A late antique-medieval city quarter to the south of the Church of Mary in Ephesos

In the center of late antique Ephesos to the south-east of the Church of Mary part of a city quarter (4th/5th–12th century CE) was excavated in 2011–2018. In addition to formally decorated living areas, parts of the building were excavated where production and trade were identified. With the study of the finds and contexts we expect to learn more about the ›Dark Ages‹ of the late period of the city.

Ephesos in late antiquity

Towards the end of the 4th/early 5th century CE Ephesos became established as a supraregional political and economic center and also the strengthened Christian religion deeply influenced the city. As a result, likely as part of a centrally controlled construction program, stately buildings of profane and sacred nature were constructed in the lower city of Ephesos. In immediate proximity, both spatially and temporally, spaciously planned private houses were built that follow the imperial Terrace Houses in the design of their floor plan.

In the last several years it was possible to excavate such a complex using state-of-the-art methods. Its structures are located just south of the Church of St. Mary and were identified through a geophysical survey above the north hall of the ›Halls of Verulanus‹ from the imperial period.

The contexts of the late antique-medieval city quarter

The excavate area covers around 2,000 m2 and several independent contexts can be identified in the archaeological record. A stately private house must be highlighted; it was furnished with a decorative floor, wall paintings, and marble incrustations. In addition, rooms were excavated that were reserved for household activities. The large dimensions of the installations in individual rooms suggest that agricultural products such as grapes, cereals, and olives exceeding their own needs were processed. Furthermore, it is possible to reconstruct a bone workshop. Based on several thousand coins, scales, and weights it is possible to deduct commercial activities which took place in taverns along the street.

In the second half of the 7th century the building abruptly fell out of use. A fire possibly caused by an earthquake led to an extensive destruction, however, a large part of the buildings was again repaired. It is remarkable that they were not able to or did not want to remove the entire destruction debris: some rooms were filled up with debris and closed off while in other rooms the debris was leveled off and new floors were laid on top. In the course of its further use, this process took place several times in individual areas and as a result the level inside continually rose.

The Byzantine ›Dark Ages‹ in Ephesos

In the 12th century the late antique structures appear to have been entirely abandoned and were only selectively built over. Up unto this point activity of habitation had been detectable; the area was then mainly used for agricultural purposes. This is demonstrated by a few preserved storage buildings. The final traces of human activity can be dated to the 14th century, however, no structural contexts can be connected with this activity. As suggested by contexts in other parts of the city, Ephesos was entirely abandoned at this point.