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Archaeological Exploration of Sardis

Since its founding in 1958 by Harvard and Cornell Universities, the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis has excavated, conserved, and published on aspects of the ancient city of Sardis in western Turkey from prehistoric through Islamic periods.

Sardis was the capital of the Lydian empire in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE, when a dynasty of kings from Gyges to Croesus conquered western Anatolia, invented the world’s first coins, and concluded treaties with the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. Among the archaeological highlights from this period are the royal burial mounds of Bin Tepe, the 65-foot thick fortification wall and gate of the Lydian city, monumental (perhaps palatial) terraces, houses, and a gold refinery. Under the Achaemenid Persians, Sardis was the major regional capital of Anatolia, and the mustering-point for the invasions of Greece under Darius and Xerxes. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods after the conquest of Alexander the Great, Sardis remained an important metropolis, a provincial capital under Diocletian, and was one of the Seven Churches of Asia in the Book of Revelations. Monuments of these eras include the magnificent temple of Artemis, a luxurious synagogue, churches, an Imperial bath-gymnasium complex, shops, workshops, and villas.

The excavation is conducted with the permission of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and is directed by Professor Nicholas Cahill of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Each year’s team consists of 50 to 60 scholars and students from around the world, including archaeologists, art historians, architects, anthropologists, conservators, numismatists, epigraphers, illustrators, photographers, and other specialists. The permanent research and publication staff is directed by Dr. Bahadır Yıldırım at the project’s administrative headquarters at the Harvard Art Museums. With Harvard University Press, the project has published seventeen reports and monographs, as well as many studies, articles, exhibition catalogues, and other works.

To learn more about nearly 60 years of discovery, visit sardisexpedition.org.

The mission of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis could not be fulfilled without assistance from the many interested and generous friends known as the Supporters of Sardis. Founded by Professor G. M. A. Hanfmann, the Supporters of Sardis is a group of individuals and institutions interested in promoting the Sardis expedition and its mission. This group makes possible our excavation seasons; research and study at Sardis, Harvard, and elsewhere; publication of the results of the expedition; conservation and protection of the site; development for visitors; and much more. Supporters of Sardis receive newsletters, invitations to the biennial lectures on the results of the expedition (held in New York City and Cambridge, the latter of which is open to the public), and other information about the year’s activities. We welcome visits from supporters (and others who are interested) during the season; but please let us know ahead of time if planning a visit.

You can make a secure online contribution to the expedition here (contributions will be directed to the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis), or you may contact us to discuss other options.