The Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, sponsored by the Harvard Art Museums and Cornell University, has been excavating at Sardis since 1958. The site has yielded artifacts from the Lydian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and other cultures. During the past 50 years more than 13,000 objects have been inventoried and many thousands more have been saved for future study.
Sardis, the capital of the Lydian Empire located in western Turkey, was one of the great cities of Asia Minor and thrived under the rule of King Croesus, before falling to the Persians in the mid-6th century BC. Even today the expression “rich as Croesus” recalls the ruler of this wealthy empire. During this period the Lydians learned to separate gold and silver from alluvial gold and minted the ﬁrst bimetallic coins in gold and silver.
Archaeological highlights of Archaic date include the royal burial mounds at Bin Tepe, the Lydian fortiﬁcation wall, Lydian houses, and the gold-reﬁning area. Important monuments of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine date include the temple of Artemis, the bath-gymnasium complex, the synagogue, villas, and a row of shops adjoining the synagogue.
The Archaeological Exploration of Sardis administrative headquarters, archives, and publications program are located in the Harvard Art Museums. The ﬁeld season of excavation and research takes place during the summer, with permission of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The ﬁeld staﬀ consists predominantly of American and Turkish citizens, but has wide international participation. It includes archaeologists, art historians, architects, conservators, numismatists, epigraphers, object illustrators, photographers, anthropologists, and other scholars and students. Founded in 1958 under the directorship of George M.A. Hanfmann, Harvard University, and Henry Detweiler, Cornell University, the Sardis Expedition was then under the leadership of Crawford H. Greenewalt, University of California at Berkeley, from 1976 to 2007. Nicholas D. Cahill, University of Wisconsin at Madison, was appointed ﬁeld director before the 2008 ﬁeld season.
Research is edited for publication by Sardis staﬀ, published by the Sardis Expedition, and distributed by Harvard University Press. Seventeen reports and monographs covering a wide range of subjects have been published thus far (see Related Resources below), and about the same number are in various stages of preparation and production. To learn more about the role of graphic recording in preserving and recreating Sardis, visit The City of Sardis: Approaches in Graphic Recording.