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Amorium Excavations 2006

Christopher S. Lightfoot, Department of Greek and Roman Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Project Grant 2006/07

The 2006 season marked the twentieth year since the inception of the Amorium Project. Chris Lightfoot and Eric Ivison are the only remaining members of Martin Harrison's team, having joined the project in 1992, and so it was fitting that this year they shared the burden of directing the excavations. It proved to be a very productive year, with some truly exceptional finds, and major progress was made in the fields of conservation, surveying, and publication.

Several important inscriptions were recorded, including two, both in Greek, which include the city's name. One was a fragmentary milestone brought in as a surface find, but the other was an early Byzantine slab reused in one of the tombs excavated in the Church atrium (see below). Fragments of an early Byzantine inscribed sarcophagus lid were also spotted in a garden wall; these were subsequently collected up and reassembled at the Dig House. Work on these and the rest of the epigraphic corpus from Amorium continues with the help and sage advice of Prof. Thomas Drew-Bear.

Another surprise find was a coin of the city's mint, something that had not been encountered for a good many years, and this particular example, excavated in the Enclosure, proved to be remarkably well preserved. In total 52 bronze and copper alloy coins were recovered from the site during the summer, of which the most interesting group comprised six folles and half folles of Justinian Ⅱ (AD 685–95, first reign) and Leontius (AD 695–98). They were found in a layer of fill above one of the middle Byzantine tombs in the the Church atrium.

The excavations again focused on two areas of the Lower City, the Church (where last year a baptistery was exposed) and the Enclosure. In tandem with the archaeological work there was a full program of conservation, study, survey, and site enhancement. We were able at last to clear the remaining spoil heaps to the east of the Church created during the initial stages of its excavation some fifteen years ago, and this, together with the 2006 excavations at the western end of the building, gave the Church a new, more open perspective. A visit by architect Richard Andrews to assess the site of the Church and to investigate possible local sources for the construction of a protective roof also contributed significantly toward the completion of a plan to enclose the surviving shell of this important archaeological and historical building. Jane Foley, with her able and well-trained team, continued the work of repairing and consolidating the fabric of the Church. This year saw the piecing together of fragments of the lintel over the south doorway into the narthex, which had been excavated in 2002. The restored lintel was then hoisted back into its original place.

Excavation at the Church concentrated on two areas: to the east of the baptistery to the north of the main body of the Church and at the west end outside the narthex. Eric Ivison carried out overall direction of the work, with Murat Şen and Nikos Tsivikis acting as trench supervisors. The area to the east of the baptistery appears to have been used as cemetery, and two intact child burials were excavated. However, this area also produced large quantities of human bone in very disturbed conditions, mixed together with rubble debris. The three tombs excavated in the baptistery in 2005 had been found to have been cleaned out during the Seljuk reuse of the building. It is possible that some of these burials had been dumped in the open area immediately to the east at that time. As a result, progress here was much slower than had been anticipated, and there is more excavation still to be done in 2007. However, while team members (notably Anıl Eroğlu) carefully excavated these remains, the workmen were reassigned to the north end of the church, where the old perimeter fence was removed and the whole area leveled in preparation for deeper soundings in 2007.

The area west of the narthex had been provisionally identified as an exo-narthex, but excavation showed that this area was the church atrium. By the end of the season approximately the eastern third of the atrium had been excavated. The remainder lies under a dirt track and grassy area immediately west of the church and within the garden of one of the village houses. Two stylobates, oriented east-west, supported the columns of porticoes along the north and south sides of the atrium. Doorways from these porticoes gave access to rooms and corridors on the north and south sides of the atrium, and also led into the narthex via its north and south doors. No portico fronted the west façade of the church, the central portion of which must have towered over the open court of the atrium. Here the central, western doorway led directly into the narthex and the central nave of the church. Surviving fragments showed that the pavements of the flanking porticoes were slightly higher in elevation than those of the central open court. This first phase of the atrium must have endured as long as the aisled basilica church, that is until the destruction of the complex in the 9th century.

The reconstruction of the first basilica as a domed church in the late 9th to early 10th century also saw the atrium restored to use, with additions and alterations continuing until the late 11th century. Reconstruction saw the blocking of the south door from the atrium with a wall and the raising of pavement levels throughout the atrium, probably to compensate for damage and losses to the original pavements, but in plan the atrium remained essentially unchanged. A number of tombs were subsequently dug through the new and older pavements in the atrium porticoes. Of these one, a substantial tomb with a brick arch covering its western end, was excavated in the south portico; its construction provides a close parallel to the first tomb excavated in the narthex in 1998. Two simpler graves lying against the north wall of the atrium were also systematically dug by forensic archaeologist Lisa Usman, assisted by Tom Black. All three were found to be intact and contained multiple burials. Grave goods, however, were sparse. In the north portico only half of a glass bracelet was found in the earlier of the two tombs, which was built of mortared masonry and spolia, including an early Byzantine closure slab and the slab inscribed with the city's name. The brick arched tomb in the south portico was more richly furnished, producing a pair of superb gold earrings of the 11th century, a bronze cross, two glass finger rings, and three glass bracelets. These finds are being studied and prepared for publication by graduate student Murat Şen.

Work in the Enclosure continued to be multifaceted, involving Benjamin Arubas and his survey team as well as the archaeologists, ably led by Oğuz Koçyiğit, and conservator Seher Bayram. One major objective was to continue the planning and phasing of all of the structures and features excavated since 1998. This was largely achieved and now provides us with a good picture of the phasing of the complex stratigraphy of the area, together with both relative and absolute dates for many of the contexts. It also led to the conclusion that all of the evidence from the Enclosure points to a massive and widespread destruction phase in the history of this area of the site. A second aim was to complete the exposure of the full length of the inner face of the south Enclosure wall. While this was being carried out, the surveyors made a careful inspection of the other three sides to the Enclosure, which revealed that each wall was in fact not straight but projected slightly outwards towards the center, thus giving more of a star than a trapezoidal shape to the Enclosure as a whole. As a result of these investigations two sondages were carried out, one on the line of the north wall, and the other to the west. The latter revealed what we had for several years been searching for—a gateway, although admittedly not a very large or impressive one.

During the second half of the season work at the Enclosure concentrated on an extension to Trench XE to the east of the street that was uncovered in 2005. Here the first thing to appear from under the rubble fallen from the Enclosure's south wall was a late, probably Ottoman, brick-built oven. This is the only post-Byzantine feature to have been found so far within the Enclosure. Elsewhere the scant remains of the middle Byzantine occupation were revealed and below them, as we had come to expect, was more of the destruction layer encountered elsewhere. The major feature of this Dark Age (i.e., pre-838) phase was another treading floor, similar to but larger than the ones found in 2005, complete with drainage spouts and collection vats. Large quantities of carbonized seeds were collected from the floor, suggesting that the installation was no longer used for wine-making when it was destroyed. Samples of these seeds were subsequently identified as barley (Hordeum spp.) by John Giorgi of MOLAS, London.

It was then decided not only to consolidate the treading floor but also to cover the entire installation with another temporary roof, similar to the one used to such good effect to preserve the bathhouse nearby. There remains much more work to be done in the Enclosure in the coming years. The results so far have been spectacular, and it is likely that more exciting finds await discovery. However, it is likely that the construction of a permanent roof over the Church in the immediate future will either prevent altogether or severely curtail activity in the Enclosure. On the positive side, while the Church roof is being erected, the stone conservators can redirect their energies to the Enclosure wall, the bathhouse, and the other exposed structures that have been excavated within the Enclosure.

A wide variety of projects were undertaken at the Dig House. The ceramic team from the 18th March University at Çanakkale continued its work recording all of the pottery finds, supervised this year by Hanna Witte-Orr in the absence of Beate Böhlendorf-Arslan (who was on maternity leave). Petra Linscheid did further work on the textiles from the narthex tombs excavated in 2002, and Sophie Hagman-Hammond completed the conservation and storage of these fragile remains. She also worked on the leather shoes, reconstruction drawings of which were prepared by Paola Pugsley. Francesca dell'Acqua continued her study of the glass finds, preparing a report that was included in her presentation at the Byzantine Studies Congress in London later in the summer. Mücahide Lightfoot made good progress with her catalogue of the metalwork, including the finds from the 2006 season. Likewise, Hüseyin Yaman continued his study of the Roman funerary material and extended it to include the Roman architectural fragments, and Nikos Tsivikis spent long hours recording new Byzantine fragments, including the impressive inscribed sarcophagus lid that had been noticed at the beginning of the season built into a garden wall. Although the lid is very fragmentary, comprising six large and over fifty small pieces, it is hoped that most of the inscription can be restored; it which may even contain a date similar to the one that was found at Amorium in the 1930s and is now in the Afyonkarahisar Museum.

The Amorium Project acknowledges with thanks the support of the Turkish authorities in Ankara, Afyon, and Emirdağ. Valuable financial support continued to be received from the BIA and Dumbarton Oaks (on behalf of the Trustees of Harvard University), as well as from the Adelaide Milton de Groot Fund at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Loeb Classical Library Foundation, and the Leon Levy Foundation. We also continue to benefit from the incredible generosity of an anonymous American benefactor, aided by the good services of Paul Schwartz of the Wells Fargo Bank in Minnesota and of Nancy Leinwand of ARIT in Philadelphia. Additional help was also provided by various friends and colleagues in Turkey, Europe, and the United States. We were again grateful to Mr. Paul Hostyn of Resiplast, Wommelgem, Belgium, who provided his valuable time, services, and materials to aid with the stone conservation at the Church. Finally, we wish to thank the Director and Staff of the BIA, the executive officers of ARIT, numerous colleagues at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as our Turkish government representative, Dr. Adil Özme, for their invaluable assistance.

Project Images

Recent Publications

A. Laiou, "Μεταξύ παραγωγής και κατανάλωσης: Είχαν οικονομία οι βυζαντινές πόλεις;" (Between Production and Consumption: Did the Byzantine Cities have an Economy?), in Δημόσια Συνέδρια της 6ης Ιουνίου 2006, Athens 2006, esp. 90, 97–9, 105–6, 112–3, 121–4; C. S. Lightfoot, "Glass Finds at Amorium," DOP 59 (2005), 173–81; C. S. Lightfoot, Y. Arbel, E. A. Ivison, J. A. Roberts, and E. Ioannidou, "The Amorium Project: Excavation and Research in 2002," DOP 59 (2005), 231–65; C. Lightfoot, O. Koçyiğit, and H. Yaman, "Amorium Kazısı 2005," KST 28/1, Çanakkale, 29 Mayis–02 Haziran 2006, Ankara 2007, 271–94; C. and M. Lightfoot, A Byzantine City in Anatolia: Amorium, an Archaeological Guide, İstanbul 2007; B. Yıldırım and M.–H. Gates, "Archaeology in Turkey, 2004–2005," AJA 111 (2007), 278, 335–6.

The Amorium website: www.amoriumexcavations.org.

 

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