Doliche Excavation: Exploring Urbanism in Syria

Doliche was a major city of Roman and Byzantine North Syria, located in Turkey (near Gaziantep, South-East Anatolia), approximately 50 km north of the Turkish-Syrian Border. The city has not attracted scholarly attention so far, and no surveys or excavations have been carried out. This, however, is about to change. A new excavation project was begun in 2015, generously funded by the German Research Council (DFG). This provides the opportunity to conduct intensive surveys and excavations in core areas of the city over the next three years. The goal is to explore the biography of the city and to enhance our understanding of urban development in Syria from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine period. To achieve this ambitious aim, the excavation was linked to UrbNet in November 2015. The research environment offered by UrbNet and the stimulating exchange of experiences with colleagues of various archaeological disciplines and sciences will be pivotal to turn the Doliche excavations into a case study for the exploration of urbanism of ancient Syria and beyond. By integrating contextual archaeology and scientific techniques, we will not only test and challenge the urban history of Doliche but also deliver new assumptions about urbanism and urban networks in the Near East.

In summer 2015, first soundings in a residential area of the Late Roman and early Byzantine period yielded promising results. Most spectacular was the discovery of a late Roman villa with a large colonnaded courtyard and splendid mosaic floors. Many features of the villa’s furniture have been recovered as fragments of wall-painting, marble revetments, pottery and architectural decoration. The comprehensive study of this villa and the adjacent buildings and the context-oriented analysis of the finds promise to provide an unbiased picture of the development of the city in Late Antiquity.

In 2016, the activities in Doliche will be extended considerably. Excavations in the residential area will be continued, and geophysical prospection will be initiated. In addition, an intensive survey of the urban area will start, and new excavations will be undertaken in the public area of the city where the agora and the archive of the city were located.

PI: Assistant professor Michael Bömer