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uni'wissen 01(3)-2011_ENG

Ruins and reconstruction: The Gymnasium in the ancient city of Pergamon was not just a place to engage in sports, but also a central space for ­culture and communication. Photo: Stappmanns, Zeichnung: Schazmann (1923) What can a few pieces of marble ruins, the naked foot of an ancient statue, or a piece of a stone coat say about people who lived over 2,000 years ago? How they saw themselves and their society? A whole lot, says Ralf von den Hoff, professor for classical archaeology at the University of Freiburg: When the finds are not just treated as isolated fragments but are placed in their historical context, they begin to speak. Von den Hoff is studying the Gymnasium of the ancient city of Pergamon in a large-scale project supported by the German Research Foundation. From 2004 to 2009 he conducted excavations on location, in the modern Turkish city of Bergama. A gymnasium was not just a place for athletes to practice, but also an important public space for the entire Greek city, a central space for cul- ture and communication, full of sculptures of gods, kings, and citizens. And that made it a full- fledged educational institution particularly for youths, says von den Hoff: “In the gymnasium one learned all one needed to know as a citizen.” The Gymnasium in Pergamon was built in the early 2nd century before Christ. It is the largest known structure of its kind. German archaeolo- gists who dug there in the early 20th century found many fragments of sculptures: hands, feet, and parts of clothing, as well as foundations and pedestals. Finds from Pergamon can be found on location as well as in museums, for instance in Berlin or in Izmir, Turkey. But despite earlier excavations, we still have relatively little knowl- edge of the function of the Gymnasium’s archi- tecture and the many sculptures inside of it for the citizenry of the ancient city and of the chang- es made to it as a result of political upheaval. So- cial and cultural references are what von den Hoff is particularly interested in. Images Create Identity Pergamon was a royal residence during the Hellenistic period. In the year 133 BC, however, Attalus III bequeathed the whole kingdom to Rome, which was then integrated into the admin- istrative structures of the empire as a province. Earlier excavations have already revealed de- tails on some of the building activities during Ro- man rule, such as the addition of a thermal bath complex to the Gymnasium. Von den Hoff and his colleagues thus concentrated on the deeper layers from the Hellenistic period and on the transition between the two political epochs. One of the goals of their excavations was to learn more about the architecture and use of the Gymnasium: as a training and sports complex, as a place of personal hygiene, as a place for ritualistic acts. In addition, the archaeologists were interested in aspects of visual representa- tion, such as the decoration of the rooms with sculptures. They documented the layers of the various phases of construction with sketches and photographs and dated fragments whenever possible, entering them into a database. The findings from these excavations now serve as the basis for the next big research proj- ect. Ralf von den Hoff sees the field of classical archaeology as founded on two equally strong 33