Excavations at Sardis have been going on since the early 20th century. Today they are lead by a joint team from Harvard and Cornell University under the direction of Nick Cahill. There has been a long standing tradition of IFA graduate students and conservators working at the site. It is a two season commitment and my experience was greatly enhanced by working with Jess Walthew, rising third-year student, who had been at Sardis the previous year. We were also fortunately enough to have a supervising conservator, Jen Kim, for the first half of the season.
Sardis is located in the middle of the Hermus valley at the base of Mount Tmolus. It was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia. Later the city was important under the Persians, Romans, and Byzantines. In addition, the site was mentioned as one of the Seven Churches of Asia according to the Book of Revelations. Important monuments include the Temple of Artemis, the monumental mud structures, the Acropolis, the synagogue, and Byzantine shops.
The ten week season went by incredibly fast. There were five active trenches, and everyone worked together to process the material. In addition to newly excavated material, conservators were also responsible for objects that were in the process of being published, as well as a selected number of pieces from the Manisa Museum. Sometimes we would be called to the field to assist with especially fragile material.
We treated over 500 objects this season. Generally the material fell into one of three groups: metals, ceramics, and marble. Some notable finds this season were Persian laminar armor, Roman votive deposits (ceramic vessels with metal implements, coins, and egg shells), clumps of arrow heads, marble sculptural and architectural fragments, and many ceramic vessels.
At Sardis, the archaeologists and conservators work a 6-day week, with Wednesdays off. On my days off, I was able to travel to many nearby archaeological sites. Some travel highlights included Pergamon, Priene, Miletus, Didyma, Claros, Bodrum, Permukkale, Aphrodisias, and Ephesus.
Working at Sardis was an incredible experience and I am very excited at the prospect of returning next summer.
I took a circuitous route back to the States via Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. To learn more about my end-of-season travels, read my “Adventures in the Middle East” post!