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The Danish Halikarnassos Project

Andet forskningsprojekt | 03/06/2016

Western main gate to Halikarnassos (Myndos Gate). Photo: Arn.O. Gyldenholm

Danish scholars have worked on a number of different projects in the ancient city of Halikarnassos, present-day Bodrum in Turkey since 1966. The work has been carried out with the permission of the Turkish General Directorate of Monuments and Museums and in close collaboration with Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Danish participants come from the University of Southern Denmark, Aarhus University, and University of Copenhagen and from the Danish National Museum and a few other Danish institutions. The project works on all periods of Antiquity, but has until present focused particularly on the fourth century BCE and the Late Antique period.

This long-term project has two main objects:

  1. The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos from c. 360-350 BCE, which is one of the most important monuments of the late Classical period. It represents a new Ionian Renaissance in Greek architecture and introduces new proto-Hellenistic, royal art and architecture in Greek culture.
  2. The city of Halikarnassos during all periods. Halikarnassos was entirely re-created by Maussollos as the capital of the Persian satrapy of Karia and became the most important city of southwestern Asia Minor.

The Danish Halikarnassos Project

Danish archaeological research in Halikarnassos, present-day Bodrum, was initiated by Professor Kristian Jeppesen from Aarhus University in 1966. The first phase of the project was financed entirely by the Carlsberg Foundation, which has also supported the project in its second phase.

Danish archaeological work in Halikarnassos has two objects:

  1. The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos, which was the most famous monument of Halikarnassos and one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World, directed by Kristian Jeppesen.
  2. The ancient city of Halikarnassos, which was re-founded by Maussollos as the capital of the Persian satrapy of Karia, directed by Poul Pedersen, University of Southern Denmark and since 2015 directed by Birte Poulsen, Aarhus University assisted by Poul Pedersen.

Figure 1: The “Quadrangle” (foundation cutting) for the Maussolleion after excavation. Photo: Kristian Jeppesen.

1. The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos

Maussollos, the Persian satrap-governor of Karia in southwestern Asia Minor, his wife Artemisia, and the unique monumental tomb, the Maussolleion, in which his earthly remains were deposited in 353 BCE have been objects that have fascinated poets, painters, and scholars since the time of the Italian Renaissance. Being one of the most important monuments of the Greek world in the Late Classical period, the tomb of Maussollos has been a central subject in classical archaeology and it formed part of the doctoral thesis of Professor Kristian Jeppesen, “Paradeigmata” in 1958. Realising that research in this field could not proceed any further without new excavations on the site of the Maussolleion, Jeppesen initiated excavations in Bodrum by permission of the Turkish General directorate of Antiquities and Museums in 1966. This was the beginning of a project that would take up most of Professor Jeppesen’s time until only a few years before his death in November 2014.

Figure 2: The Maussolleion reconstructed. Model by Kristian Jeppesen and Axel Sønderborg.

Though the monument itself had been demolished by western crusaders in the 15th century to be reutilised for the castle of St. Peter in Bodrum, the entire foundation cutting with remains of the foundations, subterranean galleries, remains of the huge terrace, and accessory buildings and not least thousands of marble fragments were found and new evidence concerning the funeral rituals were discovered (figure 1). The results were published in international articles and in a final project publication in seven volumes written by Jeppesen and his collaborators. The last volume appeared in 2004 – 38 years after the start of this extraordinary project in Danish classical archaeology. The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos is presumably that of the Seven Wonders of the World of which we have the richest evidence although important questions remain unanswered (figure 2). A museum has been built on the site of the Maussolleion and the remains are visited by scholars and tourists from all over the world (figure 3).

Figure 3: The Maussolleion Museum in Bodrum, Turkey. Photo: Poul Pedersen.

2. The Ancient City of Halikarnassos

The Maussolleion was situated on a huge terrace retained by a wall of white marble and blue limestone, 242 metres long and up to 7 meters high. The monument entirely dominated the ancient city of Halikarnassos and already during the Maussolleion investigations, the question arose of how the huge monument had been integrated into the city of Halikarnassos. The city was famous in antiquity and a highly unusual description of the city is given by the Roman writer Vitruvius. It was re-founded by Maussollos when he decided to make the old town of Halikarnassos the new capital of Karia (figure 4). Halikarnassos – where the famous historian Herodotus grew up a century before the time of Maussollos – was apparently dismantled completely and the new Maussollan city was constructed following the most recent developments in Greek city planning. The new city of Halikarnassos has in recent international research been seen as the starting point of a new trend in ancient Greek city planning, which aimed at a theatrical layout, exploiting the potentials of the surrounding landscape for monumentality and including new building types in Greek architecture such as a ruler’s palace and a dynastic tomb of the ruling family. This is a very important new development in ancient city planning which had long-lasting influence on Hellenistic kingdoms and imperial Rome.

Figure 4: Map of Halikarnassos with theoretical town plan. By: Niels Bargfeldt, Poul Pedersen et al.

Very few remains of the ancient city of Halikarnassos were visible in the 1970s when the need to study the city of Maussollos first became apparent. As the modern town, Bodrum, which covers the remains of ancient Halikarnassos, has in recent years developed into one of Turkey’s most popular touristic centres, systematic excavations are not possible and alternative methods must be tried. Some are quite simple. The question of whether ancient Halikarnassos had curving streets like the seats and diazoma of a Greek theatre, as believed by some, was settled by applying a simple compass on all visible parts of ancient walls in the modern town. It was easily demonstrated that the ancient city had an orthogonal town-plan into which major structures like the Maussolleion terrace and the Mars terrace had been integrated (1978). In 1988, geophysical investigations were made on a restricted scale around the Doric Stoa and on the Terrace of the temple of Mars. By searching for ancient architectural stones in Turkish houses and gardens, the location of the ancient stadium was determined and remains were identified of a Late-classical temple in the district of Türkkuyusu temple and an early Classical temple presumable dedicated to Apollo, on the Zephyrion Peninsula.

Figure 5: The Zephyrion Peninsula with the Crusader Castle seen from the hills above Bodrum. Photo: Poul Pedersen.

In 1990, the city investigation took an important step forward. With the permission of the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums in Ankara, cooperation was established between Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology under the direction of Oğuz Alpözen and a Danish team under the direction of Poul Pedersen from the University of Southern Denmark.

During the following 25 years, a successful co-operation under the general direction of Bodrum Museum has produced important knowledge on a number of sites and subjects in relation to the ancient city. Varying groups of the Danish Halikarnassos team have been entrusted with the studies and their publication.

Figure 6: Section of the Crusader Castle with indication of excavation areas. Drawing by Poul Pedersen.

Two other major investigations involving excavations are the search for the Palace of Maussollos and the investigations of the fortifications of Halikarnassos

3. The Search for the Palace of Maussollos on the Zephyrion and the Study of the City Wall of Halikarnassos

Ancient writers refer to several monuments in Halikarnassos of particular importance, among which are the Maussolleion, the Palace of Maussollos and the Fortifications of Halikarnassos. Excavations and investigations in relation to all three have been carried out with the support of the Carlsberg Foundation. While the Maussolleion project finished when volume 7 was published in 2004, the studies in relation to the investigations on the Zephyrion Peninsula are still ongoing. The city wall project expects to get the permission of the Turkish authorities to complete the measuring of the wall as well as to study the finds from excavations in relation to the wall in 2017.

The Zephyrion Project

Figure 7: Great Terrace wall in sector 3 during excavations. Photo: Poul Pedersen.

The search for remains of the Palace of Maussollos was initiated in 2002-2004 as the Museum of Bodrum was in need of more detailed information on the ancient remains in the Castle prior to a planned extension of the exhibition buildings of the Museum (figure 5). Excavations were initiated in relation to ancient walls that had been identified already and a small number of trenches were excavated in 2002 and 2003 in three areas. Important architectural remains were discovered in all of them (figure 6). In sector 3, an impressive, monumental terrace wall was investigated, which is preserved almost to its original height of c. 6 metres and can be traced for about 25 metres (figure 7).

Figure 8: Foundation of green lava stone fastened with iron clamps in sector 2. Photo: Poul Pedersen.

On the area above the terrace wall two different structures were met. At the lower level in sector 2, remains of a large and very strong foundation were cleared and found to be of exactly the same workmanship and materials as those of the core of the Maussolleion and undoubtedly of the same date (figure 8). Above these in sector 1, some structures were cleared and documented that had previously been excavated by the museum. They consist of a number of rooms situated close to the front of the great terrace wall and on the level of its surface 6 metres above the ground in front of the wall (figure 9).

Figure 9. Oblique corridor and back walls of rooms in sector 1 running parallel to great terrace wall. Photo: Poul Pedersen.

The remains in all three sectors are oriented according to a common orthogonal system, which deviates from the grid system of the town plan, no doubt due to local conditions. South of the Crusader Chapel remains were found of a strong fortification wall running towards the small bay, which is perhaps the “secret harbor” mentioned by Vitruvius (figure 10). A very large amount of pottery shards dating from the Mycenean period about 1400 BCE to modern times were excavated that constitute a very important sequence for this area of Asia Minor.

The City Wall Project

Figure 10: Section of fortification wall south of Crusader Chapel. Photo: Poul Pedersen.

The city wall of Halikarnassos is, in spite of its ruined state, a highly impressive monument, which was originally about seven kilometres long (figure 11). The first Danish investigations of the city wall consisted of visual inspections of the wall during walks from one end to the other. These were published in 1994 and remained for some years the most detailed account of the city wall of Halikarnassos. Important British and French studies were published in 1997, 1998 and 2000. A new situation developed in 1998 when the Danish Halikarnassos team was invited by the Turkish General Director of Antiquities and Museums to participate in a Turkish restoration project for the City wall of Halikarnassos.[1] This project lasted until 2000 and the results of the Danish team were published in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2010. Supplementary investigations and studies, including the completion of an entirely new map of the entire wall by GPS-planning, were initiated by the Danish team in 2011, supported by the Danish Research Council for the Humanities and the Carlsberg Foundation. The finalisation of the project is expected to take place in 2017.

Figure 11: Western main gate to Halikarnassos (Myndos Gate). Photo: Arn.O. Gyldenholm.

The city wall of Halikarnassos is the first of a long line of impressive city fortifications in Western Asia Minor from the late-Classical and early Hellenistic periods (figure 12). It is a very typical example of the so-called “Gelände-Mauern”, which for strategical reasons include all hills and heights in the vicinity of the city and therefore are sometimes very long. The city wall of Halikarnassos is laid out according to these strategical aims. In places where the natural defence was not considered sufficient, a fortification ditch was excavated 5-10 metres in front of the wall. The purpose of these precautions was to prevent an attacking enemy from moving wheeled siege towers close to the wall. The wall itself was only 1.8-2.2 metres in width. Its general height is not known but may have been about 6-7 metres. It was clearly not constructed to withstand the stone-throwing artillery that was developed only a few decades after its construction. In case an attacking force succeeded in pulling down part of the wall, the fortification was supplemented by four fortresses to which the defenders could withdraw. One of these was situated by the sea and had a small secret harbour from which the defenders were able to communicate by sea and have new supplies brought in if necessary.

The investigations of the city wall have produced very important and detailed information on Greek siege warfare and fortifications by the middle of the fourth century BCE. For Halikarnassos this detailed archaeological evidence is supplemented in a most unusual way by the written sources. Two decades after the death of Maussollos, Alexander the Great laid siege to Halikarnassos. The fierce fighting at the wall of Halikarnassos, Alexander’s introduction of siege towers, and his final success in dismantling part of the wall and entering into the burning city are handed down in detail and vividly by Arrian and Diodorus Siculus.

Figure 12: City wall of Halikarnassos with depression from fortification ditch in front. Photo: Poul Pedersen.


It seems not entirely unjust to conclude that Kristian Jeppesen’s excavations and life-long studies of the Maussolleion at Halikarnassos has finally brought back one of the Seven Wonders of the World after a thousand years of oblivion. We also believe that by making use of a broad range of methods and by utilising any sudden possibility turning up in the modern town of Bodrum, the Turkish-Danish investigations have managed to establish a number of basic facts and create a reliable picture of one of the most important late Classical cities in the Greek world. It is up to future research to refine, correct, and complete this picture; the possibilities are great.

How the Grant from the Carlsberg Foundation Has Affected My Career

The early grants from the Carlsberg Foundation to Professor Kristian Jeppesen’s excavations in Halikarnassos included expenses for my participation in the archaeological campaigns from 1970 and salary for my work on the Maussolleion Terrace and Accessory structures, which was published as The Maussolleion at Halikarnassos vol. 3:1 and 3:2. The book constituted the main part of my doctoral thesis. This work formed the starting point for my work on the city of Halikarnassos until today and includes excavations and documentation on a number of sites in Halikarnassos, present-day Bodrum, almost every year since 1990. The recent support from the Carlsberg Foundation to the investigations on the Zephyrion Peninsula (for the Palace of Maussollos) and for publication of works related to the city wall of Halikarnassos is the most important financial basis for the studies and publication works going on at present. The Halikarnassos grants have also affected the careers of a number of other participants in the Halikarnassos project not mentioned here.

SSR – Scientific Social Responsibility

The obligations of the Danish Halikarnassos Project in relation to a wider public are, as Classical Studies in general, to shed new light on the early, formative phase of western civilisation and to make this knowledge available to the public in Western democratic countries and to people globally who are presently in cultural and political dialogue with Western culture.

The development of Western civilisation can be followed continuously from c. 1000 BCE until today. The first thousand years of its 3000-year history took place in a Greek cultural context. During this period its basic characteristics were established in relation to art, architecture, philosophy, literature, ethics and not least to rationalism in natural science and philosophical thought. In the small communities of more than 1000 small and independent Greek city states a high degree of individualism and of equality among the citizens developed. This has been a characteristic feature of western civilisation ever since and has favoured the rise of democracies and republican constitutions repeatedly in the history of the Western world.

The fundamental character of Western civilisation may be said to have established itself at particular moments during the first millennium. In this way the rational character of natural science was mainly a product of the pre-socratic philosophers in the Greek cities of Western Asia Minor in the 6th and early 5th century BCE and it was in 5th and early 4th century BCE that democracy was first introduced in Athens and rational philosophical thinking was applied on man and human nature by Plato and Aristotle.

The latter part of the 4th century witnessed a fundamental change in the Greek world when the great Hellenistic kingdoms were established and the time of the independent Greek city states was over. This process was foreshadowed by Maussollos, when he refounded Halikarnassos as the residential city of his realm and erected his dynastic tomb, the Maussolleion – one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World - in the center of the capital. This is when art and architecture changed its purpose and began to serve the self-representation of powerful kings and emperors, which has often been a main obligation of art and architecture since Antiquity.

The Halikarnassos project has had as one main target to shed new light on this crucial moment in the early development of western civilisation. The project has had as its second main target to investigate the life and changing culture over centuries of this particular city in its extraordinary geographical position between East and West. Halikarnassos belongs predominantly to the Greek world, but was heavily influenced by its local, Karian environment and its long political dependence of Persia.

In relation to the Turkish antiquities authorities, the Danish part of the project has continuously enjoyed the generous permission of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Ankara. Since 1990 all field work has been carried out in close cooperation with and under direction of the director of Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, and all field work has been part of investigations and rescue excavations of the Museum. The project has produced a strong, professional network with archaeologists from both Turkish universities and local archaeologists in Bodrum. The Mayor of Bodrum has kindly expressed his appreciation of the work of the Danish team and in recent years the head of the Danish team has made public lectures locally in Bodrum for various groups. The possibility of organising guided archaeological tours at the Maussolleion-site for a local audience in Bodrum has been discussed recently. New initiatives for developing the archaeological and cultural potentials of Bodrum for visiting tourists have also been discussed with the municipality of Bodrum.

Literature Concerning the City Wall investigations:

PEDERSEN, P., “The Fortifications of Halikarnassos”, REA, 96, 1-2, 1994, 215-236.

PEDERSEN, P., “The City Wall of Halikarnassos”, in R. van Bremen and J.-M. Carbon (eds.), Hellenistic Karia. Ausonius Éditions, Études 28. Bordeaux 2010. 269-316.

PEDERSEN, P. & U. RUPPE, “The Fortifications at Halikarnassos and Priene: some Regional characteristics?”, in R. Frederiksen, S. Müth, P. Schneider and M. Schnelle (eds.), Focus on Fortification: New research on fortifications in the Ancient Mediterranean and the Near East. Papers of the conference on the research of ancient fortifications, Athens 6-9 December 2012, Fokus Fortifikation Studies no. 2, Monograph of the Danish Institute at Athens vol. 18, Oxford 2016, 540-560.

Literature concerning the Palace of Maussollos:

Pedersen 2009; P. Pedersen, The Palace of Maussollos at Halikarnassos. In: F. Rumscheid, Die Karer und die Anderen. Internationales Kolloquium an der Freien Universität Berlin 13. bis 15. Oktober 2005. (Bonn 2009) 315-348.


[1]The project was directed by prof. Altan Çilingiroğlu from Ege Üniversitesi and the director of Bodrum Museum, Oğuz Alpözen. The restoration was carried out by prof. Emre Madran of the Middle East Technical University and the archaeological field work, as well as the restoration works were sponsored by the Turkish companies, Ericsson Türkiye and Türkcell. The work of the Danish team was directed by Poul Pedersen.