Suburban survey

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In 1999 intensive surveys have explored the area within a 2 hour walking limit around Sagalassos. Since the slopes of the mountain directly north of Sagalassos are so steep that they excluded any kind of cultivation and were only used as a necropolis, whereas their crest formed already the northern boundary of the city’s territory, the radius of the survey area is smaller towards the north. The methodology was developed between 1999 and 2002, and underwent several changes and improvements adapted to the terrain that was surveyed. Eventually a grid of sectors 50 x 50 m in size was adopted, which was surveyed at 5-6 m interval between the surveyors. All portable artefacts were collected, standing remains were sketched and photographed. Density and visibility counts were registered, as well as current land use and the topographical situation.

Six years of suburban surveying (1999-2004) have yielded a substantial amount of information on the (changing) role of the urban periphery. It is now possible to sketch the history of this area preliminarily as follows.

Pre-Hellenistic period (ca. 500-334 BC)

With the discovery of the site of Tepe Düzen in 2005, a new repertoire of pottery shapes and fabrics was disclosed which could be dated to the 5th to 2nd centuries BC. The same pottery has subsequently also been recognised at Sagalassos. The exact relation between Tepe Düzen en Sagalassos, and into the origins of Sagalassos, is currently under investigation.

Hellenistic period (ca. 334-25 BC)

Very few archaeological traces have been identified as dating to the Hellenistic period. In fact, the oldest ceramic evidence (few sherds) only dates back to the late Hellenistic period. Earlier evidence, in the shape of ostothecae, has been found immediately south of the city, on the steep upper slopes of the suburban area. Possibly, these upper slopes nearest to the city were in use as an extension of the city's necropoles. No evidence for habitation in the suburban zone has yet been identified.

Early and Middle Imperial period (ca. 25BC – 300 AD)

During the Early and Middle Imperial period the suburban area assumed a primarily residential character. While the upper slopes, unsuitable for cultivation or habitation, retained their funeral character, the middle slopes were the centre of occupation by the elite, as is attested by suburban villas located here.

These villas have been identified on account of their often monumental remains (ashlar walls in situ) and inventories (elements of hypocausts, mosaics, marble revetments, etc.). The monumental tombs upslope are most probably to be connected in some cases with the residents of these luxurious residences.
Some indications exist as to the economic role this suburban elite played. The presence of elements of olive presses and of ceramic evidence relating to ancient manuring, in combination with open areas that were retained in the suburban area, point to the presence of olive yards and intensively cultivated gardens or orchards.

Pollen retrieved from a sample at the Potter’s Quarter suggests the cultivation of vines and walnuts in close proximity to the city in Imperial times. The suburbia’s function as a residential area and as a provider of food products for the urban market has obviously to be related to the increasing attraction and demands exercised by Sagalassos in its growth as a regional metropolis. The decrease of indicators of lead pollution resulting from industrial activities (firing of pottery, metallurgy) in cattle bones from the 2nd century AD onward equally indicates that at that time farming activities (cattle were the prime traction animals) were carried out in more outlying areas of the city’s territory.

Indications for occupation and land use in the Ağlasun valley itself are limited. Stretches of a Roman road have been discovered and, probably alongside it, some remains of monumental tombs. Traces of farms, villas or villages, remain absent for the moment being. Pottery weathered as the result of manuring has, however, been sampled. Manuring seems to have occurred in ‘plots’ and not over long stretches in the valley.

Late Roman and Early Byzantine period (ca. 300-620 AD)

The suburban villas most probably remained in use during this period, as is attested by the late pottery found nearby, but no datable additions or reparations seem to have been undertaken. The only new architectural feature in this period is the erection of suburban churches, one of which has been located in the village of Ağlasun, adjacent to one of its cemeteries.

Various strands of evidence indicate that land use in the suburban area underwent drastic changes. The herding of animals and the cultivation of food were focussed in the immediate vicinity of the city. Pollen analysis of an early 7th century AD core sampled in the city’s baths indicates that walnut and possibly also cereals were cultivated very close to the city centre. The increase in metal trace elements resulting from industrial activities observed in bones, from the 5th century onwards, supports cultivation in close proximity to the city. Analyses of a soil sample taken behind one of the terrace walls south of the city have attested to rising phosphor levels from the 5th century AD onwards, an indication for increased manuring in the suburban area. This is also supported by archaeological evidence in the shape of weathered fine ware sherds which have been collected in the suburban area. The weathering pattern of these sherds is caused by their being included in manure that was subsequently spread on the fields. Analysis of these sherds and of their spatial relationship to identified sites within the suburbs has suggested that manuring was mainly undertaken in Late Antiquity. This evidence suggests is that the suburban area, previously a primarily residential area with some economic activity, was transformed in Late Antiquity to a primarily economically active area, increasingly generating produce for the city. Possibly, this may relate to an increasing population at Sagalassos during the Late Imperial period/Early Byzantine period. However, survey evidence from the suburbs relating to the latest main phase of occupation at Sagalassos (ca. 550 - 620 AD) has not been identified yet and it as not clear how the changes that affected the city during that period were reflected or caused by changes in the suburbs.

Byzantine, Selçuk and Ottoman period (ca. 620 -1900 AD)


Several sherds collected during 6 years of intensive surveying in the suburban area could be attributed to the Middle to late Byzantine, Selçuk or Ottoman period. Especially the glazed wares are highly recognizable and, especially when decorated or covered in a particular slip, datable. Their distribution is clearly clustered; these small clusters can be interpreted as representing the remains of hamlets or less-intensive (seasonal ?) occupations. However, a planned restudy of all coarse pottery collected will significantly add to our knowledge since ceramological research has made great progress in recognising coarse wares belonging to this late period.


In 2002 the rather well preserved remains of a small bath were identified under a house in Ağlasun’s Hamam Mahallesi. Based on its small scale and its architectural features, the hamam can be dated to the Selçuk period, most probably to the 2nd quarter of the 13th century AD.

The hamam was part of a Seljuk han, which may have constituted the core (marketplace) of several of outlying small-scale permanent or temporary settlements.