Finishing up the work in Doliche

The last time we spoke about this year’s excavation results was during our half-time show a couple of weeks back. Now that the actual excavation has finished on Saturday, it’s time to show you this year’s results in all its glory!

Of course this year we only worked on the terrace basilica. Last time we spoke about three different trenches which we excavate this year. However, we added one more trench, to shift our working groups there, in case we had to stop working in one trench in order to document a planum etc. So all in all we were excavating in four areas this year. The terrace basilica itself is now excavated almost completely in the eastern part, with both rooms bordering the apse and the apse itself completely exposed. Below you can see our progress since the last update.

In the area of the Trench 01, with 10×10 m by far our biggest trench this year, we were able to expose a row of water channels and also basins which were in some way connected to the usage of the church. This however needs further investigation and research, which we will commence once we are back in Germany. Furthermore, here the exposed walls reach the highest point within the confinement of the church, reaching a maximum of about 2,5 m in height. Quite a marvellous sight when walking around these ancient walls. The mosaic in the northern aisle of the church could also be uncovered completely and is preserved quite well.

Between the Trenches 01 and 02 lies the apse. Here we managed to expose the apse mosaic completely, showing a nilotic scene. This is a term for a scene which shows an abundance of fish, birds and plants, referring to the river Nile by its name. Our apse-mosaic even shows a depiction of a shrimp! It’s a beautifully made mosaic with a mixture of wildlife and geometric forms. Further south in her area of Trench 02 we were able to clearly show the eastern wall of the church and with that the most eastern extension of the church itself.

In Trench 3 we were searching for the southern border of the church area, and we hoped to find the limits by uncovering the southern church wall. However, it seems that the basilica went through multiple stages of restructuring and rebuilding even in antiquity. Thereby the area south of the church is a complex mixture of different foundations for floors walls and other undefinable structures, and we have yet to figure out how exactly these can be interpreted. Still, we gathered valuable intel and hope to finally clear this question next year.

Interestingly, even beyond the borders of the church, mainly in the east, we found more complex structures indicating further rooms and buildings which were somehow connected to the late antique basilica church. It is too early to say what kind of function these rooms would have had, but a connection to Christendom and the function of the church itself seems certain. As we found these remains in the Trenches 01 and 02 and parts of them were uncovered already during the 2018/2019 campaign we decided to open another trench. Here, in Trench 04 we tried to expose the connection points of the church and these new buildings to the east. By exposing these walls we even found remains of doorways indicating the close relation of the church and the additional buildings to the east!

All in all we had an exciting campaign this year, not only because of the new challenges brought to us with Covid-19. The excavation showed amazing results, and we can’t wait to start working on them once we are back in Münster! Furthermore, we are already planning trenches and hatching plans for next year’s campaign. After all, after the excavation is before the excavation…

So with all that in mind, thank YOU for staying with us throughout the campaign and best wishes from the whole (actually quite small) excavation team of the Doliche 2020 project!

written by Fynn Riepe with pictures by Markus Heim

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