National Geographic : 1967 Aug
Caskets pour wine for the living as two men at old Geyre press grapes in sarcophagi claimed from the ruins. When told that ancients intended the ornate marble troughs for burials, villagers politely disagree, pointing to grape clusters on the sides (below). Toying with garlands, Eros brings a cheerful note to death. Drill holes outline relief on a partially finished sarcophagus. Traveling salesmen of fered the caskets throughout the Ro man world; local artists added cus tomers' portraits to blocked-out heads like the one at upper right. Aphrodis ian sculptors also journeyed afar, founding ateliers across the empire. beautiful draped figures done in high relief. Local dignitaries summoned Mr. Ahmet Donmez, then with the Department of Mu seums and Antiquities of Turkey. Mr. Don mez, after a brief search for further fragments, persuaded the farmers to dig their channel elsewhere. Recovered pieces of sculpture were removed to a storeroom. Suspension of work in the irrigation ditch set the stage for one of the most exciting finds of my archeological career. City a Center of Sculptor's Art While studying classical art and archeology at Princeton University, I had been fascinated by the text and pictures in a book written by an Italian scholar, Maria Floriani Squarcia pino. This volume presented detailed evi dence establishing Aphrodisias as the home of a significant school of sculpture in the first centuries of the Christian Era. Marbles attributed to Aphrodisian sculp 284 tors had a haunting quality which I could not easily resist. I resolved to return at the first opportunity to Turkey-the land of my birth-to visit Aphrodisias. A reconnaissance trip in 1959 fired my en thusiasm, and in June, 1961, I organized an exploratory campaign, staffed by an architect surveyor, a photographer, and three assistants. At the very start of work, we examined the abandoned irrigation trench. We were all slightly tense. Aphrodisias had been barely touched by the archeologist's spade, and the site had gained a reputation for handsome re mains. But would we be rewarded by really worthwhile finds? Or had all the best things already been skimmed off? In 1904-5, a French engineer, Paul Gaudin, excavated at Aphrodisias and discovered grandiose Roman baths. In the forecourt of these Baths of Hadrian, he found a series of superb consoles, or brackets, embellished with heads of gods and figures from mythology.