Farming practices, subsistence, and eco-environmental and historical changes in Ephesos

The metropolis Asiae itself and surrounds have archived an exceptionally long settlement history starting with the early ceramic Neolithic to the Middle Ages. This leads to possibilities of contextual studies of animal use but the excavations also provide the opportunity to research the diachronic development in the diet, the animal use, and ecological conditions in the vicinity of Ephesos. 

Animal remains in Ephesos and its vicinity

The earliest evidence was discovered on the Çukuriçi Höyük, a settlement hill near Ephesos. The settlement begins with the early ceramic Neolithic in the 7th millennium and continues until the early Bronze Age. Animal husbandry of the first settlers who were farmers but also sailors, appears to have taken place with already domesticated animals.

Viewed chronologically the next archaeozoological remains were discovered on the Panayırdağ: They come from settlement remains that date to the late Bronze Age. Archaeozoological finds from the main sanctuary of Ephesos, the temple of Artemis, make it possible to reconstruct the cult and the offering of animal sacrifices in this early Greek sanctuary. Extensive archaeozoological material of the Hellenistic and imperial period was uncovered in the Terrace House 2 and also in the area of the ›Temple of Domitian‹ and the villa district on the Panayırdağ.

The late antique-medieval city quarter to the south of the Church of Mary and the Ephesian necropoleis provided finds dating to the late antique-early Byzantine periods while medieval contexts are known from the Hamam III in Ayasuluk: In a well two human skeletons as well as a horse and a dog skeleton were found. All individuals likely were killed during military conflicts in the city of Ayasuluk in the 15th century and were disposed of in the well. The excavations by the türbe and the ›Odeion‹ in the Artemision also led to the retrieval of animal remains from the Middle Ages.


Observed over longer time periods it is possible to recognize changes in animal husbandry, for example. While during prehistory sheep and goats were important domestic animals, domestic pigs were not discovered in large quantities. However, in the imperial period pigs were sought after and in particular the meat from suckling pig was of culinary importance.

The various mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and shellfish species that can be identified are also of zoological interest because they provide information on the former distribution of species, especially since the animals today, such as the leopard, no longer inhabit these areas. A chronological comparison not only illustrates the hunting preferences of various cultures but also leads to a reconstruction of changes to the landscape of Ephesos: During the prehistoric period the later settlement area was still covered by the sea with corresponding fishing, the former gulf later silted up more and more. In the Roman contexts in the Terrace House 2 there still are marine fish but sweet water fish were apparently caught in the small Maeander and surrounding waters for human consumption.