The sanctuary of Artemis of Ephesus was discovered in 1869 by J.T. Wood. The excavations of the British Museum (D.G. Hogarth – A. Henderson) in 1904/05 and since 1965 those of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (ÖAI) under A. Bammer, who discovered the courtyard altar and the oldest cultic structure, have followed.
The oldest finds are from the Bronze Age; latest since the beginning of the Iron Age (end of the 11th century BC) the territory was in service to this cult. At the centre of the sanctuary a west-oriented peripteral temple (peripteros), of which various architectural phases are known, was installed; two peripteros temples with double peristasis (surrounding external colonnades) (dipteroi) of marble followed these. The oldest peripteros temple (at present not visible) stood prior to the Archaic Period and was 13.5 × 8.5 m. It had stone walls and 4 × 8 wooden columns on stone bases. Inside, standing on six columns, a rectangular baldachin housed the wooden cult figure.
Before 560 BC the building of the first marble dipteros, which was also partially financed by the Lydian King Kroisos, was already started. The width of the structure was just under 60 m, its length more than 100 m. Originally, it had 106 columns, most of which were engraved with relief figures. The walls enclosed an open courtyard that encompassed the older peripteros and of which the eastern half was used as a foundation of a small temple-like structure for the cult figure. Only over the colonnaded galleries a roof with a figuratively decorated geison frieze existed.
The Archaic Temple was prey to a fire in 356 BC set by Herostratus. The new building was started soon that replicated all fundamental architectural elements of the former structure including the decorated sima. It probably had 127 columns of ca. 18.40 m height and stood over a high stepped structure (2.70 m over the former level). On the inside, a flight of stairs lead down to the retained courtyard level.
An architectural trial was set up in 1973 from various column drums. It stands on an original basis from the 4th century, under which lies one from the 6th century. The original columns were 4 m higher. On the foundation of the temple platform of the 4th century several reused Archaic architectural spoils can be recognized. At the south side of the temple the remnant of a column’s foundation is marked over an archaic plinth for further architectural trials. Further visible remains of the Archaic temple are the later sheathed and south-oriented tongue wall on the west side, parts of a courtyard wall and a church pier lying to the south of the wall.