Territorial archaeological survey

Printer-friendly versionSend to friend

In 2008, the first of a planned three-year campaign of renewed intensive survey took place, focused on areas which were located at the periphery of Sagalassos’ territory. These surveys aim to calibrate the data from the reconnaissance surveys and to investigate the fate of these regions before, during and after they were brought under the control of Sagalassos.

The intensive survey of 2008 aimed to intensively investigate the valleys and hills near Bereket, ca. 25 km SW of Sagalassos.
This region had been the object of non-systematic reconnaissance surveys in 1996. In the course of these surveys two sites were discovered, the protohistoric site of Kale, in the Beşparmak Mountains, and the Hellenistic-Roman site of Kirselik in the valley of Bereket. Our aim was to gain information on land use and occupation in selected sections of this area, in order to correlate the archaeological information with the palynological data, showing clear human interference from ca. 200 BC onwards.

In the Bereket basin itself, making use of GPS (to plot transects in this rather flat area) and satellite images, 33 transects of lengths varying between 300 to 1200 m were walked with a distance of 20m between surveyors, in such a way that the hillslopes and the plain itself were covered. Where walking transects proved to be difficult (because of wooded areas), the surveyors crossed the area at more irregular distances. Nearly 8 km² was covered in total. Most of this area is cultivated (esp. wheat), and harvests were just finished, so survey conditions were perfect. The hills surrounding the valley are covered with wood, and here survey was more difficult.

The oldest evidence was discovered in the valley of Bereket. Some 100m east of the present-day cemetery (itself full with antiquities from Kirselik), the well-preserved remains of a höyük (an artificial hill composed of a succession of habitation layers) were discovered. It is noticeable in the landscape because of its slight swell and its distinct lighter colour. Large pottery fragments, flints, as well as fragments of painted mudbrick walls can be seen at the surface. This höyük has only recently been destroyed, as villagers tell us, but it is to be expected that, with the rate of agricultural activity in the basin, within a few years, most of it will have been ploughed out. The höyük covers nearly a hectare and its pottery most probably dates to the Early Bronze Age (ca. 3000-2000 BC).

Occupation of the höyük predates the pollen diagram of Bereket, but one can assume that the community was involved in agriculture and animal husbandry, probably on a small-scale.

For the next period, the protohistory (ca. 2000-1000 BC) and the early Early Iron Age (ca. 1000-600 BC), new data were brought to light at the site at Kale (Kökez). The site was revisited and proved to be more extensive than originally thought. It consists of a mountain top (the actual Kale Tepe), surrounded on its southern side by a wall in dry rubble. Inside, a number of structures could be delineated. South of the Kale Tepe, in a beautifully secluded “yayla”, the main area of settlement was located, on its north and south sides contained by mountain flanks, in the west and east by walls in dry rubble.

Numerous sherds were picked up, some in pristine condition, as well as a number of flint tools and grinding stones. The outline of several structures could be mapped. Preliminary dating of the pottery suggests an early occupation from the 7th to the 5th century BC, and a major occupation in Classical-Early Hellenistic times, continuing into Early Roman times, with some post-Roman activity. It is clear that occupation of the area predates the first clear signs of intensive cultivation in the Bereket pollen diagram.

Around the middle of the 4th century BC, during the Classical period (5th – 4th century BC), important changes affected the basin of Bereket. Palynological analysis has indicated that between ca. 360 and 280 BC, successive fires destroyed the natural vegetation in the valley. These fires were intentional and served to open up the landscape for cultivation. At around the same time, the valley was occupied anew. The site of Kirselik, which was resurveyed, yielded pottery of Classical to Hellenistic date. The latter period (ca. 334-25 BC) coincides with a marked cultivation phase in the pollen diagram, which saw the introduction of wheat fields and vineyards.

During the early and middle Imperial period (ca. 25 BC – 300 AD), the core of this settlement was extended (ca. 15 ha) and now incorporated several tiled buildings. Related to this settlement was a monumental tomb dated to the first half of the 1st century AD, the remains of which were detected during the 1996 survey, and a number of luxury sarcophagi.

The presence of such funeral monuments is a clear indication for elite investment and/or presence in the countryside, in the sense that aristocrats were often buried on their rural estates. Part of the tiled buildings was most probably a modest villa – no fragments of mosaics or of a hypocaust system were found, where the landowner or his/her representative lived. An inscription in the village of Bereket mentions the name of the community which was employed on this estate: Moatra. During this same period, the first 3 centuries of our era, the area near Bereket was intensively exploited. Apart from wheat and grapes, olives and pistachio were also cultivated. A press weight found during the 1996 survey had already indicated olive cultivation. In view of the high elevation of the Bereket area (1400 m asl), it is assumed that winters during the Roman period were less harsh than they are today, thus ensuring a viable olive cultivation.

During the late Roman and early Byzantine period (ca. 300 – 700 AD), the settlement at Kirselik continued its existence. However, no trace can be found of elite presence. During this period, intensive cultivation in the basin came to an end. Olive cultivation markedly declined after ca. 300 AD, followed by cereal cultivation a century later.
After the 7th century AD, archaeological traces are scarce. Coarse pottery located near a structure (farm?) in one of the small side valleys of the Bereket basin may belong to the period between ca. the 8th and the 11th century AD. The same pottery was found near some structures located on a mountain top overlooking the eastern approach to the Bereket valley

Apparently the valley was exploited/inhabited to a very moderate degree. The pollen diagram attests to the same evolution. Only small-scale cereal cultivation has been attested for this period, alongside pastures.
Ottoman glazed pottery was found in a cluster, south of Kirselik and may represent a temporary small-scale activity.

At the end of the 2008 TAS survey season, it was possible to state that the relatively isolated area near Bereket evolved along the lines attested elsewhere in the territory of Sagalassos, i.e. from a small-scale agricultural community (the höyük) during the prehistory, to a larger, fortified mountain protohistoric stronghold (the Kale). However, the next step in the evolution of the settlement pattern, one towards urbanisation and the development of larger centres, did not take place in the region of Bereket. It is not yet clear why this was the case. Either the region became incorporated into the territory of Sagalassos/Tepe Düzen or the conditions necessary for urban development (high production yeilds, dense population) did not apply. Instead a village was established in the valley which, during part of its existence, belonged to a private estate. However, already during the 5th century AD, the intensive cultivation ground to a halt and only small-scale agriculture (related to a farm) and grazing are attested for the following centuries. This early demise of the village may be due to its rather isolated location. Life resumed at the scale and intensity which was closer to that of the höyük-community than to that of the inhabitants of the Roman estate.