Pağnik Öreni Excavations

Location: near Kaşpınar Village; Elâzığ Province

Years: 1968-1971

Project Director: Richard Harper

Participants: J. L. Angel (1969)

Government Representatives: Muhsin Yenim (1968), Nizamettin Batı (1969), Durmuş Acar (1970)


The Keban rescue project was begun in connection with the Keban dam construction project of 1966.  The Institute’s contribution to the project was the excavation of a Roman frontier fort on the bank of the Euphrates near Keban at Pağnik Öreni. 

Richard Harper, Assistant Director of the BIAA, led the team and investigated the fort from early August to late September 1968.  A small tumulus on the site was investigated, where some architecture and burials were discovered, appearing to date to the Early Bronze Age.  The defences of the fort were explored, revealing some walls and a tower.  The tower wall appeared to be built in two phases, and a coin dating to Claudius Gothicus (268-270) was found by one of the walls.  A fragment with a Latin inscription and other finds were taken to the depot at the Elazığ Museum.

In July and August 1969 the work force was much larger, comprised of Harper and a team of around thirty workmen.  Excavation of the tumulus continued, and when the north-south section was completed, they moved on to excavate most of east-west section.  They discovered a Roman grave of a woman, accompanied by some grave goods.  A building with rectangular rooms took shape and was recorded.  A number of pits were discovered and assumed to have been used for various purposes, including possibly wells and burials.  J. L. Angel was responsible for investigating recovered skeletons.  The pottery finds belonged to the Early Bronze Age.  The Roman fort was also excavated further, and revealed seven rooms against the curtain wall.  Some coins and reused inscriptions were discovered, making it clear that the fort was largely constructed from spolia, likely from other sites.  The plan of the northwest corner tower was recovered entirely, and Roman pottery as well as some bronze, iron, and glass pieces were found and taken to the depot.

Work was taken up again in July and August 1970.  Prior to beginning excavation work, a short study session was undertaken on material found in 1968.  Then three areas were focused on in the Roman fort, revealing a nearly complete plan of defences by the end of the season.  The outline of the buildings was not rectilinear, but rather followed defensible contours.  Seven of eleven total projecting towers were excavated this year, along with three gateways in addition to the one previously found.  Some of the discoveries included a small cache of iron weapons in a tower and some coins, ranging in date between Antoninus Pius (AD 144) and Theodosius II (AD 402).  The building was thought for these and other reasons to date to the early fourth century.

The last excavation season was carried out by Harper in 1971, and aimed at acquiring a more precise dating sequence for the fort.  They were successful in this goal, and in addition to this recovered more information on internal buildings.  A inscription discovered on one of the reused stones of the fort can be dated to AD 82, though the site of this first century fort was not discovered.   Some coins and other evidence point to the late fourth century as the period of the fort’s construction and short-lived occupation.  Other numismatic evidence points towards the conjecture that towards the end of the fifth century the fort was already moving and being rebuilt elsewhere.


1969: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 19: 4

1970: ‘The Year’s Work’ Anatolian Studies 20: 4-6

1971: ‘Recent Archaeological Research in Turkey’ Anatolian Studies 21: 10-12

Harper, R.P. 1972: ‘Pağnik Öreni Roman Fort, 1971’ Anatolian Studies 22: 27-28

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