Sunday, January 20, 2013

More Recent Discoveries

A new chapter in the history of research at Oinoanda opened in 1968 when Martin Ferguson Smith began investigations on the site, focusing on Diogenes' inscription, of which he was able to recover a further 38 new fragments. Smith was furthermore able to relocate most of the fragments found in the 19th century and to submit them to fresh analysis. From 1974 his project was accompanied by a survey undertaken over many years by the BIAA (British Institute at Ankara), initially directed by Alan Hall. This survey represented the first thoroughgoing exploration of the topography and structures of Oinoanda, and also led to the discovery of a further 86 fragments of Diogenes' inscription, which were published successively by Smith .

The greatest number of inscription fragments was found in the area of the so-called Esplanade, identified as the older, Hellenistic agora of the city. In 1997, a small excavation, conducted by BIAA in collaboration with Fethiye Museum, with Smith as scientific director, brought to light several more blocks of Diogenes' inscription on the Esplanade. This was the first and only archaeological excavation at Oinoanda in the 20th century. In the framework of the BIAA survey, explorations were undertaken that opened up the territory of the ancient city. Of particular note were campaigns in 2008 and 2009. These proved useful at turning up new fragments and also rediscovering old fragments. By the end of the 2009 campaign there were only 43 fragments from the 19th century surveys still unaccounted for. 

Commenting in their work, J√úRGEN HAMMERSTAEDT – MARTIN FERGUSON SMITH DIOGENES OF OINOANDA: THE DISCOVERIES OF 2009 (NF 167–181) in: Epigraphica Anatolica 42 (2009) 1–38, the authors state, "It is very likely that most of the 43 stones that are still missing cannot at present be found because they are buried in the numerous heaps of rubble produced by the French and Austrian epigraphists in the nineteenth century and by illegal excavators in recent decades. It should be mentioned that a group of 38 small fragments, which have been buried on the site at a location that is known only to those who are responsible for the work at Oinoanda".

Illegal excavations have been noted at the site. Fortunately, up until now, inscriptions have seemed boring to illegal diggers.  

Research activities at Oinoanda have fluctuated in recent years due to mood swings by Turkish authorities. This was despite notable results from previous campaigns and the vulnerability of the site to pillaging.

Work did recommence in the current decade with a survey of the city walls and a salvage operation of many of the pieces of the inscription into a depot. During these surface surveys in 2011, a further 16 new fragments of the inscription came to light. One of the newly discovered pieces on the subject of physics fits together with existing fragments, resulting in a continuous sequence of text now nearly 5 m long which can be read in its entirety for the first time. 

This gives a spectacular foretaste of what the original may have looked like, in part, and the potential to recreate the whole inscription at the end of a concerted exploration effort to glean all the pieces still extant on the site. 

Key questions  though remains about the architectural conception of Diogenes' inscription and its relationship to its urban surroundings. Little is known too about the successive phases of the development of the city and the diachronic change that took place in public spaces. The resumption of archaeological investigations at Oinoanda can moreover be expected to yield further finds of inscriptions. 

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