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The first report on the remains of Sagalassos dates back to the beginning of the 18th century AD. In the fall of 1706 the French diplomat Paul Lucas joined a caravan from Antalya to Isparta and thus passed though the impressive ruins of the town, which he mistook for the ruins of various castles. More than a century later, in 1824, the British chaplain Francis Arundell explored the site and could decipher an inscription identifying the city as Sagalassos. He also made a sketch of the ruins. In the following decades Sagalassos would be visited by most well known western travellers to Asia Minor. The first thorough survey and description of the remains of Sagalassos was carried out in 1884 and 1885, by an Austrian team led by the Polish count Karl Lanckoroński who surveyed the ruined towns of Pisidia and Pamphylia. He produced the first map of Sagalassos and recorded some of its inscriptions which were visible at the surface, but he never completed his survey. In the century following the work Lanckoroński, however, the archaeological remains of Pisidia and by consequence Sagalassos received little attention although small scale expeditions were from time to time carried out in the region. As a result, a general approach to the urban landscape and the region of Pisidia was clearly lacking.

Systematic exploration of Pisidia only started in 1982, with the British Pisidia Survey Project under the direction of Stephen Mitchell, which aimed at studying the remains at the surface of all ancient sites in the region. Attention was first paid to Pisidian Antioch, where the preliminary results immediately indicated the scientific neglect of the region. In 1985, the British team, already joined by Marc Waelkens, paid a first visit to Sagalassos, confirming the enormous potential for systematic archaeological research of the town and its region. Four more extended campaigns followed under the supervision of Waelkens and Mitchell and after a first rescue excavation in 1989 in the Potters’ Quarter, large-scale excavations were initiated in 1990. Since then, the site and its territory became the focus of a large-scale interdisciplinary research project under the supervision of Marc Waelkens of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.