The Lower Kaikos Valley, situated in Western Turkey, is an interesting landscape in which to investigate the development and transformation of central places. In prehistoric times, the region had a decentralized settlement structure. By Hellenistic times, an advanced net of central places had developed around the central places of Atarneus and Pergamon. One of the main topics of research is the connection between the system of the Kaikos river as an important communication line and the rise and fall of Atarneus and Pergamon as important Hellenistic central places. One of the most prominent questions is whether the Greek geographer Strabon was wrong when he stated that Kaikos entered into the Aegean Sea near Atarneus, because the recent river mouth is located about 20 km southeast of this location. Did the mouth of the Kaikos river system change its location within the Late Quaternary? And how did landscape evolution and human settlement activity interact? To answer these questions, the project includes sedimentary and geomorphological investigations and integrates archaeological research. As a result, ongoing sediment analyses focus on the identification of different deposit forms and on human impact.
To which degree are central places influenced by their environment? Is the centrality higher in areas where the environmental conditions are more favourable in contrast to other? And if so: why? And if not: why?
These are some questions this doctoral thesis deals with. It is the general aim to reconstruct the environmental parameters that influenced the centrality of sites. The concept of central places as defined by Christaller (1933) as well as its theoretical enhancements and adaptions to archaeological questions [see also Projekt A-I-21] are the theoretical base. Since these concepts do not integrate the natural environment an assessment of it is very individual and subjective. This work attempts to formulate general environmental parameters that influence human and their spatial behaviour (e.g. the suitability for agricultural and traffic purposes or the access to resources) and – more importantly - integrate these in the description of a place’s centrality. This is the base of a holistic comparison of A-I’s different case studies. Preliminary results show that there are different spatial scales that shape the centrality of a place – naturally and culturally. Furthermore, there is a natural centrality and an artifical centrality. The first mainly characterizes areas of long settlement continuity and is strongly related to the environmental conditions. The latter is opposite to this and marked by a very high centrality for a short time. Nevertheless, depended from the duration of their importance they can sustainably influence the spatial palimpsest. At the moment analysis are conducted at the Syrian city Halab (Aleppo) in cooperation with the project A-I-6 as well as in Western Anatolia in cooperation with A-I-8.
Steffen Schneider is a research assistant at the Institute of Geographical Sciences of the FU Berlin and part of the Topoi Graduate Group “Landscapes”. His dissertation is on landscape change and man-environment interactions in the environs of ancient Pergamon.
In eastern Serbia, near the provincial capital Zaječar, are the ruins of a fortified palace ensemble from Late Antiquity. It is regarded as the planned retirement palace of Emperor Galerius (around 250-311 AD). The inscription “Felix Romuliana” was found above a door; the emperor apparently dedicated the palace to his mother. The palace compound also includes two mausoleums and two mound graves associated with the emperor and his mother. Remnants of a tetrapylon were also found in a little pass nearby.
Felix Romuliana is one of the few well-preserved palaces from the period of what is called the tetrarchy on which intensive research can be conducted, because the still very rural area has never been overbuilt. Since Summer 2007, the compound is a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.
A geomagnetic prospection in the immediate vicinity of the walled ensemble revealed numerous buildings, including two large horrea (warehouses), another church, and what are probably the remains of the preceding construction. The area was apparently densely settled from Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages. The test excavations have shown that a necropolis lay south of the palace and that the palace was surrounded by a ditch. A German-Serbian collaborative project has already finished a new topographical survey and an architectural survey of the entire palace. Now the researchers want to conduct a large-scale survey of the surrounding country to discover whether there one or more settlements existed in proximity to the palace and whether a shift in settlement activity can be found from prehistory to the Middle Ages. It is also not yet known how the plain was agriculturally used.
Center and Periphery
For archaeologists, the system of roads in the wider environs of the palace is as yet completely unexamined and an eminent object of investigation. Was the palace connected to Galerius’ residence cities Thessalonica and Serdica (today’s Sofia)? How were other late ancient imperial palaces and villas, for example Mediana, Niş, and Şarkamen, integrated in this system? Is it possible that old roads may even have been decisive in choosing the site for this palace? Did they change after the palace was abandoned? We hope to gain insight into the relationships between the tetrarchic centers and the periphery.
For the geo-sciences, further research on the depressions and channels near the palace is interesting; the results of geophysical studies show that some of them must not yet have existed when the palace was built. Since the palace had to be abandoned in the Middle Ages and then was clearly “sealed” by a meter-high layer of silt, the question emerges of how these phenomena can be geo-scientifically explained. Can the abandonment of the settlement site in the Middle Ages be explained by changes in the volcanic landscape? Did deforestation lead to erosion? That would have influenced the local hydrologic balance. One of the essential issues is thus the climatic changes over the last 4000 years in the Crna Reka region in connection with the history of the area’s settlement through all the historical epochs, whereby the emphasis will be placed on the Roman, Late Ancient, and Early Medieval periods. Finally, the researchers want to reconstruct the landscape and its development in a model. The palace and the surrounding topography will be plastically presented in a 3-D model.
Landscape evolution of the necropolis of Dahshur
The necropolis of Dahshur is located at the eastern fringe of the Western Desert close to the flood plain of the river Nile, approximately 30 km south of Cairo. The necropolis is dominated by ancient monuments, first of all the Bent Pyramid, the Red Pyramid (both Old Kingdom) and the Pyramid of Amenemhat III (Middle Kingdom). The present landscape is characterised by an escarpment orientated N-S, parallel to the Nile valley, in which tributaries incised.
The research history of the necropolis of Dahshur dates back to the late 19th century and was focussed on its the meaning as a sanctuary. Since 2001 several auger-drillings were conducted along the margin of the Nile floodplain and in the channel-beds of its tributaries to localise the pyramid town of the Red Pyramid and to trace the causeway of the Bend Pyramid down the valley. Beside the localisation of the northern pyramid town, the drillings show that the relief of the necropolis underlay significant changes since ancient times. These changes were driven by two main processes: accumulation of Nile alluvial deposits and deposition of aeolian sand, the latter mainly in the wadi beds.
The aim of the geoarchaeological project is to study the landscape evolution of the necropolis of Dahshur. A special focus is set on the time slice of the Old Kingdom. In doing so, we analyse the structure of the drainage network of the pyramid plateau and compare it with the drainage network characteristics of the adjacent catchments. Morphometric, geomorphological, archaeologicical and sedimentological field data give evidence that the relief of the pyramid area can be hardly explained taking into account only fluvial processes or processes like gully erosion or soil erosion. For the area of the pyramid plateau a direct anthropogenic relief forming influence has to be considered.
Contemporary perception of the Carthaginians is always as if they were little more than the Romans’ primary opponents. Familiar is the figure of Hannibal, who crossed the Alps with his elephants to become a true danger. But the Phoenician-Punic culture is more: a rather urban culture that, starting out from the Levant in the 9th century B.C., explored and settled the Mediterranean realm. Like Hellenic culture, it is a prime example of the expansion of a culture around the entire Mediterranean. Unlike Hellenic culture, however, the Phoenician-Punic culture has never been the object of intense, comprehensive research. This makes it seem all the more urgent to intensify research on this culture in various ways in the coming years – for example with a group of young researchers, funds for which will be applied for in the future. A first step will be an archaeological excavation. The material remnants, which have not yet been explored with a unified set of questions, will provide illuminating information. When cultures repeatedly spread into new, specific, local situations, the question arises whether scientific perception can speak of a single culture at all. Beyond that, investigation will focus on whether originally Phoenician-Punic societal concepts were translated anew to adapt to different regions.
Research on the architectural form of the oasis wall – as symbolic or factual, but in any case artificial, spatial markings at the transition between two different kinds of landscape (irrigated oasis vs. steppe/desert steppe) and thereby between corresponding ways of life and cultures (settled vs. nomadic) – has great relevance. The relationship of the wall systems to the proven Kurgan necropolises in immediate proximity demands particular consideration. At the same time, it must be assumed that the structures reflect not only political and economic constellations and processes, but also patterns of ideas, whereby the oriental understanding of the city and its “(oasis) environs” differs greatly from the European understanding. In general, the various systems of oasis walls are summarily interpreted as systems of defense against the nomadic steppe; but a large number of questions remain open thereby. The differences between the individual constructions alone suggest that, on principle, explanatory approaches of greater complexity should be applied that also take into account issues of property, the cultivation and taxation of land, and the control of communication routes. At the same time, landscape management measures (for example, to protect against sanding up) should be taken into consideration. Beyond that, the project focuses on dating the individual constructions or phases of construction. Hardly any detailed investigations of this exist. The questions of the date and function of the oasis walls can be answered only on the basis of interregional documentation and analysis.