Current Research Objectives

Selection from an orthorectified aerial photograph, showing the remarkable surface legibility of the site

Selection from an orthorectified aerial photograph of the area west of the Agora around the Heroon, showing the remarkable surface legibility of the site

Notion is ideally suited for urban survey because its location on two isolated promontories has ensured that it is very lightly buried, and because there are almost no post-Roman remains on the site. The resulting surface legibility makes it possible to study the city’s organization and its relation to the surrounding landscape more fully and in greater detail than at any other site in Ionia. The Notion Archaeological Survey is focused primarily on mapping and documentation of visible remains, remote sensing, geophysical prospection, collection and study of surface finds, and the development of a long-term conservation and management plan.

The primary objective of the survey is to map and study the site in order to learn as much as possible about the earlier history of Notion, to elucidate the circumstances of the establishment of a new city plan, to investigate the concomitant modification of the landscape, and to study the subsequent development of the urban community and the ultimate abandonment of the city. More generally, the project is driven by a number of broad research interests:

Relations Between Coastal and Inland Settlements in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages

The site of Notion provides unique opportunities for the study of the ancient city in western Anatolia from the prehistoric era to the Middle Ages. A number of late Bronze Age tombs documented in the area around Kolophon makes it highly likely that the harbors of Notion and the surrounding area were also used and inhabited in the Bronze Age if not before. The establishment of a permanent settlement in Kolophon in the early 1st millennium BCE was also no doubt linked to the development of the harbor at the mouth of the river Hales. Indeed, as already noted, the relationship between Notion and Kolophon was always central to the history of both communities, and it is one of the interesting and distinctive things about them. Most Ionian cities were closer to the sea than Kolophon, and conversely, it was more normal for port settlements associated with larger inland towns to be subordinate to them than to have the independent political status that Notion apparently enjoyed, at least in certain periods.

The “Ionian Migration” and Iron Age State- and Identity-formation

As noted in the preceding section, one of the earliest explicit textual references to Notion as a city is found in Herodotus, who identifies it as an Aeolic as opposed to an Ionian settlement, and this account supplies one explanation for the independent status of the Notion in relation Kolophon – that the two communities were actually established by different ethnic groups. The sanctuary of Apollo at Klaros, nestled in the valley between Notion and Kolophon, adds a further complication, since it was regarded by the ancient sources as Lydian or Carian in origin. These various traditions – that Kolophon was Ionian, Notion Aeolic, and Klaros either Lydian or Carian – reflect the complicated processes by which the ethnic identities of the different political and religious institutions of western Anatolia took form in the early Iron Age. The study of these processes – the “Ionian migration” in the west, the emergence of Anatolian kingdoms in the east – is a major focus of current archaeological research both at coastal sites such as Ephesos and inland sites such as Sardis, and it is hoped that survey and excavation at Notion will contribute new information to this exciting area of contemporary research.

Ionia in the Conflict Zone Between the Persian Empire and the Greek World

 Another important area of current archaeological research concerns the cultural impact of the Persian conquest of Anatolia in the mid-sixth century, and the subsequent of experience of the cities of Ionia in the conflict zone between the Persian empire to the east and the great powers of the mainland Greek world, Athens and Sparta, to the west. As we have seen, the textual sources document the role played by Notion in a number of the acts of this drama, such as the internal conflict between Persianizing and anti-Persian factions in the later fifth century, and Notion’s membership in the Athenian confederacy in the mid-fifth century. The relatively low tribute paid by Notion to the Delian league (2000 drachmae) sheds some light on its comparative economic status, but the archaeology of the site in this period remains poorly known.

Synoikism, Sympolity, and the Urban Development of Late Classical and Hellenistic Cities

The identification of this site as ancient Notion is based on its location. All the textual sources agree that Notion was the harbor of Kolophon, and the Hales River valley provides the closest and most direct connection between Kolophon and the sea. But although Notion is known to have existed as a city as early as the 6th century BCE if not before, the closest parallels for the city plan of Notion and for visible structures such as the fortification walls are dated to the late Classical and Hellenistic periods (4th-1st centuries BCE; examples are the nearby towns of Ephesos, Priene, and Herakleia). Moreover, none of the identifiable surface pottery examined so far predates the 2nd century BCE. Further study may modify this picture, but on the basis of the available evidence, it seems most likely that the original settlement lay elsewhere – probably at a lower elevation, closer to the harbor and to the Hales River. If so, it has likely been buried by silt carried down by the river. One objective of our project is to determine whether any remains of this earlier settlement can be identified; another related objective is to trace the development of the coastline over time.

The apparent relocation of the city to a new site on top of the promontories overlooking the harbor and the establishment of a new city plan may be related to one of the epigraphically attested events in the history of the surrounding region, such as the resettlement (synoikism) attributed to the Macedonian general Lysimachus of portions of the population of Kolophon at Ephesos and, apparently, Notion in and after 294 BCE. From this period onward, Notion began to eclipse Kolophon in importance; the two cities were eventually joined in a sympolity, and Notion became known as Kolophon-by-the-sea, New Kolophon, or simply as Kolophon (while the original site of Kolophon was known as Old Kolophon).

Detailed documentation of the remains of the city will provide an unusually full picture of this remarkable program of urban expansion. What kinds of transformation of the natural landscape did it require? How did the builders of the new town make use of natural resources such as building stone? How did they address natural deficits such as the lack of fresh water? Can close study of public and domestic architecture clarify the models on which the planners and builders of Notion drew, and can those decisions in turn shed light on the city’s chronology and cultural background? Analysis of specific buildings such as the fortification walls may also help us to address specific historical questions.

Notion also provides a rare opportunity to study the subsequent evolution of an Ionian city in the Hellenistic period. Until now, Priene has served as the textbook example of a late Classical and Hellenistic town – without significant comparanda to establish whether it is typical, as usually assumed, or unusual. Notion, comparable with Priene in size as well as in the absence of large scale Roman remains such as Baths, provides a potentially very important test case for comparison with Priene. One of the best known monuments within the walls is a Bouleuterion similar in size, form, and urban location with that of Priene (it lies on the edge of a large open space, which is presumably the Agora of the city). The theater is also apparently of Hellenistic date, and, like Priene, Notion provides opportunities for extensive investigation of the residential areas of the city – but with modern archaeological methods.

Cities and Extramural Sanctuaries in Roman and Late Roman Anatolia

Notion continued to be inhabited in Roman times, and the other major excavated monument of the city, the temple of Athena, was built or rebuilt in the Hadrianic period. Inscriptions from this temple document the participation of civic institutions and leading citizens of Notion in the rich civic life of Graeco-Roman Asia Minor, while the close association between Notion and the sanctuary of Apollo at Klaros maintained an ongoing connection with earlier Anatolian religious traditions. The relationship between Notion and Klaros – the importance of the sanctuary in the economic life of the city, for example – is a potentially rich subject of future research.

The End of the Ancient City

Another major objective of research at Notion is to clarify the long-term history of the site. One striking aspect of the city is the apparent absence of bath complexes and the very limited use of mortared rubble construction – both hallmarks of the Roman period. In addition to the study of architecture and related landscape interventions, collection and analysis of surface finds will be particularly important for reconstructing the overall chronology of the site. The pottery assemblage as currently understood is remarkably short-lived, extending only from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE and not beyond. If ongoing research confirms this preliminary dating, it would suggest that the re-founding of Notion was ultimately unsuccessful.

Even if Notion did not live up to the dreams of the people or authorities responsible for the development of the new city, the community did continue to exist until the late Roman period, and there are clear traces of later occupation in a number of places – such as sections of the city wall that show clear signs of repair, and a structure tentatively identified as a church. Notion even attained the status of an episcopal see, and inscriptions document the activities of the Christian population and refer to a building furnished with an aisles and pulpit. Did certain sectors of the town remain inhabited while others were abandoned? What made these areas more attractive than others for long-term occupation, and what do these choices tell us about the relationship between the surviving community and the larger region, including the harbor and the sanctuary at Klaros? How was the later occupation of the site affected by developments such as the advent of Christianity and the weakening of the Roman empire?

One interesting fact about Notion is the lack of monumental architectural remains. It is clear that the Agora, for example, was enclosed by colonnaded stoas, but almost none of the columns or upper parts of these buildings are preserved. The topographical situation of Notion has ensured that it is not deeply buried, and so it is unlikely that large architectural blocks remain underground. Examination of nearby villages suggests that they were not extensively reused in Medieval and modern buildings, nor do they seem to have been burnt into lime, for there are no traces of limekilns on the site. One possible explanation is that these buildings were simply never completed; another is that large blocks of stone such as column parts were systematically removed for reuse in larger cities, especially the imperial capital of Constantinople – a fate to which coastal cities were especially vulnerable.

The scarce evidence from the Medieval and Ottoman periods at the site suggests that post-antique habitation was focused elsewhere, perhaps along the northwest slopes of the western promontory, away from the sea but close to the Hales River and the agricultural lands provided by the siltation of the valley. If the results of further research are compatible with this hypothesis, then the history of occupation at Notion would appear to have come full circle, with the Medieval community abandoning the promontories in favor of settlement by the river, but without the natural harbor that had attracted people to the site in the first place more than a millennium earlier.