FRAL - Appel Franco-allemand en sciences humaines et sociales

Forms of life in the megapolis: Miletus in the longue durée – MegaMil

Life in the Megapolis: Miletus in the longue durée - MegaMil

A social archaeology on a large ancient city

A concrete perspective on an ancient megapolis

Miletus is known as a typical example of a large ancient Greek city, especially for its urban plan: beyond the figure of Hippodamos, native of Miletus and emblematic figure of Greek urbanism intimately linked to the city-state, fieldwork has allowed during the 2000s to trace very precisely the articulations of the urban plan. Nevertheless, its exact nature and the important moments of its history, from its creation to its abandonment, remain obscure. Paradoxically, on a site that has been explored for a century, habitat excavations are very rare, as a result of the concentration of work on the major monuments. It is therefore necessary to move on to a social and environmental archaeology of a large ancient city, in order to restore, beyond the overall design, the local articulations and the concrete processes of urban organisation.

Planned elements:
(1) The construction of a GIS to integrate the geo-referenced data. On the basis of a digital map, the data produced by the project are put online on a GeoServer (Web Map Service, Web Feature Service). The system is sustainable and will be able to integrate other data sets in the future (UHH, with the Beuth-Hochschule für Technik/Berlin).
(2) Soundings in the street network in the entire urban area, based on the results of geophysical surveys (UHH and ENS).
(3) The study of unpublished ensembles from earlier excavations, relevant for the study of domestic architecture and equipment in different periods (ENS and UHH).
(4) Stratigraphic excavations (a) in the settlement west of the Bouleuterion, an area occupied since the Late Bronze Age (ENS) as well as (b) in the settlement occupied from the Classical to the Late Imperial period on the Humei-Tepe (UHH).
(5) An integrated study of domestic material: analysis of material evidence of daily life (in particular ceramics), scientific analyses of animal and plant remains (ENS, UHH, CNRS).
(6) A scientific workshop in Milet involving ceramic experts working in other archaeological projects in the Meander region: scientific exchanges on the ceramic repertoire as a first assessment of Milet's relationship with the region and as a first step towards a larger project.

The pace of this project, which is essentially a field research activity to build up new sources, is dependent on the pace of archaeological excavations in Turkey. Each year we have a 'window' of a little over two months, between July and September, to carry out the excavations. Outside of this period we concentrate on the exploitation of the data.
The GeoServer now includes the topographical data and all the data from the old excavations that could be located. This work has been carried out throughout the first two years of the project. It corresponds to objective (1) [see C1]. Data that can be used in any GIS software is thus available; an online version of the site map is available here:
A bibliography of all the work carried out at Milet since the 19th century, in the form of an online database and also available in pdf (in three versions, alphabetical, thematic and chronological), has been established by the team:
Finally, as a working tool, an excavation manual outlining the methods used and the structure of the documentation has been available since 2021:, for the moment in German and English.
A French translation of this manual and of the Milet guide edited by Ph. Niewöhner, currently available in German and Turkish, is in preparation.
The stratigraphic excavation of two areas (German team on the Humeitepe, the northern hill of the site, and French team in the district west of the Bouleuterion, in the Hellenistic city centre) has made it possible to clearly establish certain essential observations on the chronology of the Hippodamian plan and the importance of the maintenance, or even the construction of the streets by the inhabitants of the site, on the scale of the district or even of the block.

Each of the excavation areas provided :
- chronological results, on the temporal extent of the establishment and permanence of the ancient urban plan, as well as on the preceding (Bronze Age, Geometric and Archaic periods) and subsequent (Meso-Byzantine, Emirati and Ottoman periods) periods. With regard to the implementation of the orthogonal plan,
- functional and social results: a well-to-do residence in the Humeitepe area, corresponding to what appears to be a typical plan for the residences of the elite, already known from other poorly documented, previously excavated examples; and a more modest quarter, in the centre of the city, near the Council's headquarters (Bouleuterion), with smaller buildings and workshops (a bronze workshop excavated in 2022, remains of iron craftsmanship).
- Results on the nature and functioning of the plan, maintained on a local scale, consistent with the results of the street surveys.

Spot checks were carried out in the streets as planned. In the area west of the Bouleuterion it was established that the streets were not put in place until around 400 BC, which contradicts the maximalist hypotheses on the existence of an orthogonal plan as early as the Archaic period and poses in new terms the question of the nature of the occupation in these early periods. A survey carried out by the French team near the southern agora showed that a street segment often represented as such on the city plans had never been developed and had remained in a state of wasteland (the rock higher than elsewhere had not been cut); the Hippodamian plan appears to be a proposal that was not always realised. Soundings in several other parts of the site are underway and will be completed in 2023.
Finally, the study of the ancient excavations has progressed, as shown in the online GIS, and the data will be used in the next volume on the streets (Rues de Milet/Strassen von Milet, in preparation).

For the time being:
Miletus Documentation Manual / Manuel de fouille de Milet, en open access :

Miletus on the western coast of Turkey has been an important megapolis of the ancient Mediterranean. It is now a central place for research on ancient urbanisation, as it offers an ideal case for the study of the genesis of a big city perfectly integrated into Mediterranean networks. Field research however has until now concentrated on particular parts of the settlement from the Bronze age to Archaic times, and on the monumental centre of the post-classical city. The aim of the present project is, on the reverse, to provide a thorough study of the dynamics of settlement development beyond the central public places, in a long-term perspective, from the Late Bronze age to the end of the Roman Empire (from circa 1400 BC to circa 400 AD). In the framework of a cooperation between the ENS Paris and Hamburg University, the specific forms of life in a big city will be explored on three different scales : the houses and their immediate environment, the global structure of the settlement, and the relations between the megapolis and the neighbouring region. The absence of a modern occupation on the site enables us to plan a whole series of interdisciplinary archaeological investigations, which will converge into an appropriate study of each context according to its peculiarities. We notably plan, basing on the results of geophysical prospections which took place in the last years, precise soundings in different parts of the site to reconstruct the spatial and temporal dynamics of settlement history, as well as excavations providing case studies on spaces lying outside, or far from, the centre. Study of the material will shed light on domestic equipment but also on vegetal and animal remains. Precious information will be gained through the exploitation of data from contexts from earlier excavations. A GIS will integrate all existing data sets, which can be complemented by a reconstruction of the coastal line based on recent geomorphological investigation and by a Digital elevation model currently being build. All data will be placed on a GeoServer with differentiated access for participants to the project, for interested colleagues and for the wider audience. The results will be the subject of a vast monography. This project, generally, aims at a contribution to our knowledge oft he forms of life in a bug city in Ancient times through the example of Miletus..

Project coordinator

Monsieur Julien ZURBACH (Archéologie et philologie d'Orient et d'Occident)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


AOROC Archéologie et philologie d'Orient et d'Occident
UHH Université de Hambourg

Help of the ANR 331,430 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: May 2020 - 36 Months

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