An early Imperial backfilled pit in the Terrace House 2 in Ephesos

The excavation of a pit filled with refuse in the residential unit 5 of Terrace House 2 in Ephesos is a lucky coincidence for the study of Roman daily life.

A pit and its backfill – unspectacular at a first glance – are central to this interdisciplinary archaeological study. The amount of finds is enormous: 3,283 pottery sherds, over 10,600 animal bones, 756.5 liters of sediments full of charred plant remains and charcoal, in addition to coins, terracottas, glass, objects of bone, iron, and copper were registered in the fill. The stratigraphic sequence clearly illustrates, that the creation of the pit but also the fill were intentional and, therefore, indicate a depositional process. According to the evaluation of the pottery this took place in the 60s of the  1st century CE. Very unusual objects are of particular note because they provide indications about the social practices underlying the deposition.

In the first part of the publication all material and object types are presented and discussed while the second part encompasses the cultural historical classification of the ensemble in its entirety. The large amount of crockery and food residues suggest that the pit fill might represent the remains of a feast. The reason for such a communal meal, a cena publica can only be imagined. In any case, the connection to the owner’s family of residential unit 3/5 is striking because the remains were deposited in the house in an expressly made pit following the meal. There were numerous family events, such as weddings and funeral ceremonies, as well as the assumption of thetoga virilis of the male heirs. Possibly, the togati and miniature fibulae suggest this form of coming-of-age celebration in the Roman tradition.