An interdisciplinary research project

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Already from the start of the excavations in 1990, the archaeological research at Sagalassos intended to break with the tradition of classical archaeology, which almost exclusively concentrates on civic monuments and the more representative aspects of archaeology, such as sculptures and other artworks. Although these aspects also receive attention, the main approach to the site is an interdisciplinary one, which means that all aspects of the environment and daily life in antiquity is documented by sampling and studying the preserved material evidence, whatever its nature. The ultimate goal of the Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project is to understand the origin, the growth and eventual decline of the town of Sagalassos in relation with its hinterland. On the one hand, the Sagalassos Archaeological Research Project tries to establish the settlement history of the 1800 sq. km large territory of the city and how it was influenced by and in its turn affected the regional environment. On the other hand, human subsistence strategies, the economy, trade patterns and the social history of the town itself are being studied. As a result of this interdisciplinary approach, geologists (studying mineral resources, sampling and analysing pottery), geomorphologists (studying landscape formation, sedimentation and erosion within the territory) and archaeozoologists (studying subsistence patterns, economic use of and ecological evidence provided by animals) were involved in the project right from the beginning. This interdisciplinary collaboration, which has been carried out for more than 15 years now, yielded a treasure of information on various physical and cultural aspects of the development of Sagalassos.

Geomorphologists and seismologists have identified several catastrophic events which played a major role in the landscape formation such as an eruption of the nearby Gölcük volcanoes around 13,000 BC, earthquakes around AD 500 and around the mid-7th century AD together with the seismic faults linked to these events, and massive landslides before, during and after the occupation of the site. Palynologists reconstructed the vegetation history since the beginning of the Holocene and geologists have located the provenance of most raw materials used in the town’s crafts and building industry. Archaeozoologists have systematically studied the faunal remains of the site and identified, for example, the origin of imported fresh water and Mediterranean fish. Residue analysis of lamps, cooking pots and storage vessels and macrobotanical research based on flotation contributed to the knowledge of subsistence patterns and in the latter case also of the ecological picture of the environment based on palynology.

Ceramological research, with the aid of archaeometrical methods identified Sagalassos as an important pottery-producing centre in Imperial times and provided us with a detailed insight into local craft production, extending to glass production and metallurgy as well. Together with the study of exotic building materials and coins, all this evidence enhanced the picture of the town’s regional and international trade relations. Finally, epigraphic studies produced a detailed picture, especially during the first two centuries of the Imperial period, of the local history and the role of the elite in the town’s infrastructure and embellishment. The combination of evidence from surveys, excavations, restoration activities and interdisciplinary research provided a far better understanding of the town and its history than would be possible from excavation alone. In addition, it creates the ideal framework for a contextual analysis as outlined above.