Water network

Printer-friendly versionSend to friend

As part of the doctoral and postdoctoral research by F. Martens the water network of Sagalassos is investigated. Apart from the inventory of all hydraulic evidence exposed in the large-scale excavations at the site, this research also involves a programme of test soundings accompanied by geophysical survey (magnetometry and georadar) carried out by the team supervised by B. Mušič (Department of Archaeology, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), to trace, verify and reconstruct the main lines of the urban water network. The hydraulic devices and stretches of water drainage and supply channels that have been exposed in the test soundings, so far, form part of an elaborate distribution network that was supplied by at least 5 aqueducts entering the town from the east and from the west. Recent field work also concentrates on advancing the ongoing project to develop a predictive hydrological computer model of the water network of Sagalassos in collaboration with civil engineers of the KULeuven (J. Hillewaere and P. Franken), supervised by Dr. P. Willems (department of hydraulics). By incorporating the rich but patchy evidence on the water network of Sagalassos this model hopes to predict key points in the ancient water distribution system and calculate the role within/impact upon the system of major water buildings (baths, nymphaea, etc.) and other urban water usage.

The urban development of Sagalassos, involving large building projects and the paving of extensive areas (streets, squares) must have increased the problem of surface run off making the construction of large drains necessary. Possibly from early-Imperial times onward- as confirmed by test soundings in the eastern residential area- but at the latest in the course of the 2nd century AD, when a series of large water-consuming buildings (nymphaea; bathing complexes) required the adduction of vast amounts of water into the city, a more elaborate and sophisticated water distribution and drainage network must have been laid out. As for the street system, also this network generally seems to have been well-maintained into early Byzantine times. Whereas the lavish use of water at Sagalassos during the Imperial period, indicated a dependable supply, however, the late Roman urban water system shows a different situation. The early 6th century AD earthquake apparently had a negative effect on the natural water resources and urban water provisioning, which was remedied through a more economic use, collecting and storing rain water. In the urban fabric an altered attitude toward the use and display of water now becomes apparent.

The late Hellenistic Fountain House was transformed into a water distribution point and also installations around the Northwest Heroon remained in use as distribution points. The introduction of settling basins into the system may suggest that the quality of the transported water might have diminished, but needed to remain clean to serve high quality purposes.

At various points at the site, indications were found that the collection of rain water gained in importance during the 6th century AD. At the same time also ill-constructed cisterns now start to make their appearance in the urban landscape. The fact, however, that water-consuming structures such as the Roman Baths remained in use -entirely or partly- at least until the later 6th century AD and possibly even into the 7th century, suggests that the diminished supplies were certainly not life-threatening. A number of factors induced a reversal of fortune for the town during the second half of the 6th century AD. Parts of the previously well-maintained public water distribution and sewage network were given up and the dumping and evacuation of waste seems to have become problematic, indicating a state of urban neglect.

The earthquake striking the town between 540 and 620 AD must have further disturbed the urban water network. A well-built supply channel laid out from the Upper Town upon the earthquake debris across the former Macellum and across the Lower Agora illustrated, however, that running water as well as the necessary technological skills were still present and may have been used to sustain a small community.