Building archaeology in Ephesos

The objective of building archaeology is the study of the technical and constructional elements of buildings but also their history and cultural and historical importance and it looks back on a long history in Ephesos. In addition to the analysis of stately monuments, such as the ›Serapeion‹ or the ›Temple of Hadrian‹, comparably modest buildings as well as building elements that were excavated a long time ago and can no longer be attributed to a specific building are also rigorously studied.

History of building archaeology in Ephesos

Besides excavations, building archaeology has been a core element of the research in Ephesos from the very beginning. Already at the beginning of the 20th century publications were released on the Celsus Library, the Tetragonos Agora, and the theater that were preceded by detailed documentation of the buildings. This tradition was continued by the studies on the Christian monuments in the time period between World War I and II and immediately following World War II. A characteristic feature of building archaeology in Ephesos is its close integration with archaeology as especially demonstrated in the publications on the Terrace Houses, the Prytaneion, and the Vedius Gymnasium.

Selection process and methods 

The study of architectural monuments needs to include inconspicuous buildings in addition to the stately buildings but must also understand the architecture as a dynamic element in an urban context and thus it is necessary to also take the life span and the history of decay into account. A variety of methods are applied ranging from traditional sketching techniques to 3D-laser scanning processes thus ensuring an ideal and detailed documentation of every building element. Excavation, building recording, and evaluation ideally take place simultaneously in order to be mindful of questions of the various disciplines. 

›Serapeion‹ and the Upper Agora

The exploration of the sanctuary in the lower city of Ephesos referred to as the ›Serapeion‹ as well as the architectural design of the Upper Agora currently constitute the most important building archaeology projects in Ephesos. In close collaboration with archaeologists we are engaging, among others, with issues of chronology and function; an emphasis is naturally also placed on the reconstruction of the buildings. In several master theses and dissertations individual aspects are clarified, such as the reconstruction of the pediment and portal of the ›Serapeion‹ while the overall analysis is intended for an interdisciplinary study.

Chapels and signal towers

A building complex adjoining the Clivus Sacer in the north was already excavated by F. Miltner following World War II and includes a small early Christian chapel which was entered through the north stoa. The building analysis provided evidence for an apse with a freestanding altar, a small nave as well as an attached narthex in the west. Currently we are working on a reconstruction and the dating of the chapel and its connection to the north stoa of the street between the Upper Agora and the Square of Domitian.

A ruin is located along the so-called Canakgöl, a Roman-Byzantine harbor bay around 4 km west of Ephesos, and has been interpreted as a signal tower. Steps carved into the rock in the west are evidence that it was accessible from the harbor or the shipping channel while the other three sides of the wall – preserved several meters high – closely encircle the rock. The recording and reconstruction of the building will provide further information regarding the maritime infrastructure of Ephesos.

Building archaeology and preservation of monuments

The preservation of historical monuments is closely connected with building archaeology and usually takes place simultaneously with the fieldwork. For example, the conservation of the ›Fountain of Domitian‹ began immediately following its recording and in the course of the conservation further information about the design and operation of the monument was gained. The consolidation of buildings with rubble masonry also begins immediately after their excavation in order to considerably slow down or even ultimately stop the decay of the building.