium it contains no other stones. Unfortunately, however, it was not yet possible to excavate the area to the north of this wall, in order to see whether it continues in depth there, as one would expect if this the front wall of the podium or scene.
In the adjoining sector, the team continued its activities northward, along the curved podium below the removed seats of the auditorium (the upper part of which was exposed last week, see Odeion: July 30-August 3, 2006). It departs from the northeast corner of the podium and the completely preserved section of the wall stands still ca. 1.50 m high. At the bottom of this wall, in front of a plain oblique socle molding, we discovered a water channel of ca. 0.25 m wide. This is built of a small brick wall on the outside, running parallel with the bigger wall made of ashlars below the podium wall itself, and is covered by horizontally placed tiles. These are leaning at the inner side upon the plinth of the podium wall. Some loose tiles were removed to take soil samples of the fill for flotation, but to our great surprise water was still running inside the channel! This kind of channel, running along the edges of the orchestras--the semicircular floors between the stage and the seats--of theaters were a normal feature in antiquity. In fact, theaters with their stones seats formed one of the largest rain-catching systems in the cities. These covered channels, sometimes provided with highly decorative exits for the water, were called a canopus (after a famous Nile River channel at Alexandria) and took the rainwater to large cisterns near the theatres. An Odeion, however, was covered and there is no doubt, as shown by the beam holes in the preserved back wall sections of the building, that this was the case here as well. Therefore the system may have been connected rather with the roof of the complex. Unfortunately, no interesting data were obtained from flotation. After removing part of the fill, the water still stood more than 10cm high. The channel could be followed to the entrance of Corridor 1 below the vaulted arch, but then we lost trace of it.
At the moment, there is no precise clue yet for dating the structure, but it is definitely a late intervention, rather belonging to the sixth century, as the water channel crosses the ashlar wall, forming the front of the podium (upper strata on ceramic evidence: sixth century) and even used it as a support there. The curved podium wall is also part of a later rebuilding, as it contains some reused building blocks of different sizes (e.g. orthostats with holes for lifting them up on the front; upper moldings with dentils that are missing in most of them), and as the bottom level is 10 to 15 cm above the original level of the podium (see Odeion: July 30-August 3, 2006).
After this week, we are certain that major interventions were undertaken in the Odeion in later periods, but we have no idea yet of the exact chronology. It is also possible that the small theater changed function in a later period, but at the moment we don't have enough data to make any firm conclusion. Anyhow, dating of the very few coins found inside the building confirmed the supposedly sixth to early seventh century A.D. date of the enormous dump of butchery refuse inside Corridors 1 and 2, once the Odeion had been given up as a concert hall or political meeting place for the city council (see Odeion: July 10-13, 2006). In fact, a very thin layer (locus 68) covering this dump inside Corridor 2 contained a coin of Heraclius and his son Heraclius Constantinus, dated to A.D. 610-640. It is also clear that ashlars from the original construction, during one of the later interventions had been recycled as facing blocks of the interior stage wall, most certainly hidden by painted stucco.
Toward the end of the week, we started to expand the excavation toward the West, along the stage wall, hoping to discover more about the layout and chronology of the podium and the stage during the last two weeks.