Three stunning 2nd century BC Greek mosaics have been unearthed during the Muzalar House excavations in the ancient city of Zeugma in Turkey’s southern province of Gaziantep. The uncovered mosaics were displayed at a press conference attended by Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin and the head of the excavations, Professor Kutalmış Görkay.
Görkay said excavations at Zeugma, which was one of the most important centers in the Eastern Roman Empire, had started in 2007, adding that good progress had been made with the support of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality and İş Bank.
“There are still unexcavated areas. There are rock-carved houses here. We have reached one of these houses and the house includes six spaces. We have also unearthed three new mosaics in this year’s excavations,” he said. Görkay added that with the end of the excavation season, the most important stage had now started.
From now on, we will work on restoration and conservation. We plan to establish a temporary roof for long-term protection. We estimate that the ancient city has 2,000-3,000 houses. Twenty-five of them remain under water. Excavations will be finished in the Muzalar House next year.
The professor said the annual budget for the excavations changed every year, but a total of about 7 million Turkish Liras had been spent on the excavations since 2005.
Mayor Şahin said the region’s history, which included empires such as the Romans, the Hittites, the Assyrians and the Byzantines, was “as old as the history of mankind.”
“They did not think of roads, water and infrastructure only, but they attached importance to revealing cultural values. This is the city of industry and trade and also deserves to be a city of culture and tourism. This is our mission. I hope we will be able to unearth the whole civilization of Zeugma,” she added.
İş Bank’s Suat Sözen said his bank had provided the first support to uncovering Zeugma while it was still underwater in 2000. “We will continue to undertake this mission. After 2000, we became the sponsor for the work in the Muzalar House, and this contribution will continue until 2017,” Sözen said.
Meanwhile, the media presentation event for the three newly uncovered mosaics drew the ire of Turkish social media users, after pictures emerged showing officials, including Şahin, stepping on the ancient works in their shoes.
The Centro di Conservazione Archeologica created this video about the flooding and excavation projects at Zeugma: