The Metropolis Asiae and its surroundings bear witness to an exceptionally long settlement history that begins already with the early ceramic Neolithic era. The bioarchaeological research promises to yield important information in order to better reconstruct transformations in the usage of natural resources over the millennia.

Every settlement is situated in an immediate interaction with its environment, and transforms the natural landscape into a cultural landscape. Forests are cleared, slopes are terraced, marshy plains are drained in order to gain fields and pasture land. Natural resources such as water, cultivated and wild plants, wood, wild and domesticated animals, metals and stone are accessed and developed. Raw materials are processed, foodstuffs are prepared. The research projects presented here make use of biogenic materials in order to contribute to the reconstruction of such manners of usage in the settlement area of Ephesos. To this end, the projects focus on a variety of themes such as agriculture, nutritional health and cuisine, trade and distribution structures, social stratification, as well as forest and wood management and construction.

Economic systems, subsistence, and ecological and environmental-historical transformations

The excavations in Ephesos provide the opportunity to study diachronic developments in nutrition, animal and plant usage, and ecological conditions in the close surroundings of Ephesos, and to consider them embedded in their archaeological and – where possible – also historical contexts. When observed over longer periods, considerable alterations in, for example, husbandry of domesticated animals can be recognised. Whereas in the prehistoric period, sheep and goats were important domesticated animals, domestic swine cannot be identified in great numbers. In the imperial period, on the contrary, pigs were more in demand, and above all the meat of the suckling pig was of culinary importance. In the prehistoric era of the later settlement area, the coastal region was still exploited for fishing, while later on the original marine coast silted up more and more, which is why primarily freshwater fish from the Little Meander river and surrounding bodies of water are found in the Roman contexts from Terrace Slope House 2. Meanwhile, in the botanic spectrum of finds from the early period primarily barley is apparent, in contrast to the important role durum wheat played later on in antiquity. Fruit groves such as figs and wine, in contrast, are found almost continually in the ensembles of finds.

Use of wood in Late Antiquity and the Early Byzantine Period

The wide-spread destruction by fire in the 7th century A.D. resulted in large amounts of wood being preserved in charred form in the Late Antique-Mediaeval city quarter south of the Church of St. Mary. The goal of the project is to disentangle this almost incalculable find ensemble, and to outline an overall picture of the former wooden inventory. Until now more than 6,000 pieces of charred wood have been evaluated. Based on evaluation of findspot and find context, the most important construction woods – deciduous oaks as well as pine and fir – could be addressed. The discovery of an exceptionally well-preserved, carved furniture ensemble out of walnut and yew represents the preliminary highpoint of the ongoing investigations, and raises questions, furthermore, about the trade in wood with the Black Sea region.

The ancient diet: Isotope analyses of humans and animals

In Ephesos, comprehensive analyses of stable isotopes are carried out not only in the context of research into the necropoleis, but also for archaeozoological research, in order to be able to reconstruct the dietary habits of the Ephesian population by means of a complementary approach: representative random samples were taken from human bones from graves of the Archaic period up until the late Middle Ages, as well as from animal bones. In a current collaborative project with M. Richards and M. Wong (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and J. Montgomery (Durham University, UK) proteins are extracted, in order subsequently to identify the proportional relationships of the stable isotopes carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. Based on the resulting isotope pattern, individual components of the diet – for example vegetal as opposed to animal foodstuffs, or land animals as opposed to marine animals – should be broken down, in order to obtain as complete an understanding as possible of the food supply of the Ephesian population.