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QuarryScapes guide to ancient stone quarry landscapes


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Sagalassos – Pearl of the Taurus Mountains

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The archaeological site of Sagalassos is located in SW Turkey, near the present town of Aglasun (Burdur province), roughly 110 km to the north of the well-know port and holiday resort Antalya. In ancient times, the western part of the Taurus mountain range, in which Sagalassos is set, was known as the region of Pisidia. Sagalassos is laid out on south-facing terraces at altitudes between 1450 and 1600 m, with to the north a steep limestone range of maximum 2271 m high. To the south, the city overlooks the plain around Aglasun.

The first traces of hunter/gatherers in the territory of Sagalassos date back some 12,000 years BP. During the eighth millennium BC, farmers settled. During the Bronze Age, territorial chiefdoms developed in the region, whereas Sagalassos itself was most probably not yet occupied. This may have changed by the fourteenth century BC, when the mountain site of Salawassa was mentioned in Hittite documents, possibly to be identified with the later Sagalassos. Under Phrygian and Lydian cultural impulses the town gradually developed into a regional centre. During the Persian period, Pisidia became known for its warlike and rebellious factions; a reputation to which the region certainly lived up in 333 BC, when Alexander the Great experienced resistance in integrating the region in his larger strategic scheme of conquering Persia. Pisidia changed hands many times among the successors of Alexander. The use of Greek, the development of municipal institutions and the material culture testify to a fairly quick Hellenisation, expressed in monumental buildings in the town.

Rome decided to incorporate the region once and for all into its empire in 25 BC, and thus created the province of Galatia. The armies of Augustus introduced the pax Romana into the region, and this favourable climate would remain unchanged for centuries. Sagalassos and its territory turned into dependable and very prospering Roman partners. In fact, the control of an extremely fertile territory with a surplus production of grain and olives, as well as the presence of excellent clay allowing an industrial production of high quality tableware (‘Sagalassos red slip ware'), made the export of local products possible. Rapidly, under Roman Imperial rule, Sagalassos became the metropolis of Pisidia.

Trouble only started around 400 AD, when the town had to fortify its civic centre. The eventual decline of the city was mainly triggered by the plague of AD 541-542. The last inhabitants finally abandoned the crumbling civic centre around the middle of the seventh century AD, when the socio-economic network of the town was shattered by a major earthquake, new epidemics and the first Arab raids. Massive erosion covered the ruins of the abandoned city. As a result, Sagalassos, which was never looted in later periods, remained one of the best preserved ancient urban sites in the Mediterranean.

From the start, the archaeological research at Sagalassos intended to break with the tradition of classical archaeology, which concentrates on the more representative aspects of archaeology, such as sculptures and other artworks. Despite that work is also done at Sagalassos, also why this settlement developed into a regional metropolis is investigated: what was the basis of its economy and how did the environment influence local developments. The interdisciplinary approach of the Sagalassos project is aiming at documenting all aspects of the environment and daily life in antiquity. The research into the potential of the town to exploit or import natural building stones, and the study of quarries within QuarryScapes, is therefore an extremely useful and necessary element in the reconstruction of the ancient town.

The natural building stones used in the monuments at Sagalassos include limestone, conglomerate, breccia, marble, travertine, granite and sand- to siltstone of different qualities. Throughout the history of the city, however, locally quarried beige and pink limestone remained by far the most important building stone. Scattered over the monumental, domestic and funeral areas of the city of Sagalassos itself, several smaller and some larger limestone quarries can be observed. On a small plateau at the north side of the Aglasun mountain range, 1km northwest of Sagalassos, a larger quarry is present. The most important ancient limestone quarry of the area is situated near the village of Yesilbasköy, in the western Aglasun mountain range 3km southeast from Sagalassos, on a plateau known as Sarikaya or ‘yellow rock' (after the colour of the patina of the stone). All these quarries provided the bulk of the stone for the monumental centre of Sagalassos, and will be studied further in detail within the QuarryScapes project.

Text by Patrick Degryse

The site is included in work-package 3


Other websites of the Sagalassos project, to which QuarryScapes is associated:




Sagalassos seen from above – main town area centre-right, Theatre to the left. Photo by Patrick Degryse.


The Nymphaeum, Sagalassos. Photo by the Sagalassos Project.


The baths – made of local limestone. Photo by the Sagalassos Project.


Worked limestone blocks in a quarry close to Sagalassos. Photo by Tom Heldal.


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November 2008
Final workshop: the third QuarryScapes workshop was held in Aswan 12. - 15. October
June 2008
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June 2008
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April 2008
QuarryScapes third workshop Aswan, October 12-15 2008

April 2008
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December 2007
Second QuarryScapes Workshop 18-21 October 2007, Petra, Jordan

December 2007
Final Reports: Aswan West Bank Ancient Quarry Landscape

March 2007
New Aswan City: Rescue survey in progress

March 2007
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December 2006
Second Aswan field season The second QuarryScapes fieldwork season in Aswan took place through November 2006.

November 2006
First symposium
The first QuarryScapes symposium took place at Divan Talya hotel in Antalya (Turkey) 15-17 October 2006.
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Coordinator: NGU - Geological survey of Norway, Tom Heldal. Tlf: +47 73 90 40 00 . Partners. Layout: Lisa Løseth, NGU.