The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Archaeological Excavations

Africa and Asia Minor. — In the spring of 1924 the University of Michigan began its first field work in the Near East. For many years the University had been slowly, but definitely, augmenting its valuable archaeological collections illustrative of ancient history. Of first importance among them were the papyri from Greco-Roman Egypt, acquired mainly by Francis W. Kelsey. The study of the papyri and the other archaeological material at the University led to the conclusion that further field work was necessary to illustrate and supplement the knowledge already gained. A very generous grant of funds by Horace H. Rackham in 1923 furnished the means for this undertaking.

Plans were laid to conduct reconnaissance operations in three countries, in three widely separated areas which were once part of the Roman Empire, namely, Asia Minor, Egypt, and Tunisia in North Africa. It was the plan of the Committee on Near East Research in charge of the work at the University to conduct trial excavations for one season and then, from the results obtained, to determine the most profitable field in which to continue investigations. Data gathered from excavations on the sites of Pisidian Antioch in Asia Minor, of Carthage in Page  1465North Africa, and of Karanis in the Province of Fayoum, Upper Egypt, were compared and evaluated. The result was that, after the first year, the committee decided to devote its resources to the work of excavation in Egypt.

The results of the first season's efforts in Egypt were of the utmost importance. Not only were many valuable papyri recovered from the excavations, but also other archaeological material, which could be assigned to a definite date and place and would therefore be of inestimable value for the study of life and society in Greco-Roman times. Another factor which influenced the decision of the committee was the very favorable and helpful attitude towards the excavations on the part of the Egyptian government and its efficient Department of Antiquities.

Antioch. — For his field operations in Asia Minor, Professor Kelsey chose as director Professor David M. Robinson, of the Johns Hopkins University. Acting upon the advice of the eminent Anatolian scholar, Sir William Ramsay, who had spent many years in research in the Near East, representations were made to the Turkish government for permission to excavate a site, called Sizma, near Konia. Pending completion of arrangements necessary for the organization of the work at Sizma, the University accepted the invitation of Sir William to assist him in the excavation of Pisidian Antioch, near Yalivadj, in Sparta Vilayet, for which he held a permit from the Turkish government. From May through August of 1924 the University conducted excavations on the site of Antioch and simultaneously in July and August completed trial explorations at Sizma.

These excavations were concerned mainly with the site of Roman Antioch which served as a military base of operations for the war conducted by the consul, Quirinius, later governor of Syria, against the Homanadenses; here too, the Apostle Paul had first preached to the Gentiles.

There had perhaps been an earlier Phrygian sanctuary on the site, dating probably from the early third century before the Christian Era. We know that as early as 189 b.c., however, Antioch was made a free city by the Romans. Though under Roman sovereignty, it retained its Greek characteristics even up to the time of its last king, Amyntas, who was killed in the wars against the brigands in the Taurus Mountains in 25 b.c. At that time the entire Province of Galatia came more closely under the personal supervision of Augustus, and it is just this period in the history of Antioch, under the Early Empire, that was the chosen field of investigation by the University. The site of the earlier Greek city has not been definitely determined.

Sir William and Lady Ramsay had visited and explored the site several times prior to the spring of 1924. As early as 1914 they had made a most remarkable discovery in the eastern portion of the hill of some sixty fragments in marble of a Latin inscription. The fragments proved to be parts of a copy of the famous inscription, set up in bronze in Rome, in front of the mausoleum of Augustus, and called Res Gestae Divi Augusti. The inscription in Rome has been lost, but its contents are known from a copy set up in Ancyra, the modern Angora, and therefore called the Monumentum Ancyranum. In like manner Antioch set up a copy of this inscription, to commemorate the deeds of the Emperor Augustus among the subject peoples in this eastern outpost of Roman civilization.

As a further contribution to this memorable document, the University recovered some two hundred additional fragments in the course of the excavations in 1924. Hitherto, according to Ramsay, no Page  1466fragments of the Preface or of the first seven chapters had been found at Antioch. With the discoveries made by the University, we now have fragments, not only of the Preface and of every chapter, but also of the four appendices, which serve to fill lacunae in the Monumentum Ancyranum.

Ever since the first fragments of this inscription were found at Antioch, there had been considerable conjecture as to its exact position in ancient times. Some scholars held the view that at Antioch, as at Angora, the inscription must have been cut on the walls of a public building. A complete clearance of the area in which these fragments were found revealed that in all probability the inscription had been carved on four pedestals, the faces of which were three meters in front of the Propylaea. The expedition had discovered the Propylaea, situated at the top of a broad, stone stairway, which led up from a stone-paved area, the Tiberia Platea, to a temple erected against the eastern hill.

This stairway consisted of about a dozen steps some twenty-two or twenty-three meters across. Enormous masses of sculptural and architectural fragments of the Propylaea were found lying in confusion on the steps. Here were found architrave blocks, cornices, spandrels and voussoirs of the three arches, slabs of sculpture in relief, drums of engaged Corinthian columns, and enormous, magnificently carved capitals. The bases on which once stood the pedestals bearing the Res Gestae and which indicated the locations of the piers of the arches were also uncovered. They had doubtless fallen because of successive earthquake shocks or were deliberately demolished by later inhabitants of that region, desirous both of destroying the monuments of an earlier regime and of procuring stone for their own building operations. A portion of the architrave was found containing the holes into which the bronze letters of an inscription had originally been fitted. It is quite possible that the name of Augustus was mentioned on this block signifying the dedication of the Propylaea to him. Though the site had been badly stripped of stone by the inhabitants of the modern village of Yalivadj, yet so many fragments of the Propylaea were found that it is possible to make an accurate reconstruction of this triumphal archway, here dedicated to a deified emperor.

Of the temple itself, whose podium had been cut from the living rock of the hill, not one stone was found in situ. A very accurate reconstruction of it can be made, however, based on evidence gathered from the architectural blocks that were found, some scattered about the temple area proper and others built into the walls of the houses of the nearby modern village. Some few meters behind the temple the natural rock of the hill had been cut to the height of several meters to form a nearly semicircular wall enclosing the east end of the temple area. In front of this wall was a two-story colonnade, Ionic above and Doric below. Shops had doubtless been located along the base of this wall.

In front of the Propylaea, to the west, was uncovered a large area paved with stone. From a long Latin inscription found here, it was learned that this was the Tiberia Platea, that is, the Square of Tiberius. Another inscription furnished the information that the square between the Propylaea and the temple was called Platea Augusta.

In the pavement in the center of the Square of Tiberius was a large, circular slab of stone. Bronze letters had once been fitted into the matrices of this stone and, from the holes left, Robinson was able to reconstruct the inscription. It recorded the fact that "T. Paebius Asiaticus, son of Titus, of the tribe Sergia, Page  1467an aedile for the third time, paved this square at his own expense."

To the west of the paved area were found the ruins of a building which was probably a Byzantine church. Nearby was recovered a marble head of Augustus, a cast of which is now in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University. No traces could be found of the remainder of the figure.

In the northwestern section of the city a Christian basilica was discovered. The floor of the nave was paved with a colored mosaic, containing four inscriptions, two of which mention Bishop Optimus, who became Bishop of Antioch about 375-81.

At the very close of the season a large monumental gateway was uncovered in the southwestern part of the site. Behind it had been a fountain, decorated with dolphins. The gateway, almost fifty meters wide, consisted of a large central arch, flanked by a smaller arch on either side. It rose to a height of twelve or thirteen meters. The enormous blocks used in the construction of the gateway lay strewn around in great confusion, due, no doubt, to earthquakes. Several of the architrave blocks which were recovered had been inscribed with bronze letters fitted into matrices. A dozen of these letters were found, several of them in situ, which mentioned a certain C. Iulius Asper (inscribed as C.IVL.ASP). In like manner there was found the name of a certain Pansinianus, known from other inscriptions found in the city by Ramsay.

Antioch had received its water supply from springs in the hills situated several miles to the north of the city. Many of the massive arches, supporting the stone watercourse, still exist. Practically the entire length of this aqueduct was explored.

In addition to the numerous building blocks of stone, many of them beautifully carved with figures in relief, numerous fragments of statues were found. Noteworthy among these was a draped statue of Victory, perhaps a copy of an earlier fifth-century Greek original. Coins, fragments of glass goblets, fragments of small stone altars, and other objects of interest were also uncovered in the course of the excavations.

Sizma. — It was necessary in July to curtail the work at Antioch in order to devote some time to the investigations at Sizma. Numerous trial trenches were dug, but no ancient buildings were discovered. Heaps of slag, ashes, and refuse from the smelting of cinnabar in ancient times, led Robinson to conclude that there may have been a settlement of miners here and that their houses had been built of adobe and consequently had not survived. In the debris were found many potsherds and some thirty vases of red, black, and brown hand-molded ware. It was Robinson's opinion that these dated about 2500 b.c. Numerous bone astragali, querns, pestles, and broken lamps were also recovered. Near the surface was found an inscription which contained a reference to the Zizimmene Mother, a title under which the goddess Cybele was here worshipped, but no traces were found of a sanctuary dedicated to this divinity. Numerous inscriptions of a late Roman date came to light in the surrounding territory.

Besides the persons mentioned above as associated with the actual excavations in Asia Minor, the staff included the following: Francis W. Kelsey, George R. Swain, Frederick J. Woodbridge, Horace Colby, Easton T. Kelsey, Feizy Bey, and Enoch E. Peterson.

Carthage. — In the spring of 1925 the Washington Archaeological Society decided to conduct an investigation on the site of ancient Carthage in North Africa. Acting upon the recommendation of Professor Francis W. Kelsey, who had acceded Page  1468to the request of the society to serve as General Director in the field, arrangements were made to conduct a thorough preliminary reconnaissance of the site. The aim was to ascertain both the prevailing working conditions and, from the archaeological evidence recovered, to determine whether or not it would be advisable to invest large sums of money for a complete clearance of the site, or parts of it.

In addition to support from the Near East research fund of the University of Michigan, the society received special contributions from the University of Rochester and from Mr. William F. Kenny, of New York. During the three months, March, April, and May, of 1925, there were associated with Professor Kelsey in the field work the following staff, some of them serving as assistants in special investigations for short periods and others connected with the general work during the entire campaign: the Abbé J.-B. Chabot, Orma F. Butler, Nita Butler, the Reverend Père A. Delattre, and Messrs. Ralph M. Calder, William Douglas, George F. French, Donald B. Harden, William E. Hayes, Horton O'Neill, Enoch E. Peterson, Byron Khun de Prorok, Gerard Rey de Vilette, Edward R. Stoever, George R. Swain, Robert R. Swain, Columbus C. Wells, Frederick J. Woodbridge, and Henry S. Washington.

Owing to the fact that practically the entire terrain which marks the site of ancient Carthage had been parceled out into building lots, and that much of it had already been occupied, any attempt to excavate the entire site was found to be prohibitive in expense, unless the government should see fit to expropriate the land as a national archaeological park. For this reason no extensive general excavation could be carried out, and detailed investigations were limited to a small area which had been purchased some years earlier by Byron Khun de Prorok. This was later enlarged by the purchase of land by the Washington Society, making altogether an irregular plot of ground, some sixty-three meters long, varying in width from fifteen to twenty-eight meters, which was the site of an ancient burial ground, consecrated to the goddess Tanit.

As early as 1921 this section, near the ancient harbor, had come under the surveillance of government officials in Tunis. From time to time in Tunis there had appeared limestone stelae with Punic inscriptions and symbols associated with the cult of Tanit. This finally came to the attention of certain public officials interested in antiquities. They investigated the matter and succeeded in definitely tracing them to their place of origin. The property was purchased and trial excavations were conducted with funds furnished by the Service des Antiquités.

It was in this plot of ground that extensive excavations were carried out during the season of 1925. Investigations were conducted in a restricted but typical area in this section to the very lowest stratum resting on the limestone bedrock. Unmistakable evidences were found of three distinct levels of archaeological remains. No ruins of an actual temple or shrine, dedicated to the goddess Tanit, were found in any level. Dedicatory stelae, set in the earth like tombstones of a cemetery, and cinerary urns with their contents were almost the only antiquities recovered in this area.

In the lowest stratum stelae were not found, but thirty-one cinerary urns were recovered, dating from the seventh and eighth centuries b.c. The urns were found spaced about a meter apart, each one carefully protected by a cairn of small stones, piled around and on top of it. A layer of black earth covered the cairns to an average depth of fifty centimeters. On top of this there was, in turn, a layer of yellow clay seven centimeters Page  1469in thickness. Above this was the second archaeological level, which averaged in depth from one and one-half meters to two meters. In the second level no cairns were found, only urns and stelae. The urns were arranged in groups and above each group a dedicatory stone had been erected. The third or top level consisted of urns only. They were placed in the earth, which had accumulated among the stelae of the second level to a depth of about a meter. To judge from fragments of pottery and Hellenistic lamps found in the filling, these deposits belonged to the period just preceding 146 b.c. The stelae were of various types; some had Punic inscriptions, others bore symbols sacred to Tanit.

More than eleven hundred urns were recovered in the excavations in 1925. A preliminary examination was made of the contents of a few of them. They contained charred bones of young children, lambs, goats, and small birds. With the bones in the urns of the lowest level were also found rings, bracelets, earrings, beads, amulets, and objects of gold, silver, bronze, and iron.

Along the northern edge of the area a Roman vault of a later period was uncovered. It had been built over earlier stelae, which were left undisturbed in their original position in the floor of the vault. Near the southern edge were found the ruins, perhaps of a temple, of the Roman period. The site has not been fully cleared, and owing to peculiar local conditions the matter must be left to governmental agencies.

Karanis. — In the autumn of 1924 the University of Michigan undertook field operations in Egypt which continued, without interruption, until August, 1935. During that time J. L. Starkey of London, England, served as Director for the first two seasons and was then succeeded by E. E. Peterson of the University. Associated as members of the staff in the field work at Karanis and Dimé, for varying periods during the eleven years of activities, were the following: Professor A. E. R. Boak and Messrs. L. Amundsen, D. C. Caskie, J. A. Chubb, H. Falconer, S. Golovko, R. Haatvedt, D. B. Harden, A. G. K. Hayter, F. B. Joslin, E. T. Kelsey, E. D. Line, G. Loud, O. W. Qualley, C. C. Roberts, P. Ruthven, V. B. Schuman, E. Swain, I. Terentieff, and S. Yeivin.

At the beginning of operations the Egyptian government granted to the University concessions to excavate two sites in the Province of Fayoum — Karanis, now known as Kôm Aushim, fifty-nine kilometers southwest of the Great Pyramid, and Soknopaiou Nesos, now called Dimé, some forty kilometers west of Karanis.

Karanis had been badly destroyed by the natives before the University began its systematic and scientific excavation of the site. Enough remained, however, buried beneath the sands of the desert, to enable the gathering of ample and accurate topographical evidence for the preparation of detailed maps of the city, both of the various buildings, public and private, including two temples, and of the general plan of the city in all the levels of occupation, throughout its six or seven hundred years of existence from the third century b.c. to the early fifth century a.d. Simultaneously, with the gathering of topographical evidence, exact knowledge was also acquired of the numerous objects found in the excavations. Now, for the first time in the history of archaeological research in Greco-Roman Egypt, it has become possible to identify and date the objects, apart from papyri, ostraca, and coins, that definitely belong to this period in ancient history. Hundreds of antiquities, scattered throughout the museums of the world, either undated or assigned to a very long, indefinite period, can now be classified Page  1470correctly, both as to time and place, by comparison with the objects recovered by the University of Michigan excavations in Egypt.

The entire site of Karanis has been completely and thoroughly surveyed. Triangulation and topographical charts have been prepared, which cover territory even beyond the confines of the city at its greatest extent. All architectural evidence uncovered has been noted on the proper maps at the proper levels. No reconstructions have been made that could not be substantiated beyond the question of a doubt by evidence found in the actual excavations.

In addition to the triangulation chart, topographical maps, and one general map of the excavated areas in the eastern section (scale, 1:1000), 133 other maps, illustrating all levels and sections, have been prepared. Throughout the years of field work, some seventy thousand levels alone were computed in the survey of Karanis, together with other measurements, totaling into the hundreds of thousands. In addition, hundreds of photographs have been taken, showing architectural and topographical details to supplement and illustrate the data recorded on the maps and plans.

Of major importance among the objects recovered in the excavations at Karanis were the papyri. Letters, business documents, and literary fragments became all the more valuable as historical source material by very reason of their discovery at definite locations and levels.

The coins of Karanis are very numerous, more than twenty thousand having been recovered from one house alone. The ostraca are extremely valuable for the close dating of levels and are important source material for the study of the economic life of Karanis.

One of the most perplexing problems that has hitherto confronted archaeologists has been the proper classification of glass from Egypt. Now it is possible to assign correct dates and provenance to the various types known to have come from Egypt. The same problem applies to pottery to an even greater degree, for it was found in greater abundance and was common over a longer period of time than the glass. One of the most important contributions which the University of Michigan excavations in Egypt have given to the history of this period is the accurate information on the use of wood, both in building and in the making of smaller objects of daily household use.

Dimé. — The site of Dimé, much smaller than that of Karanis, was thoroughly surveyed before excavations began. Although the site was in a very inaccessible part of the desert it had been badly ravaged by the diggers for fertilizer. Topographical and triangulation charts were prepared for the entire site. Two sections of the hill were chosen for special, detailed investigation, in which excavations were carried out down to bedrock, in certain places through as many as four levels of occupation. Seventeen maps on a large scale were prepared for the special sections under excavation.

The papyri and ostraca were among the most important objects recovered at Dimé. Especially noteworthy among these were some papyri with seals intact. A considerable number of the ostraca were Demotic. No complete specimens of glass and remarkably few fragments were found. Very little basketry and few wooden objects were recovered.

The excavations at Dimé showed that the city must have continued in existence from about the middle of the third century b.c. to the early third century a.d. Undoubtedly the collapse of the irrigation system and the decline in importance of the crocodile cult in Fayoum account for the early abandonment of this site.

Page  1471Terenouthis. — In 1935 the Egyptian government granted a concession to the University to excavate Terenouthis, now known as Kôm Abou Billou. It lay on the edge of the western desert accessible from the Nile Valley only by a camel and donkey trail, some ten miles southwest of the modern village of Kafr Dawud. Its utter destruction at the hands of modern treasure hunters and diggers for fertilizer precluded any lengthy campaigns on that site. In fact, there is no Greco-Roman site in Egypt that has not been almost completely ruined by the peasants of modern Egypt. The soil covering these ancient ruins furnishes excellent fertilizer for the cotton crops, and for that very reason the Egyptian government has allowed these mounds to be ruthlessly destroyed.

The main part of the work at Kôm Abou Billou was devoted to a clearance of a cemetery, which was very late Roman and early Coptic. An important and large group of limestone grave stelae was found. Beads, amulets, and jewelry, along with pottery, lamps, terracotta figurines, and some glass, were the principal objects recovered in the excavations. Some coins were found which are of especial value in dating the stelae and pottery. Hitherto it has been impossible to date the stelae and pottery found in this part of Egypt.

The results of the University of Michigan excavations in Egypt are of outstanding importance. Not only have they laid bare the plan of a town, to the very minutest detail in house construction and decoration, but they have also peopled these houses and temples, these streets and passageways, by revealing the very objects used long ago in daily life. We have seen the letters these people wrote to one another, the accounts they kept in business transactions, the kinds of food they ate, the grain they planted in their irrigated plots of land, the cloth they wove to make their garments, the wooden boxes in which they stored their treasures, the glass that must have been highly cherished, the pottery that served as common household ware, the toys that delighted the hearts of their children, the lamps that gave such feeble light and so much smoke, staining black the niches in their housewalls, and the paintings, all of some religious significance, with which they sometimes adorned their houses. We have seen the very temples in which they worshipped, now in ruins, mute reminders of a cult that even then was in decay. The people who wrote and read the papyri, which have become so valuable as source material for the history of this period, are revealed to us as a living people in a living town.