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Botanical research on the archaeological site of Sagalassos (Turkey)

Contact: L. Vanhecke

Golcuk volcanic area



Sagalassos is a place at 7 km north of the village Aglasun in the province of Burdur, Turkey. The ruins of the city lay on the southern flank of the Aglasun mountain ridge (a part of the Taurus-mountains). A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has been studying the whole area since 1990. On the botanical field L. Vanhecke collaborates with e.g. I. Beuls, T. Van Thuyne and M. Vermoere. For more about the Sagalassos project of the Catholic University of Leuven in general, click here.

Botanical fieldwork started in 1997 and was continued annually. From the beginning, three main objectives were put forward:

  • The constitution of a standard collection of recent plant species within the historical territory of Sagalassos,
  • The study and description of recent vegetation types and habitats,
  • The study of the relation between the local recent vegetation types and their pollen spectra.

The third objective is especially linked directly to archeological research, since it permits better understanding and interpretion of fossil pollen assemblages originating from drill cores. This kind of relational analyses is one of the approaches within the palynological research of Mrs. M. Vermoere (KULeuven), who is preparing a doctoral thesis on the palaeobotany of the Sagalassos territory. The collection of the recent pollen rain in recent vegetation and the drilling for fossil pollen was done mostly during the first years of the botanical fieldwork. The systematic botanical inventory of the Sagalassos territory came to help in other disciplines where plant life is involved in one way or another: archae zoological research (I. Beuls, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren), research on the foodrests on Roman earthware (K. Kimpe, KULeuven), paleobotanic research on macro rests (T. Van Thuyne, KULeuven).

Marsh of gravgaz Golcuk Astragalus vegetation

The marsh of Gravgaz and the volcanic area of Gölçuk with Astragalus vegeatation

The description of the recent vegetation and habitat types mostly serves the interpretation of palynological analyses. This type of fieldwork is limited in so far that it cannot be done in a systematic way. Not all vegetation types can be described due to restricted logistic possibilities (first years) and especially due to the prolixity of the method (standard method for vegetation description of Braun-Blanquet). So far, most vegetation descriptions deal with different types of slope vegetation and marsh vegetation. During the 2000 campaign, most attention was directed to the semi-shrub vegetation at and around the Sagalassos excavation site itself.

Fundamental botanic knowledge on the modern flora and vegetation of the archaeological territory gives a framework that is useful to other research disciplines. The integration of all botanical fieldwork, especially of the reference collection and floristic notes, will make it possible to make a local flora of the Sagalassos territory. This local flora will be at the disposition of future researchers within the Sagalassos team and of the local authorities if so desired.

Agrostemma gracilis Cuscuta sp. Phlomis samia Sideritis condensata

Agrostemma gracilis, Cuscuta, Phlomis samia and Sideritis condensata

Silene compacta Cionura erecta Rosa phoenica Teucrium pruinosum

Silene compacta, Cionura erecta, Rosa phoenica, and Teucrium pruinosum

Key publications

Beuls I., De Cupere B., Vermoere M., Vanhecke L., Doultrepont H., Vrydaghs L. Libbrecht I. & Waelkens M. (2000). Modern sheep and goat herding near Sagalassos and its relevance to the reconstruction of pastoral practices in Roman times. Sagalassos V: 847-861.

Vermoere M., Degryse P., Vanhecke L., Muchez Ph., Paulissen E., Smets E. & Waelkens M. (1999). Pollen analysis of two travertine sections in Basköy (Southwest Turkey): implications for environmental conditions during the Early Holocene. Rev. Palaeobot. & Palynol. 105: 93-110.

Vermoere M., Smets E., Waelkens M., Vanhaverbeke H., Librecht I, Paulissen L. & Vanhecke L. (2000) Late Holocene Environmental Change and the Record of Human Impact at Gravgaz near Sagalassos, Southwest Turkey. Journ. of Archaeological Science 27: 571-595.

Vermoere M., Vanhecke L., Waelkens M. & Smets E. (2001) Modern pollen studies in the territory of Sagalassos (Southwest Turkey) and their use in the interpretation of a Late Holocene pollen diagram. Rev. Palaeobot. & Palynol. 114: 29-56.

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