Territorial survey

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Settlement history and patterns of Sagalassos and its territory

In 1993 surveys in the territory of Sagalassos were initiated. Over the next 6 years (1993 - 1998) the area which the city controlled in Antiquity was completely covered by surveys in order to gain an insight into the evolution of settlement in Sagalassos’ ancient territory (ca. 1200 km²). This research was based on a systematic visit to all villages in the area, interviews with the local population concerning their knowledge of archaeological remains in the neighbourhood, a study of the significant toponyms and a reviewing of the existing literature on this area of Pisidia.

In this way more than 250 sites could be located on a previously virtually blank map, ranging in dates from the Epipalaeolithic to the Ottoman period. Pottery, glass, metal and other archaeological finds were sampled for dating and archaeometric research, and the sites’ location and topographical characteristics were described in detail, GPS-ed and supplemented by photographs. The limitations imposed by the survey strategy, however, allowed only broad chronological trends to be detected.

Evidence for a Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic exploitation (... – ca. 16.000 BP) in the territory of Sagalassos is scarce. Possibly this lack of early traces does not reflect reality. In general the survey strategies which were used by us and previous scholars have been deficient in locating smaller sites. Moreover, the chances of finding traces in situ in caves, one of the preferred places for habitation, is small because of repeated occupation of the caves. Finding small open-air sites in situ is even more subject to failure. However, based on the characteristics of Lower, Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites elsewhere in Turkey, and in the Eastern Mediterranean at large, one can expect sites to have been located close to water (coastal locations or inland locations along (the smaller tributaries of) major rivers which are considered the natural migration routes for game), near raw materials and providing shelter. In this respect the area of the Aksu, and in particular its two tributaries, the Ağlasun Çayı and the Isparta Çayı, are prime areas for Palaeolithic exploitation/occupation. Both chert and flint suitable for tool production are present in the local autochthonous limestone around the Ağlasun Çayı. Moreover, it is exactly here that Epipalaeolithic finds (Karain cave at Dereköy) have been made (see below). Maybe these sites reflect a tradition going back to some time in the Palaeolithic. More evidence on habitation/exploitation in the territory of Sagalassos has been discovered for the period after the last glacial maximum. Evidence for the Epipalaeolithic (ca. 16.000 – 10.000 BP) was excavated at the cave of Karain (Dereköy), east of Ağlasun.

The first evidence for a more permanent type of settlement dates to the Early Neolithic period (ca. 10.000 – 8000/7500 BP). Thanks to excavations at Hacılar (by J. Mellaart) and Kuruçay (by R. Duru), both located in the Lake Burdur plain, quite a lot is known on life and subsistence during the Early Neolithic period. The village’s inhabitants still lived to an unspecified degree of hunting and gathering. As such, the site is a good illustration of the very gradual transition towards a new way of life. Possibly, the new subsistence system, based on agriculture and animal husbandry, reached the Lake District from the East, since some of the crops attested at Hacılar (such as emmer and chickpea) do not occur here in the wild. After these tentative beginnings, a real explosion of sites engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry characterises the subsequent the Late Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age (ca. 6500 - 2000/1900 BC). Not only have sites numbers increased dramatically, sites now occupy areas which previously did not yield any trace of occupation. The majority of the sites are höyuks, artificial mounds resulting from a succession of habitation layers.

The fact that höyüks are lacking in the northeastern part of the territory of Sagalassos, may be related to the restricted availability of arable land here, and/or to the fact that in this area the hunter-gatherer way of living continued far longer than elsewhere. Two triggers are probably responsible for the relatively rapid spread of settled life in the form of höyüks. The Holocene global warming caused intramontane lakes to shrink. As a result of this new and very fertile land became available for exploitation. Innovations such as irrigation, the secondary-products revolution and the strategy of mixed farming were introduced which resulted in an increased production. The increased availability of a surplus may have led to demographic growth, in turn setting off an increase in settlement numbers. The availability of a surplus also brought about the viability of economic specialisation on a small scale -craftsmen working inside the community-, and on a larger scale -settlements involved in special purposes. This economic specialisation may have made possible the existence of (full-time) secular and/or religious leaders, supervising the destination of surplus production. The communities inhabiting the höyüks were probably organised along the line of tribal societies or simple chiefdoms.

An apparently abrupt break in settlement continuity occurred at the end of the Early Bronze Age. Numerous explanations have been put forward but what is certain is that this is also the period of sustained and sometimes violent immigrations of Indo-Europeans (Luwians in the West, the later Hittites in the East). These immigrations seem to have had a profound effect on settlement patterns. In the wake of a new political structure (the state), a nucleated settlement pattern prevailed in which fortified mountain centres constituted the core of the settlement system, at least in the region of Sagalassos. These centres probably emerged during the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2000/1900 – 1600 BC) and continued their existence into the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1600-1000 BC).

Such sites are surrounded by circuit walls in big limestone blocks. Inside, within the fortified area, no traces of structures seem to have survived and pottery is also almost lacking. Therefore these sites are considered to be refuge centres in which a more scattered population congregated in times of danger. One example of such a fortified hill-top centre was Sagalassos/Sallawassa/Sallusa, mentioned in Hittite sources of the 14th century BC. Sagalassos was then located on the eastern border of Arzawa Minor, one of the lands constituting the state of Arzawa, a rival to Hittite power in the west. The Arzawa state was probably modelled on the Hittite structure, and a king reigned over a number of dependent clients (chiefs, princes ?).
After the collapse of the international and interregional economic and political network at the end of the LBA, new political entities ruled over the Sagalassos’ area: at first the Phrygians (9th to early 7th century BC), followed by the Lydians (early 7th century - 547/6 BC), who were in turn defeated by the Persians (547/6 – 334 BC). This period covers the Early Iron Age (ca. 1000-334 BC) and was in the territory of Sagalassos characterised by a landscape dominated by small communities on prominent landscape features, such as low-rising hills in plains, or mountain tops, probably under the leadership of a chief. Often these sites were walled (fortification or status symbol). During the second half of the period urban communities developed. One of these was Sagalassos/Tepe Düzen, but a number of other independent city-states dotted the later territory of Sagalassos and its adjacent regions, such as Kapıkaya (Typallion ?), Kepez Kalesi, Hisar, Belören (Keraitae) and Yarımada (Darsa). The roots of some of these settlements went back to the LBA, such as Sagalassos/Salawassa/Sallusa and Yarımada (Darsa).

At the onset of the Hellenistic period (334 - 25 BC), when Alexander ventured into northern Pisidia, he must have been confronted with a number of independent city-states. However, gradually larger territories were formed through amalgamation of smaller communities, by way of forceful suppression or voluntary subjugation. This process was active during most of the Hellenistic period. Its ultimate outcome at the end of the Hellenistic period was the emergence of Sagalassos as a regional centre when the city had established control over a large territory, stretching from Lake Burdur in the west to the Aksu in the east, and from the Akda in the north to the southern flank of the Beparmak mountains in the south. Since during the Hellenistic period, internal and international warfare was rather common, emphasis was on the defensive factor in settlement location. When more peaceful conditions emerged, from the 2nd century BC onwards, other settlement factors came into play. The inherent advantages of Sagalassos’ location and the natural assets of its territory -its water abundance, its fertile soils, its available raw materials, and its good connections with /through major arteries- fuelled the development of the city as a regional centre. At the same time, from the 2nd century onwards, one may postulate a reoccupation, or a more dense occupation of the plains by a variety of settlement types of which, now, durable remains have been discovered, although many more may still be undiscovered. At Sagalassos itself, a building program was set in at exactly the same time, to reach its zenith, in the Hellenistic period at least, in the 1st century BC, once the city was a real urbanised centre which possibly attracted more settlers in its neighbourhood. Finally, greater security, combined with favourable climatic conditions, provided a forceful stimulus to the growing of olives in many parts of the city’s territory.

Plenty of archaeological evidence is available for the early (late 1st century BC - 1st century AD), middle (2nd - 3rd century AD) and late (4th - mid 6th century AD) Roman period in the territory of Sagalassos.
The settlement pattern during the Imperial period was characterised by a boom in settlement numbers, a spread of habitation over the plains and mountains, and a wide variety in site characteristics and functions.
The first and second of these phenomena can be explained by referring to the pacification scheme for Pisidia established by Augustus, which combined a temporary military presence, the establishment of colonies and the improvement of road infrastructure. These measures set in a period of stability and peace. The presence of an important group of foreign settlers, an excellent road infrastructure, the opening up of a ‘world’wide economy thanks to the Roman imperium, all worked together to strengthen and further elaborate the role of Sagalassos as a regional and supra-regional centre. Peace and stability also led to a remarkable increase in the occupation of the territory of the city, especially in the plains which apparently now, after ca. 2 millennia, again became a focus of settlement. In order to provide Sagalassos with its necessary goods, a network of local centres was established, the origin of which go, at least in some cases, may go back to late Hellenistic times already. These centres functioned as the collecting points of taxes, agricultural and possibly other goods from the countryside to be siphoned to the metropolis, either directly or by way of markets. These local centres were the seats of farmers, craftsmen and landowners with estates in the neighbourhood.
The latter, if citizens of Sagalassos, constituted a physical link between the centres, the countryside and the city.
It seems safe to postulate the continuation of this prosperous situation of socially and economically interconnected centres throughout the entire Imperial period. Only the Isaurian raids of the 4th and 5th centuries AD may have had their effect on Sagalassos’ countryside, resulting in a tendency of nucleation at less accessible locations, away from the plains. These less accessible sites provided good opportunities for the breeding of sheep and goats, the importance of which seems to have increased from the first half of the 5th century onward, as suggested by faunal remains retrieved from the excavations at Sagalassos. The new emphasis on sheep and goat can be explained as an investment strategy, in that the possibility of losing part of the herd would pose less of a financial risk than the loss of part of a herd of cattle, and that sheep and goat are more easily moved. This change in subsistence strategies may also be related to a prevailingly insecure political and economic climate. However, the Isaurian threat should not be overstressed: most of the less accessible sites were not fortified, and habitation in the plains and on the lower slopes remained important throughout the Late Imperial period. Varied, intensive cultivation (including that of olives, cereals, grapes, walnut, manna-ash and chestnut) still took place in some of the basins in the territory of Sagalassos, as indicated by palynological research.

For the early Byzantine period (ca. mid-6th to 8th century AD) in the territory of Sagalassos, survey work has recorded a decreasing number of sites, primarily the result of a further settlement nucleation. Life in villages was favoured at the detriment of smaller sites. The Early Byzantine period also saw a further increase in the importance of strategically located habitation sites on hill or mountain tops. The Christianization of the countryside is also attested by the presence of churches at or in close proximity to village sites.

Clear economic changes can be perceived in the countryside. Rural sites became increasingly involved in economic activities previously confined to the city, such as ceramic production and metallurgy. This apparent rural prosperity coincides remarkably well with the description, in the Justinian Novellae, of a Pisidian countryside dotted with very large, populous villages despite a decrease in the total number of rural sites.

Few archaeological traces remain of a possible Byzantine, Selçuk and Ottoman occupation (post–7th century). The Arab and Turkish raids and the subsequent of Turkish nomads favoured pastoralism above agriculture as an economic option for a reduced remaining population. The neglect of the agricultural terraces resulted in a swift erosion, covering some of the most fertile soils, and in a reforestation of the area with pine, as is attested by palynological evidence. Other people probably were still involved with agriculture -less intensive cereal agriculture was opted for- and/or forestry-, especially after Antalya had become one of the major ports in the Selçuk and Ottoman empire and after the establishment of the caravan road crossing Pamhylia and Pisidia, passing through Ağlasun where the hamam of one of the caravanserays is preserved, heading towards Eğridir.

Traces of these population groups, pastoralists and farmers, remain scarce since in the first case these highly mobile groups did not leave dense occupational traces. Moreover, farmers most probably lived in houses constructed in organic materials. Finally some of the present-day villages may well conceal traces of their (Selçuk and) Ottoman predecessors. However, a detailed study of the glazed and coarse pottery dating to this long period is gradually shedding light on this period and it seems that after the 8th century AD, small-scale agriculture remained to be practised, alongside an increasingly strong pastoral component.
However, by the 3rd quarter of the 19th century, important changes in this lifestyle occurred. Increased safety during the 19th century encouraged trade and agriculture, and led to a demographic increase and an urbanistic revival, resulting in the emergence of regional capitals with well subscribed territories, such as Isparta and Burdur. Although pastoral nomads continued to visit the region of ancient Pisidia, gradually, the nomads were forced out or were entailed to restrict the latitude of their movements, moreover since their traditional routes now crossed provincial and other borders. After World War I, the incorporation of Turkey into the economic support programme of the USA ensuring the import of cheap tractors and other agricultural machines, new governmental measures around the middle of the century leading to internal and economical conditions more favourable for farmers and improved transportation means, further gave a boost to agricultural expansion and provided stimuli for further settlement of nomadic groups. The result of this evolution was the gradual emergence of the settlement pattern characterizing the region now. A dense network of very small to large agricultural villages, concentrated in the plains, interlinked by roads, centred on Ağlasun, or in the wider geographical framework on Burdur and Isparta emerged and is embodies the present settlement constellation