Report of work at the Large Building Complex in 2009

During the 2009 excavation season the building or complex situated in the Lower City of Amorium and referred to as the “Large Building” was further researched by the Amorium Excavation Greek Team[1]. This area had been initially excavated in the first years (1988-1989) of the Amorium excavations under the direction of late Oxford professor, Martin Harrison[2].

The main building is, as it was first identified by its original excavator, of late roman construction, with a probable later - early byzantine - extension to the SW. It's walls are well preserved, in some places rising up to more than 3 meters and is consisted of large rooms, some square in layout and some other more elongated, most of them being just the ground floor of a building that would have been raised much higher in stories. Though the excavation had not been concluded during the 1988-89 seasons, two of its most striking features had been unearthed: 1) an almost monumental façade on the East side with a high substantial wall around one of the main entrances (Room 1), and 2) an open courtyard in the middle of the complex with doorways leading into and out of it (Room 3). The large size of the structure and its substantial construction suggests that it was a major public building of the late roman and early byzantine period, intensively reused in medieval times[3].

For this season (2009) extensive cleaning of the walls and the room surfaces (floors?) took place (fig. 1), some of the sections were re-newed for the better understanding of the stratigraphy, minor excavation was executed in room 6 for the sample collection of pottery and determining some issues connected with the building’s floors and finally new ground plans have been drawn complemented with sections and elevations, stratigraphy and technical drawings. On the new plans a first attempt to discern the different building and chronological phases has been done.

By clearing and uncovering most of the walls that were dug by Harrison’s excavation one of the first observations was that the “Large Building’s” early phases as depicted in the ground plan published in 1989 should be broken down to at least two different phases, or better, construction initiatives. The main baulk of the uncovered building extending to the north and west and comprised of rooms 1 to 6 (Building I) is built in a distinct masonry of medium rubble stones set in thick cement like mortar at the height of 1,20 m. the wall is superseded by a band of four bricks in height, this wall lies on a strong also mortared foundation wall (fig. 2), on the other hand the wall running parallel further to the south with only a small part of it uncovered (Building II), as well as the wall of the building to the north (Building III), follows quite a different construction style consisted of a large orthogonal ashlar stones at the lower lines set into a limey strong mortar and followed by lines of decreasing in size ashlar stones (fig. 3).

Further on the attempt of a classification of the pottery produced during Harrison’s excavations in relation also to the coins found at that period provide us a first rough understanding of the chronology of the Large Building and its phases, both construction and occupation. The main bulk of the pottery found is Late Roman Coarse and Fine Ware most of it probably of local origin, with the characteristic Coarse gray earthenware being the majority of it, almost all of it produced by dumped material and not archaeological clear layers. An interesting addition from the 2009 cleaning is a sherd (fig. 4-5) of a shallow dish with internal red slip, decorated with relief pattern including a Christian cross on the inside and dots of red slip on the outside, belonging to an already known group of early byzantine pottery found in Amorium[4]. Medieval pottery was also identified among the old excavation’s materials, including sherds of “Dark Age” fine burnished, faceted ware, Middle Byzantine yellow glazed-incised ware as well as few pieces of Constantinopolitan whiteware, and finally typical Selcuk green-glazed ware.

Further systematic excavation and study of the materials in the following seasons will help to resolve the problems regarding the Large Building’s use and chronology.

[1] The Amorium Excavation Greek Team is most kindly supported by the Stavros Niarhos Foundation (SNF).

[2] R. M. Harrison, Amorium 1988: The First Preliminary Excavation, Anatolian Studies 39 (1989), 167-174; ibid et al., Amorium Excavations 1989: The Second Preliminary Report, Anatolian Studies 40 (1990), 205-218.

[3] We cannot exclude the possibility of the buildings under examination being also part of a major civic-private residence of some sort of Amorium officials, like one of many similar examples, the Triconch Palace at Butrint,: W. Bowden, J. Mitchell, The Triconch Palace at Butrint, in: L. Lavan, L. Özgenel, A. Sarantis (eds.), Housing in Late Antiquity, From Palaces to Shops, Leiden 2007, 455-474.

[4] R. M. Harrison et al., Amorium Excavations 1990: The Third Preliminary Report, Anatolian Studies 41 (1991), 226-227.






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