Oh, Temple of the hill, what is your wisdom?

Building archaeology accompanying the 2022 campaign

As you could already read about in another post, the focus while excavating this year lies on a roman imperial temple, found in the ancient city centre. While the archaeologists get down and dirty in the trenches, focusing on digging up, documenting, and interpreting all the layers on top of the building structures and obviously also on finding and examining said structures and more, I as a Bauforscherin am mostly interested in the features belonging to the structure itself. Bauforschung can be translated to building archaeology, meaning documenting and also interpreting all parts of an architectural structure found at an archaeological excavation. That includes finds, that are no longer in situ but are found near or in the excavated trenches, for example architectural fragments. During this campaign Lukas, a fellow student of Bauforschung, and I were working while the excavation was going on at the same time, which often meant waiting and hoping that there would be interesting finds for us to examine – and we were not disappointed!

We started documenting the trenches that already were opened last year and drew floor plans and some sections. Using the method of SFM (or photogrammetry) and creating 3D models of all trenches, we went on to export scale 2D plans which we then used as templates and added all further information that can not be seen on those templates by hand. This method is more or less the same that is used by the archaeologists when drawing a trench. The difference lays in the detail of the drawing or better said the focus it is set on: We don’t document the different soil features and focus mostly on walls, floors and other structures belonging to the building and all the indications about the building’s history they hold. This also means that our plans couldn’t be completed, since we left before the end of this year’s campaign and parts of the trenches (mostly the floors) were still hidden under a layer of soil. In the floor plans those areas are now marked as ‘not yet excavated’ and can be added in the coming campaigns. While it might seem unpractical or even difficult that we were working during the excavation, it is also a big advantage to see the different soil layers first-hand, since it also can hold information about the building’s history.

A lot of time this year was spent looking at the appearing building structures in the new trenches and realizing how they connect to the already known parts. With merging all the data – the old and new plana, our architectural drawings, a plan of the entire field, and more – it was possible to reconstruct almost a full floor plan of the building (or at least one possibility how it could have looked like). Because of this, most of our current theories about the temple’s appearance and dimensions could be confirmed, and at the same time many new questions popped up. These questions could not always be answered at the time and will hopefully become clearer after thinking about it for the next months and after excavating more in the next campaigns.

As a quick side note, I want to talk about my work in Doliche last year, when I documented the late antique terrace church. The big difference compared to my work on the temple this year is, that the church already was (mostly) fully excavated when I arrived to document it. I also had laser scan data that I could use as a template for my plans and could start drawing and interpreting right away. The advantage here was that I was able to document everything at once and in a logical order, and already had a bigger context to work with. I still had to fill in some small parts that were further excavated during my stay, but all in all it was in a way more convenient than working on a structure that mostly still lays underground. Still, I have to point out that actively seeing the excavation works being done can hold so many more subtle information which is essential in order to fully be able to collect all insight into a building.

Coming back to the 2022 campaign, we not only documented all parts of the temple uncovered so far, but also many of the architectural fragments that have been found during last year’s campaign. While we used the classical method of measuring and drawing on scale plans of the bigger elements remaining on the field, we also used a handheld 3D scanner to document some smaller fragments. While guiding the scanner (that looks a lot like a flat iron) around the object, the accompanying software creates a 3D model in real time. After some editing on the computer, we finally also have an on scale template that we can use as guidance to draw the important views of the fragment by hand to be able to add all the details and information. Another advantage is that during the same process we create a 3D model that can be united with other models and in the future can be used for reconstructing big parts of the architectural decoration of the temple.

All in all, this year’s campaign was very successful and informative from the perspective of us Bauforscher. A lot of questions could be answered, more still remain or were just opened up for discussion. Maybe next year, our temple will be more merciful and give us insight into its wisdom!

Written by Theresa Pommer

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