Sardis, 2010

Nicholas Cahill

Introduction

The Sardis Expedition conducted a 13-week season of excavation, survey, conservation, restoration, and research during the summer of 2010. Bahadır Yıldırım was the assistant director; Prof. Crawford Greenewalt was director emeritus. Metin Imren of the Izmir Archaeological Museum was the representative of the Ministry of Culture, and was a great help and friend to the expedition. We are grateful as always to the Minister of Culture, Ertuğrul Günay, to Director General Murat Suslu and former Director General Orhan Düzgün, and to Melik Ayaz, Director of the Excavations Divisions, for permission to do research at Sardis.

Excavations were undertaken at three locations in the city: in the Temple of Artemis, in the theater, and on a nearby hill where excavation in 2009 had revealed Roman and Hellenistic buildings overlying a monumental Lydian terrace. In addition, small but interesting sondages were carried out in the Necropolis Hill and on a previously excavated Lydian terrace in the center of the city (fig. 1).

  • Fig. 1

    Plan of Sardis. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

The Temple of Artemis

2010 was the 100th anniversary of the start of excavation by the American Society for the Exploration of Sardis. One of their great achievements was to clear the temple of Artemis (fig. 1, no. 17; figs. 2, 3, 4, 5). Begun in the Hellenistic period, the temple was transformed in the Roman period with the addition of porches at each end, the beginning of a pseudodipteral colonnade, and the division of the cella into two parts with doors facing both east and west. The building was eventually left unfinished, with only the columns of the east colonnade erected. Excavation was aimed at testing recent theories about the construction phases of the temple.

The design of the west end of the temple remains difficult to understand. Ground level in front of the temple is almost five meters lower than the level inside the cella (figs. 5, 6). The temple is so close to the altar that once the porch was built, there was no room for stairs on the front of the temple. None of the columns of the front colonnade, and only two of the porch columns, were ever built. A set of stairs built on the north side of the temple, within the line of the peristyle, rises from well below the level of the peristyle column foundations, so either the rough foundations were exposed, or the stairs were buried. And finally, in its current state, a visitor to the temple can climb those stairs only to fall into a great pit where one essential porch column foundation is entirely missing.

The irregular design of the west end can be partly explained by realizing that the Hellenistic temple was built around two earlier monuments: the so-called Lydian Altar (LA1), probably dating to the later sixth or fifth century BC, and the square structure that eventually became the statue base, which probably dates to the late Archaic or Persian period.1 The builders could not have moved the temple further back from the altar, because that would leave the statue base too near the front of the temple. The size and placement of the Hellenistic cella represent the largest temple that could be fit around the pre-existing monuments.

The Hellenistic project did not include a peristyle or porch, and so the tight fit between temple and altar was not a problem. When the porch and peristyle were begun in the Roman period, however, there was not enough space to build both columns and stairs in front of the temple, so temporary stairs were built on the north flank of the temple to allow access. They deliberately omitted one porch column to allow easier access during the long period when this end was unfinished. As construction of the peristyle approached the west end, the temporary stairs were buried, and access to the temple must have been either from the front, over LA2, or from the south stairs.

One trench confirmed that the Northwest Stairs predates the peristyle, and so belongs to a Roman phase when the porch had been built, but not the peristyle foundations (figs. 4, trench AT 10.4; fig. 7).

Another question that has puzzled archaeologists is the lack of any earlier remains at the site. Although Croesus was one of the patrons of the Artemision at Ephesus, there are no traces of any contemporary temple at Sardis. In 1911 Howard Crosby Butler had identified a limestone structure set underneath a Hellenistic column foundation of the pronaos as belonging to an earlier construction, which he identified as a building of the period of Croesus.2 However, re-excavating those foundations (fig. 4, trench AT 10.2) showed that these blocks do not run under the Hellenistic foundation, but were set on a bed of concrete and belong to the Roman crosswall of the temple (fig. 8).

Another trench was dug across the north pteroma of the temple (fig. 4, trench AT 10.3). A layer of marble chips and crushed mortar belonged to the construction of the Roman peristyle, and beneath this, the foundation trench for the Hellenistic cella walls. Two Hellenistic coins, one from this foundation trench and another found where the foundation trench had been disturbed by later waterpipes, date to the third or second centuries BC. The base of a ceramic cup inscribed “Hera,” from layers associated with the construction of the temple, is a rare piece of evidence for the cult of this goddess at Sardis (P10.068; fig. 9).

The Hellenistic temple was built on a deep fill of naturally deposited layers of gravel, sand, and silt, probably eroded from the Acropolis (figs. 10, 11). No earlier buildings or even cultural levels were encountered. However, the artifacts from these layers were all relatively late, dating perhaps to the fifth and fourth centuries BC, certainly not as early as the time of Croesus. Because the pottery from these layers showed that we had not yet reached Archaic levels, excavation continued to sterile fill and then bedrock, six meters below the floor of the temple. The surprising discovery that the temple was built upon a massive natural fill dating to the Persian era, suggests that the landscape around the sanctuary dramatically changed in this period and leaves the question of an earlier Lydian sanctuary unresolved.

  • Fig. 1

    Plan of Sardis. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 2

    Plan of the sanctuary of Artemis (1970, with additions). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 3

    State plan of the Temple of Artemis by Fikret Yegül, showing 2010 trenches. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 4

    Composite plan of the temple of Artemis, based on Butler 1925, with subsequent excavations including 2010 and 2011. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 5

    View of western end of temple and altar of Artemis (2007). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 6

    Plan of the altar of Artemis with elevations. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 7

    View of trench AT 10.4 showing Northwest Stairs (lower left), earlier Roman crosswall (right), and later Roman peristyle foundation (top). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 8

    Foundations of Hellenistic pronaos column (right-hand block) and Roman cross-wall built partly of spolia (left), showing layer of mortar beneath Roman wall. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 9

    Sherd from Hellenistic level under the temple of Artemis, with inscription “Hera” (P10.068). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 10

    Deep trench (AT 10.3) in the north peristyle of the Temple of Artemis, with architect Brianna Bricker and archaeologist Güzin Eren. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 11

    Scarp of trench AT 10.3 showing foundations of temple and layers of sand and gravel beneath. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Lydian Altar

A new three-year project funded by the Kaplan Fund began a program of site conservation and restoration of the Lydian Altar.3 In 2010 displaced blocks from the earlier structure (LA1), which had been removed at some time between 1914 and 1958, were reset, restoring the altar to its original form (figs. 12, 13).

  • Fig. 12

    Lydian Altar LA1 before restoration (2006). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 13

    Lydian Altar LA1 after restoration (photo taken 2011). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Theater-Stadium and Lydian House

In central Sardis, the excavation of a Lydian house buried beneath the earth fill of the theater was continued (figs. 15, 16). Earlier work had uncovered a room or courtyard with a stone-paved floor and limestone column base. An adjoining room measuring about 3.3 x 3.8 m, partly uncovered in 2009, was completely excavated in 2010 (figs. 17, 18). Much of the space of the room was mostly taken up by two low mudbrick platforms, leaving only narrow corridors between them (fig. 18). One possible interpretation is that it served as a storeroom, with wooden shelves set on the mudbrick platforms.

The room had been violently destroyed by fire, and contained many broken but largely complete artifacts of ceramics, metal and stone, including 39 more or less complete and 26 fragmentary pottery vessels (among them, two complete omphalos phialai with marbled decoration, a triangular, three-nozzled lamp, about 10 cooking pots, 8 skyphoi, 5 oinochoai, 4 hydrias or amphoras, and other local pottery; figs. 19, 20, 21). Ceramics from the room found in 2009 included a Corinthian warrior aryballos (fig. 22), a fragment of a Chiot chalice, and fragments of an extremely fine Attic black figure cup. These imports help date the destruction to the middle of the sixth century BC, and such a destruction almost certainly should be identified with the capture of Sardis by Cyrus the Great in about 547 BC.

In a search for further Lydian houses in this neighborhood, a 20 x 20 m trench was excavated within the cavea of the theater to the south (figs. 15, 23). Unfortunately, preservation there was very poor, and in many places we came down almost immediately on bedrock. A grinding bench with two grindstones in situ shows that other Lydian houses existed in this area, but the preservation does not warrant further excavation.

  • Fig. 15

    View of excavation trenches in the theater: Lydian house to right. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 16

    Plan of the Lydian house under the Hellenistic and Roman theater, trench ThSt 10.1. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 17

    View of Lydian house under the theater, trench ThSt 10.1, with archaeologist Tiziana D’Angelo. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 18

    View of Lydian house under the theater, trench ThSt 10.1. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 19

    Lydian pottery including three-nozzled lamp (L10.001) in situ in destruction level of the Lydian house. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 20

    Assemblage of Lydian pottery from the destruction level of the Lydian house. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 21

    Three-nozzled lamp (L10.001) and two marbled omphalos phialai (P10.024 and P10.402) from Lydian house under the theater. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 22

    Corinthian warrior aryballos (P09.035) found in 2009, from the Lydian house under the theater. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 23

    Trenches in the theater: trench ThSt 10.2 to left. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Field 49

Above the theater, two natural hills were enclosed in the Lydian period with monumental terraces (fig. 1, nos. 23, 68). Excavations on one hill, Field 49, were continued, revealing more of the Lydian limestone terrace wall partly exposed in 2009 (fig. 24). Pottery from construction layers dated to no later than than the sixth century BC. This limestone wall was built on the stub of an earlier wall built of roughly worked polygonal boulders. This is very probably the same terrace wall that encloses the north face of the hill and shows that this hill was probably completely enclosed by a monumental terrace, relatively early in the Lydian period.

The limestone terrace wall remained in use into the early Roman period. It was then partly destroyed, dismantled, and rebuilt on the same lines, reusing the limestone blocks but now with a mortared rubble backing. This might be associated with the earthquake that destroyed Sardis in 17 AD. In the later Roman period, the wall seems to have been partly dismantled and rebuilt, but now as a subterranean foundation.

The stratigraphy of buildings on top of the hill was compressed and very fragmentary, with multiple phases belonging to the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods. Some buildings here were probably of very high status, however, to judge from the fragments of stucco and especially a small fragment of opus vermiculatum mosaic, with perhaps a figural design on it (Mos10.001; fig. 25). The fineness of the tesserae — some as small as 0.5 x 2 mm — and variety of colors, at least six different shades represented, place this among the very best Hellenistic mosaics of Alexandria, Pergamon, and Delos.

In the late Roman period a room was built over earlier remains. Subsequently, the area fell into disuse, and was eventually used as a cemetery, with eight burials uncovered in 2010 and two more in 2009 (fig. 26). The only significant grave good was a pair of silver earrings made with beaded wire and silver granulation (fig. 27).

  • Fig. 1

    Plan of Sardis. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 24

    Trench F49 10.1: Lydian limestone terrace wall built upon the remains of an earlier boulder terrace wall. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 25

    Fragment of opus vermiculatum mosaic from trench F49 10.1 (Mos10.001). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 26

    Grave at trench F49 10.1, with reused tile with incised cross. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 27

    Earrings from Byzantine grave at trench F49 10.1 (M10.016). (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Sector ByzFort

On the adjacent hill, the so-called Byzantine Fortress (fig. 1, no. 23), erosion and cleaning revealed a short stretch of a new limestone wall clamped with lead swallowtail clamps, one of which was still in situ, parallel to the Lydian terrace excavated in the 1980s (fig. 28).4

  • Fig. 1

    Plan of Sardis. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 28

    Limestone terrace wall exposed by erosion at sector ByzFort. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Necropolis, and Another Lydian House?

The Sardis Expedition offered assistance to the Manisa Museum in removing a limestone bathtub sarcophagus and lid, probably of Persian or Hellenistic date, from the Necropolis region of Sardis west of the Pactolus river. to the expedition compound (fig. 1, at ca. W461-465/S1376-1381). This had been looted twice in antiquity, and was found empty of all grave goods. Under this was a pithos burial containing an adult burial (fig. 29).

Around the sarcophagus was found a dense scatter of Lydian household pottery and other artifacts, including cooking pots, animal bones, amphora necks reused as pot stands, and a small portion of a wall (fig. 30). We therefore believe that this belongs to a domestic destruction level, rather than to an earlier burial. Only a small area could be cleared, but this produced about 35 identifiable local pottery vessels. A group of silver crescent-shaped ornaments may belong to a necklace (figs. 31, 32). Datable pottery included a Middle Corinthian skyphos dating to the first half of the sixth century BC, and suggesting that this house, like that in the theater, was destroyed in the invasion by Cyrus (fig. 33). Among the finds on the floor of this Lydian house was a green stone celt, probably of Neolithic date (fig. 33). Such Neolithic celts are known to have been collected throughout antiquity; they were believed to be thunderstones or thunderbolts, fallen from the sky where lightning has struck.

  • Fig. 1

    Plan of Sardis. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 29

    Necropolis, trench Nec 10.1: pithos burial. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 30

    Trench Nec 10.1, showing limestone sarcophagus and Lydian destruction level, with excavator Ferhat Can. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 31

    Neolithic ? celt and silver crescents in situ in Lydian destruction level, trench Nec 10.1. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 32

    Silver crescents from trench Nec 10.1. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

  • Fig. 33

    Middle Corinthian skyphos and Neolithic celt from trench Nec 10.1. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Research and Publication

Research and publication projects included the coins of Sardis; the synagogue; sectors HoB and Pactolus North; Lydian, Hellenistic, and Roman pottery; Roman sarcophagi and wall painting; and figural terracottas. The depot reorganization begun six years ago was brought to a successful conclusion.

Site Conservation

In addition to reconstructing the Lydian Altar, site conservation focused on the synagogue of Sardis. We continued with the project to conserve, roof, and display the Lydian fortification, and associated Lydian and Roman houses. A new permanent roof was built over a marble basin in Byzantine Shop W4. The program to replace aging temporary roofs was also continued, completing the roof over the Roman house in MMS/S. The program of informational signage begun in 2009 was continued with the design and construction of six more signs, in the sanctuary of Artemis and the Synagogue.

And finally, the cast iron crane imported from England in 1911 by Howard Crosby Butler, and left sadly abandoned and rusting in the sanctuary of Artemis at the outbreak of World War I, was lifted, outfitted with new chain, handle, and bearings for the main pulley, and placed on new rails. With a bit of lubricating oil, the crane now operates, and at the ripe old age of a century, is itself an antiquity (fig. 34).

(Adapted from Kazı Sonuçları Toplantısı 33: 209-229)

  • Fig. 34

    Crane imported from England by the Butler Expedition in 1911, restored in 2010. (©Archaeological Exploration of Sardis/President and Fellows of Harvard College)

Notes