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Frequently Asked Questions about Sagalassos
Why did people settle on this mountain slope?
One of the main reasons must have been for defense. Equally important were the dozens of natural water sources. In ancient times, the nearby valleys were also more fertile than they are today. People found clay for making high quality ceramics and bricks as well as natural stone and ores for metal production. The town was not an isolated mountain settlement: during the Roman Imperial period, Sagalassos was linked to the Anatolian road network and to the ports on the Aegean and the Mediterranean coasts.
During the 3rd millennium BC, the Luwians settled in this region, which later became known as Pisidia. They were related to the Hittites. The population went through various phases of acculturation. After Alexander the Great conquered the area, they adopted elements of ancient Greek culture, as did the whole Near East. During the Imperial period, they continued developing their own culture with Greek as well as Roman influences. From the 4th century AD onwards, until the final occupation in the 13th century AD, residents of the area were Christian and subjects of the Byzantine Empire. They were absorbed into the Seljuk Turkish Empire in the 13th century.
What does Sagalassos mean? Does it have a connection with Ağlasun?
Sagalassos is a typical Luwian name but its meaning is unknown. In the 11th century AD, a bishop of 'Agalassu' is recorded, which seems to be a transitional form between 'Sagalassos' and 'Ağlasun'. When the Seljuk Turks arrived in Ağlasun, they adopted and adapted this name for their settlement in the valley below the ancient city. Thus, there is a connection between the ancient and modern names of the town.
How did they make a living?
The economy of the city was mainly based on farming, especially grain that was delivered to the Roman troops. During Imperial times, olive cultivation for the production of locally consumed olive oil was also important. They may have also exported fir trees to Egypt to be used for construction and shipbuilding. Another source of income, from Augustus (25 BC – 14 AD) onwards, was the industrial production of the so-called 'Sagalassos red slip ware', or locally made table wares, found in Western Anatolia and many other places throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.
When did they leave and why?
From 541-542 AD onwards the bubonic plague ravaged the population several times and caused enormous damage to the economy. A powerful earthquake leveled the city ca. 610 AD. After this catastrophe, the survivors continued to inhabit dispersed, sometimes fortified hamlets amongst the ruins, until the Seljuks destroyed the last stronghold on Alexander's Hill in the 13th century AD.
How was the site rediscovered?
The ruins of the site were rediscovered in 1706 by Paul Lucas, a traveller who undertook a journey through the Ottoman Empire at the request of the French King Louis XIV. It wasn't until 1824 that English traveller Reverend F.V.J. Arundell deciphered the name of Sagalassos in an inscription.
Who is excavating here and how are the excavations financed?
The site has been excavated since 1990 by the University of Leuven (Belgium) under the direction of Professor Marc Waelkens. Locally known as 'Marc Bey', Professor Waelkens leads an international team of researchers from Turkey, Belgium, and many other countries. Excavations and research in the 1200 km² territory of the ancient city are financed by scientific research funds from the Belgian state, with assistance from private Belgian benefactors. The conservation and reconstruction projects have been sponsored by private donors from Belgium, including families, companies and banks. Since 2006 the Turkish firm AYGAZ (Koç Holding) and other Turkish companies have joined in sponsorship.
Where do the finds go?
All finds are submitted to the Museum of Burdur at the end of each excavation season, where the most beautiful items and statues are also on display. What is not on display is stored under the supervision of the Museum of Burdur.