Anastylosis and conservation

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From the start of the excavations in 1989, Marc Waelkens realised that the project had a great responsibility toward the preservation of the excavated structures and artefacts. This resulted in a policy of the conserving all standing architecture and small finds while performing anastylosis on some of the major buildings. Anastylosis is an option for those structures of which the vast majority of the architectural elements has been preserved. These buildings can be re-erected using the original elements, only using newly carved stones of matching material, when this is structurally necessary. At Sagalassos, the only modern “concession” in this rebuilding process is to prevent corrosion and damage to the stone by replacing iron dowels and clamps by fibreglass elements and by using of epoxy resin to ensure that stones break in the same places should another earthquake occur. During the process of anastylosis many construction details of the original buildings are identified such as guiding lines, repairs which would otherwise go unnoticed. So far, the late Hellenistic Doric fountain house and the North-West Heroon have been restored according these principles, while the anastylosis of the Antonine nymphaeum is still going on.

A major challenge at Sagalassos is the preservation of walls and especially brick walls. Often the excavated structures comprise interior walls covered with plaster or wall veneer, which were not designed to be exposed to the weather conditions as they are today. In fact, the large number of frost cycles causing wet surfaces to crack forms an important threat to the site at large. For mortared walls this problem is met by replacing ancient mortar fills with new mortar using the same components as that from antiquity and by capping the walls. The brick surfaces proper, however, as well as ashlar-built structures with minor cracks or fissures still suffer and need to be protected on a yearly basis. Special conservation projects were also set up to protect mosaic floors. These are either lifted and transported to the depots or preserved in situ. The mosaic floor of the Neon Library, for example, was covered by a protective roof so that it can be displayed to the public. Wall plaster is conserved either in situ, as happened for frescoes in the basilica in the courtyard of the former bouleuterion or in the laboratory.

The excavations at Sagalassos produce tens of thousands of small finds per year, all of which are being treated by a professional team of small finds conservators before they are stored under controlled conditions in special facilities. Especially in the case of heavily corroded metals this treatment also often helps to establish the nature of the object.