Project Overview

The Central Lydia Archaeological Survey (CLAS) is an interdisciplinary research project aiming to understand how populations adapt to local conditions dictated by environmental and landscape constraints. We are particularly interested in how social complexity and the organization of communities change over time, from initial periods of settlement, to early signs of urbanism, and to fully developed state and subsequent imperial systems. Furthermore, we explore the significance of current uses of the landscape—uses that inform as well as hinder our research.

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Central Lydia, the geographic focus of the project, was the heartland of the Iron Age kingdom and subsequent empire of Lydia that had its capital at Sardis, in western Turkey. Around 10 km north of Sardis across the middle Hermos (modern Gediz) River valley, the resource-rich Gygaean Lake (modern Marmara Gölü) has been a magnet for cultural activities from early prehistoric through modern times, and its surrounding landscapes witnessed the advent of agricultural and settled life in the Neolithic period, increasing socio-political complexity throughout the Bronze Age, the construction of monumental tumuli (burial mounds) associated with state and empire formation at Sardis in the Iron Age, the appearance of rural sanctuaries in the later Iron Age, Hellenistic, and Roman periods, and continued agricultural exploitation from Late Roman through modern times. CLAS is the first comprehensive and systematic survey of its kind in Lydia, incorporating paleoenvironmental and archaeological research programs to investigate long-term cultural changes with a regional focus.

See the links to the right for a brief overview of the CLAS project.