Home | Archaeology Magazine | More Digs | AIA
Archaeology's Interactive Dig
July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
View of the Lower Agora and the Colonnaded Street from the North
View from the south of the newly exposed street segment at the beginning of the campaign
Rusticated ashlars with drafted edges support the stylobate (layer supporting the colonnade) in the northern part of the exposed street section.
The exposure of the street from the south toward the end of the week.

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

The North-South Colonnaded Street: July 10-13, 2006

A preliminary study of the Colonnaded Street was already carried out during the architectural survey of the late 1980s, which recorded the remains of the 280-meter long artery that were visible above the ground. During last year's campaign (see N-S Colonnaded Street, July 16-August 4, 2005), the pavement of the street was cleaned over a distance of 25 meters and over its full width. Two soundings, one below the pavement and one within the western portico of the street, established a construction date within A.D. 25-50.

The excavated 25 meter-long stretch of the main north-south Colonnaded Street was exposed in the northernmost of its three sections. In order to overcome the difference in the height of the ground, the street surface not only gently slopes toward the south, but is also interrupted by two monumental staircases. A third staircase links the whole system to the Lower Agora. The northernmost of these three sections was already in existence in Hellenistic times: during past test soundings a Hellenistic monument was identified west of the Colonnaded Street, and the street's southern end is bordered by a gateway flanked by two Hellenistic towers. This must have been the southernmost section of Hellenistic Sagalassos. Test soundings and coring below the pavement slabs (see N-S Colonnaded Street, July 31-August 4, 2005) made it clear that both the street and its sidewalks were arranged on top of an artificial fill more than 1.5 meters thick, dated to the second quarter of the first century A.D. Except for some partially recycled bases, most of the column fragments had disappeared, but some small fragments of capitals, probably Ionic, and of entablature profiles, both dating to the same period, were found. This suggests that a colonnade protected the sidewalks from the beginning of their existence. This would make the Sagalassos street, dated to the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37), one of the oldest examples of a colonnaded street in Anatolia. Even more impressive, the central part of the street could not be used for wheeled traffic because of its three stairways, and shows no traces of weathering by wheels. This means that the whole monumental street could only be used by pedestrians and perhaps by some pack animals such as mules and donkeys. Except for a small section in the southwest corner of the street segment that was exposed last year, the original pavement did not seem to have been altered.

The 2006 campaign expanded the exposed part of the street another 20 meters toward the south, until only a few meters north of the Hellenistic South Gate. The excavations are being directed by Ine Jacobs and Ralf Vandam, both of K. U. Leuven, and by Tayfun Isiklar of Dokuz Eylül Universitesi of Izmir, Turkey. Over a period of three weeks, we intend to clear more of the pavement towards the south, as well as extend a test sounding from last year's campaign in the western portico's sidewalk (see N-S Colonnaded Street, July 31-August 4, 2005) in a northern direction. If time allows, one of the shops behind the portico's sidewalks will also be exposed, in order to answer questions about the layout, chronology and possible building phases of the shops, as well as changing functions of both walkways and shops.

The expanded excavated southern street segment, which considerably improves the visibility of the street for visitors, seemed to have been interrupted again by the repair of the Hellenistic wall circuit around A.D. 400. The pavement is well preserved and was obviously well maintained into late antiquity. There are signs of repairs with brick and smaller stone slabs along the western edge of the street, while along the opposite side some slabs are replaced by a fill of rubble and brick fragments. The slight incline of the pavement to the south allowed a natural run-off of rainwater. In the southern section, this drainage left deep and narrow grooves in the slabs.

Colonnaded streets typically possessed porticos, which could be accessed by one or more steps, which carried the columns. In contrast, the main street of Sagalassos seems to have been bordered by straight walls that increased in height and number of courses towards the south. These walls are made of isodomic layers of elongated ashlars with drafted edges, a stone surface treatment that was very popular in early Imperial Sagalassos. Whereas in the northern part of the exposed 45 meters of road, only one course of ashlars is visible, their number rises to three near the Hellenistic South Gate. The height of all of the courses is 0.33 meters, and the width of the stones at least 0.64 meters everywhere, while their length varies from 1.02 to 1.48 meters. The back sides of all of the stones are irregular and rough, so that they are perfectly incorporated into the fill of mortared rubble behind them. This rather unusual method of colonnade support was made possible by the strong incline towards the south of the street, which descends no less than 1.35 meters over the total exposed length of 45 meters; a slope of three percent. This allowed for the building of a continuous, uninterrupted horizontal portico on either side of it.

Another possible building method would have involved subdividing each of the three street segments into several sections with sideway steps, which would have resulted into stepped roofs on either side of the street. However, this would have made the appearance of the colonnade less impressive. The fact that the structures on either side of the street, because of their increasing basement towards the south, could maintain a horizontal level over the total length of each street section in between two monumental stairways, must have increased the perception of a great length for each street section. This effect would hardly have been achieved without the presence of a real colonnade, and this is further evidence of its existence from the beginning of the street's construction. A disadvantage was that, whereas at the northern end of each section pedestrians could easily step onto the sidewalks, this was no longer the case toward the south. Over the total length of the 45 meters of exposed street surface not a single stairway gave access to enter the lateral walkways, which towards the south were supported by a 0.99 meter high wall, composed of three ashlar courses. Most likely such a stairway existed in the still unexcavated section immediately north of the Hellenistic South Gate.

One peculiar feature, which thus far remains unexplained, is that these supporting walls were on either side interrupted by a small rectangular exedra (0.9 by 0.9 meters; 0.91 meters in height) that do not face each other. Hopefully, the function of these semi-circular recesses will be determined in the following weeks.

The removal of the sediment that had accumulated on the pavement revealed traces of encroachment in the form of small structures made of rubble and brick. During last year's campaign, several of these walls were discovered, standing perpendicular towards the western edge of the street. Finally, we uncovered a walking level on top of a layer of material destroyed in the A.D. 650 earthquake, which suggests that even after that catastrophe, the city was not completely abandoned.

Previous pageNext page

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

Home | Archaeology Magazine | More Digs | AIA