Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.05.02

Jan Zahle, Kjeld Kjeldsen, The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos. Vol. 6: Subterranean and pre-Maussollan structures on the site of the Maussolleion. The finds from the tomb chamber of Maussollos. Jutland Archaeological Society Publications XV:6.   Aarhus:  Aarhus University Press, 2004.  Pp. 251; figs. 301, pls. 12.  ISBN 87-88415-16-3.  DDK 348.00.  

Contributors: Despina Ignatiadou and Vinnie Nørskov


Reviewed by Anne Marie Carstens, University of Copenhagen (carstens@hum.ku.dk)
Word count: 1570 words

With this, the sixth volume in the series of reports on the Danish excavations at the Maussolleion in Halikarnassos in 1966-1977, the long-awaited publication has been completed. Seven volumes in all, published from 1981-2004, deal with this Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World, its position in time and space, and in particular its architecture and layout.

The volume under review is devoted to some of the more puzzling arrangements, namely the so-called Upper and Lower Galleries, an aqueduct and a drain channel respectively, that were cut into bedrock surrounding the large cutting for the foundation of the Maussolleion, the so-called quadrangle. Three chambers at the southern part of the quadrangle, formerly interpreted as sepulchres, are also treated here. These structures predate the construction of the Maussolleion, and in various ways they inform us of the use of the site before the building of the ruler's tomb and of details of the considerable construction-work that lay ahead of the building of the monument. The authors include the minor terrace walls TW1 and TW2 south and east of the quadrangle in these preparation works and interpret them as terrace walls primarily constructed in order to level out the drop of the bedrock in the southeastern part of the terrace and the old remains of quarrying activities at the site of the quadrangle and its immediate surroundings.

The volume is divided into nine chapters, beginning with an introductory chapter including a very useful and necessary dictionary of structures, terminology and abbreviations. Together with the plan reproduced on the flyleaf this brief guide through the remains lends the reader a helping hand in the complicated matters that follow.

As always when dealing with the Maussolleion, the archaeological situation is marked by the fact that the Danish excavations cannot be interpreted on their own but need to be set in the context of C.T. Newton's and G.M.A. Biliotti's excavations in the 19th century. Thus, the major part of chapter 1 is devoted to a survey of the British excavations and in particular to Newton's and Biliotti's stratigraphical observations. It concludeswith a table that summarises the preserved pictorial documentation of the British excavations. The dispersed nature of the records is obvious, and the detective work carried out in the archives of the British Museum organizing both pictorial and written documentation inspires humble respect.

Chapter 2 presents five trenches dug in the eastern part of the site during the Danish excavations from 1972-1976, as well as the clearing of the staircase of chamber 1. These single points in a large and complicated structure and excavation sequence are difficult to comprehend and require a certain amount of previous knowledge, e.g., a brief survey of Volume 3:1, chapter 6.

Chapter 3 focuses on the Lower Gallery, a perimeter drain around the quadrangle, and describes its construction and relation to the tomb chamber of the Maussolleion and thereby its chronology and function. The analysis (expectedly) clarifies that the construction of the Lower Gallery was undertaken as a first step in the preparation of the building site.

The minor terrace walls south and east of the quadrangle, TW1 and TW2, are discussed in chapter 4. They were excavated in three minor trenches by the Danish and briefly considered by Poul Pedersen in volume 3:1, chapter 6. These walls are included in the present volume because Zahle and Kjeldsen suspect them to be related to an earlier phase of the Maussolleion site.

A peculiar pre-Maussollan complex consisting of three chambers interrelated by the Main Corridor are treated in chapter 5. The authors convincingly argue that the wear of stairs and thresholds rules out an interpretation of the chambers as sepulchres. The orientation of the complex matches the old sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, predating the Maussollan city-plan. It is impossible to date the complex with any precision other than the obvious ante quem given by the demolition of the chambers and corridors by the construction of the Maussolleion. However, the match in orientation and the findings from the area indicate a peak in the use of these premises perhaps as early as the 6th century BC. The crossing of the outer end of the open courtyard of Chamber 3 by TW1 remains unexplained and puzzling.

The tunnels that Newton labelled Upper Gallery and Short Gallery respectively are both branches of the same aqueduct that entered the site of the Maussolleion terrace in the northwestern part and crossed the area in a southeastern direction. Yet, the various buildings in the area made it necessary to alter the layout of the aqueduct at various times. Chapter 6 offers a minute description of the aqueduct. Elucidating drawings and very clear photographs accompany the text. Both the technical details of the aqueduct and the documentation are impressive. The authors question Pedersen's suggestion (volume 3:1, 61-62) that the aqueduct ended in a gargoyle in the east terrace wall, pointing to the absence of evidence of either a well-house or a basin. Rather, they suggest that the aqueduct predated the Maussolleion and that it did not necessarily terminate at the eastern terrace wall and may have continued downtown.

Chapter 7 contains some observations of the quarry activities at the site, a short description of a rock-cut tomb north of the Maussolleion site, and a catalogue of Pre-Maussollan finds, such as fragments of marble sculpture, terracottas and water pipes. When the tomb was first investigated in August 1973, Kristian Jeppesen and Jan Zahle thought it to be related to the 'sepulchres' Chamber 1 to 3. In the present brief analysis of the tomb such a connection is abandoned mainly because its orientation differs from Chamber 1 to 3. Yet, I should like to underline that it provides evidence that the area of the city where the Maussolleion was placed at some point in time was used for burials. Unfortunately the dating of such rock-cut tombs is somewhere between tricky and impossible. This one may predate the Maussolleion.

The great concluding chapter 8 starts out by presenting the old and prominent series of researchers from Newton to Kristian Jeppesen who have understood the Maussolleion site as an old cemetery. The repudiation of the three chambers along the south side of the quadrangle as sepulchres, which seems quite sensible, may challenge this conclusion. Yet, it remains a fact that the area was in use as a cemetery: the rock-cut tomb mentioned in chapter 7, the ex situ sarcophagus east of the terrace wall 2 excavated by the British, and a newly found tomb stele with antemion decoration evidence the cemetery-like nature of the site.

What purpose did the rituals performed at the basin at the entrance to Chamber 1 serve, who met in Chamber 2 and why was there an open court, Chamber 3, in connection with this complex? I daringly suggest, although criticized here on p. 171, that these premises may have been the meeting place of a club, a koinon that had as one of its fields of interest the maintenance of the Halikarnassian cemeteries and the performance of proper rituals in this connection.

In general, the text is clear and the arguments straightforward. However, when matters get complicated, e.g., regarding the minor terrace walls TW1 and TW2 or the mysterious ways of the Upper Gallery, it requires full concentration, an open mind, and a freshly brewed cup of coffee! Cross-checking with the earlier volumes of the publication of the Danish excavations, in particular volume 3 and 4 is (of course) indispensable, not because of a faulty disposition of the publication but because the various elements, such as the subterranean pillars (volume 4, chapter 4 and 5) and the lower gallery (here chapter 3), are interconnected and at times impossible to comprehend unattached to the remains of the building and its foundation works.

The illustrations, both plan and section drawings, together with the high quality of the reproduction of the photographs, both from the British excavations and the more recent Danish ones, are flawless, especially considering the far from ideal working conditions in the narrow tunnels. But the jewel in the crown remains the series of watercolours R. P. Pullan produced in 1857 and 1858 (Plate 2-12), both for their aesthetic appeal and their information.

Indeed, what makes this volume a scholarly tour de force study of the pre-Maussollan structures is the meticulous reading and incorporation both of old diaries and of other documentation and the evidence produced during the Danish excavation. Thanks to clear drawings, such as the plans and sections of Chamber 1 and 2, the authors succeed in transforming a complicated story into a sensible text and a comprehensive reconstruction of the sequence -- if not always the purpose -- of activities at the Maussolleion site.

It has been a long time to wait -- the excavations were concluded 28 years ago -- but the series of publications of the Danish Halikarnassos Expedition is now finally concluded. The multitude of sources concerning the Maussolleion at Halikarnassos can be brought together without too much despair. Undoubtedly this will nourish new questions and further investigations into the peculiarities of Karian archaeology and history (e.g., what did they do in those subterranean chambers?). Admittedly, it requires a trained reader, at times an extremely concentrated effort, as well as a large desk permitting simultaneous reading in various volumes. But the possibility now lies open to anyone.

[[For an addendum to this review by Anne Marie Carstens, please see BMCR 2005.09.72.]]

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