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July 2003-July 2010InteractiveDig Sagalassos
View of the debris and architectural fragments from the stage building covering the central part of the orchestra
Stone with a dowel hole, most probably to fix one of the wooden posts supporting the roof structure
View of the upper part (with profile) of the auditorium's tall podium.

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

The Odeion: July 6-10, 2008

A short campaign of 3 weeks is scheduled at the Odeion for this year. The main reason for this limited research period is the fact that the seats of the auditorium were almost completely removed already in late antiquity, as a result of which the heavily weathered curved back wall--full of cracks and later repairs--might collapse if the debris replacing the limestone seats is removed. Therefore, the aim of this campaign is to remove only the upper strata of the orchestra, so that we can see its original shape and the upper part of its podium wall, which was preserved in the sections excavated last year. A second goal is to further expose the western section of the "scaenae frons" (interior façade of the stage building). The excavation team this year consists of Bart De Graeve, Hendrik Uleners (both KU Leuven) and Uğur Altay (Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul). The main area of interest is the east half of the orchestra, which was only very partially uncovered in 2006. As the top layer is composed of lots of debris and large building blocks, the works during this first week were mainly focused on the registration and removal of architectural fragments. Most of them seem to originate from collapsed parts of the semicircular back wall, whereas some decorated blocks such as fluted friezes and parts of door lintels jambs probably belonged to the stage wall (scaenae frons).

Although at first sight not of special interest, the most important and valuable find of this first week was an oblong stone (L: 0.38 m) with slightly curved long, but semicircular small sides and a circular hole of 0.115 m diameter in its upper surface. The latter looks like a pivot hole for a wooden door, but shows no traces of weathering. Moreover, for reasons of stability pivot holes are usually carved in door socles and not in isolated stones. Therefore, the most likely interpretation is that the hole acted as a dowel hole for a circular dowel carved in the lower part of a timber pole that was part of the support system of the Odeion's roof in order to fix it below. Contrary to most semicircular odeia or bouleuteria (council houses), which are surrounded by a rectangular structure, allowing the use of a saddle roof system (e.g. Miletus, Athens, Priene, Aphrodisias, Nysa, Iasos etc.), the Odeion at Sagalassos had no such surrounding rectangular structure. As a result, it must have been covered by a "tent" roof, a structural feature well known since Classical (Prytaneion at Athens) and Hellenistic times (Philippeion at Delphi, Tholos at Epidauros).


View of the auditorium at the start of the week. The beam holes placed at quite some distance below the cavea's back wall are clearly visible.

Toward the south, the tent roof must have been partially cut off by the stage wall and the stage building. The former must have had a slightly curved upper edge corresponding with the cut off section of the cone-shaped roof, whereas the latter may have been a rectangular structure with either a saddle roof or with a sloping roof. The whole roof was probably supported in the orchestra by a single colossal column, of which the tall pedestal like base was found in 2005 inside the intermediary platform of corridor 2--part of the VIP entrance--and clearly placed their for future recycling. From the capital and its abacus (horizontal square plate covering the capital) of the central column a radiating row of timbers, like the spokes of a wheel, connected the former to the beam holes still visible in the back wall of the auditorium. Yet their span must still have been too large for the enormous weight of the tiled roof. Therefore, additional supports, consisting of wooden posts fixed into stones like the one found this week, must have reinforced the whole system. The location of the beam holes far below the upper part of the auditorium's back wall may have served a double purpose: to collect the rainwater which the roof must have been caught in large quantities: at regular intervals, terracotta pipes must have led this water to the kind of gutter system that last year was exposed below the auditorium along the back wall of the building and eventually took the water to cisterns, one of which was also excavated last year below the auditorium. A second purpose of the back wall being higher than the lower part of the roof may have been to protect the roof from whatever debris coming down the steep slope above it.

As hoped for, on the last day of the week, we reached the top level of the auditorium's podium. The easternmost corner of this curved structure was already exposed in 2006, as was a very small part in 2007. The construction was not preserved up to the same height everywhere though, but the wall still stands between 1.5 till 2m above the original floor level. On top of the wall, we immediately had to build a wall in tiles to support the fragile profile that was uncovered below the area of the cavea, excavated in 2007, as high as the lower part of the maenianum's (small circular corridor separating the VIP seats at the front from the rest of the auditorium seats for the common people) lower back profile. During the next two weeks we will further concentrate on the two sectors of the orchestra, and finally we will also further clear the part of the stage wall toward the west, where we stopped in 2006.

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