Experts from the Asia Minor Research Center uncover city archives

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Two impressions of official seals of the city of Doliche © Forschungsstelle Asia
Two impressions of official seals of the city of Doliche © Forschungsstelle Asia Minor

Scientists also recover more than 2,000 seal impressions in the ancient city of Doliche

Archaeologists from the Asia Minor Research Center have uncovered the city archives in the ancient city of Doliche in south-eastern Turkey and recovered more than 2,000 seal impressions used to seal documents. The team led by Michael Blömer and Engelbert Winter from the University of Münster thus made a significant discovery: although there were archives for storing contracts in every city, for example, only a handful of archive buildings from the Roman Empire have been identified to date. The well-preserved seal impressions and their motifs also provide information about ancient administrative practice.

The impressions consist of stamped lumps of clay ranging in size from around five millimetres to two centimetres. They were used to seal documents made of papyrus and parchment. "The images on the official city seals are directly related to the city. They usually show their most important deities such as Jupiter Dolichenus, the city’s main god," explains Michael Blömer. The imprints of the smaller private seals show a wide range of images and symbols that reveal a lot about the cultural imprint of Doliche’s inhabitants. "The gods on the seals provide insights into the religious environment of the people. Mythical figures or rare private portraits indicate a strong Greco-Roman influence," explains the scientist.

All that remains of the archive building are the lower layers of the foundations, which are made of solid limestone blocks, adds Engelbert Winter. "However, they reveal a sequence of rooms that form an elongated building complex," he describes. However, the exact size cannot yet be determined. So far, the building has been found to be eight meters wide and 25 meters long. The width of the walls also shows that it had several storeys. The international research team uncovered the parts of the building over a period of eight weeks last summer.

The archive documents themselves were destroyed in a major fire. In 253 AD, the Persian Great King ŠÄpÅ"r I destroyed numerous cities in the Roman province of Syria, including Doliche, as a result of a war between the Roman and Persian empires. The city center, which also included a bath complex and a monumental temple, was not rebuilt after the fire. "This is a stroke of luck for archaeology, as it means that the condition from the period up to 253 AD has been preserved," the researchers emphasize.

The Asia Minor Research Centre has specialized in researching south-eastern Turkey for decades. As the leading international research institution for the provinces of Gaziantep and Ad’yaman, the experts from Münster work together with local museums, researchers and authorities. Since 1997, the Asia Minor Research Center has been investigating the remains of the ancient city of Doliche near the Turkish metropolis of Gaziantep in cooperation with the Turkish Directorate of Antiquities. The experts aim to investigate the development of the city, which was founded around 300 BC and became a regional center under Roman rule, and the everyday life of the people living there under changing political and cultural conditions. This year’s work was supported primarily by the University of Münster, the Gerda Henkel Foundation and the University of Pisa.