Between June 7 and July 3, 2004 team members of the Porolissum Forum Project excavated three trenches in order to define the central area of the Forum and to investigate the structures facing onto the courtyard. The trenches revealed more surprises than a simple verification of geophysical results. We also gained knowledge about the chronological development of the Forum and how the area of the Forum was utilized in the post-Roman period
Trench 1, located on the east side of the Forum, was excavated in order to seek a segment of a N-S wall suggested by the magnetometry readings that defined the east side of the forum’s courtyard. Very early in the excavation season, the magnetometry readings were proven to be correct. This trench also yielded our most important evidence for the chronological development of the forum. At least three phases of construction and use were noted in this trench: a pre-forum or early forum phase; two phases that involved the construction of and modifications to the mature forum; and a late Roman or immediate post-Roman phase.
Phase 1. The earliest feature within Trench 1 pertains to a pre-forum or early forum phase and consists of the corner of a stone building that underlies and is off-axis with the N-S wall. Two walls of identical stone and concrete masonry meet to form the corner of a room. We are uncertain whether this represents an early public building, a shop or a house. Moreover, it is difficult to provide an absolute chronology for this phase, although a date in the second quarter of the 2nd century is not unreasonable based upon ceramic and architectural indicators. This feature was systematically demolished in order to construct the mature forum.
Phase 2. The excavations revealed a 6-meter long segment of the N-S wall that represents a component of the mature phase of the Roman forum. This segment of the wall was constructed over the Phase 1 structure, which had been razed to a uniform level. A small area of packed earth on the west side of the N-S wall and below the destruction level may represent the original walking surface of the courtyard or a preparation for pavement. A large hypocaust system was revealed on the east side of the N-S wall, suggesting that this building served as a public bath complex.
Phase 3. A portion of the N-S wall was demolished at an unknown time to create a crude passageway, suggesting that the area served a different function in the late Roman or immediate post-Roman period. Two sherds of lead glazed pottery were esxcavated in related strata on the west side of the Roman N-S wall, providing an approximate date for the duration of activity in this area prior to the destruction of the forum building - 3rd century AD.
Trench 2, the magnetometry study suggests that the northern side of the forum’s courtyard was bounded by a large structure composed of a series of parallel walls, consistant with the plan of a basilica. The 2004 season revealed the corner of porticus consisting of a foundation wall of concrete and stone masonry (2.8 meters long by 0.6 meters wide) with a column base (ca. 0.5 x 0.5 meters) at the easternmost end. A drain runs parallel to the porticus on the side of the courtyard. Four meters to the north, the excavations revealed a solid wall of similar masonry situated parallel to the porticus and preserved to a height of 1.1 meters. The solid wall represents the southernmost wall of the presumed basilica. The section of the porticus, thus, served as a covered walkway on the north side of the forum’s courtyard. A similar arrangement occurs in one of the few known fora in Dacia, namely the forum at Colonia Ulpia Traiana where a basilica defines the east side of the courtyard. We cannot be certain of the date of this structure, since the masonry is not identical to the N-S wall in trench 1 and the artifacts found in association with the presumed basilica provide only a generic “Roman” date
Trench 3, also located on the east side of the Forum, was a narrow exploratory trench beginning seven meters to the southeast of Trench 1, revealed a wealth of architectural features, most of which require further study. The westernmost end of the trench pertains to the mature forum phase, including the continuation of the hypocaust area of Trench 1. A concrete and stone wall runs E-W through this trench and probably joins to the N-S wall of Trench 1. To the north of this wall are two additional hypocaust pillars and a partitioning wall composed of large sandstone blocks set perpendicular to the E-W wall. The two pillars and sandstone blocks had been subjected to a very hot oxidizing flame. This evidence may indicate that a praefurnium was situated nearby. Immediately to the south of the E-W wall, we revealed the beginning of an apsidal space pertaining to the same “mature” phase of the forum. To the east of the partitioning wall, the situation becomes more complicated. The E-W wall continued for 11 meters. It was partially built against what appears to be the base of a massive pillar (ca. 2 meters broad). Judging by the seams between the masonry, it appears that the pillar corresponds to a somewhat earlier phase in the sequence of Roman-period building activity. The east end of the E-W wall joins with a N-S wall, which extends immediately into the balk. Another N-S wall emerges from the main E-W wall some 2.5 meters to the west, defining a small space, perhaps a taberna. At some moment, a segment of the E-W wall near the hypocaust area was removed and a drain was inserted.