Now that roughly half of our 2020 excavation campaign is over, we thought we’d show you the state of our progress and the trenches we are working on in 2020. This year we are working solely on the Keber Tepe. We are focusing all our efforts completely onto the late antique basilica church which was discovered first in 2017.
The late antique church is built in the basilica style, which originated from the western part of the Roman Empire. Our church here in Doliche was probably built sometimes during the late 4th century CE. The concept of the basilica was generally imported and adapted by the eastern parts of the Roman Empire during this time.
Work on the late antique church began in 2015, however back then we didn’t exactly know that we were dealing with a late antique church. Then, in the years 2017-2019 we excavated large parts of the basilica. Before our current campaign an area of roughly 350 m2 was already excavated. Because our church is situated at an area of the Keber Tepe which has a rather steep incline, the northern part of the church is covered by a larger amount of soil.
This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand everything takes longer to excavate here due to the amount of topsoil, on the other hand these areas are persevered way better, as the large soil amount protected the ancient building. You can see this in the pictures below easily, as for example walls are still visible in the northern part of the church, while in the south there is not as much conserved.
One of the nice parts of late antique buildings, and especially churches, are the beautiful mosaics that were used in that time. Our church in Doliche also has loads of them. While some, especially in the south, are not as neatly preserved, others are wonderfully complete and beautiful to look at. The true colours of the mosaics show especially when cleaned with water!
This year we focus especially on the eastern part of the church. The aim was to find the eastern and maybe southern walls of the church, to define the overall size and layout of the building. Furthermore, in late antique churches as well as today, the eastern part of the church was/is home to the apse, the area in which the altar is situated and from where the mess is hold. The apses of antique churches were usually adorned especially rich, with a vaulted roof and mosaics depicting saints and other Christian motives.
As of now we have reached about half of the depth of the trenches and are on target timing wise. We have already unearthed a couple of walls belonging to the rooms next to the apse. These we had anticipated, but couldn’t be sure that they were still traceable. Especially the northernmost trench shows promising signs, as the walls here are conserved up to 2 m in height! So we expect an astonishing sight once we are finished with this year’s campaign.
For the next couple of weeks we hope to find more intact mosaics and walls, so that we can reconstruct the late antique church of Doliche in a detailed way. Especially the northern parts of the church will be very exciting to uncover and hopefully tell us more about the early phases of Christianity in the region of northern Syria and Commagene. We hope that you are as excited as we are, and we can give you some interesting and new information about excavations in general as well as our Doliche project!
by Fynn Riepe