Ongoing excavations have uncovered three new mosaics in an ancient trade center that sat at the crossroads between the Mediterranean and the ancient Near East.
The ancient city of Zeugma, now in the Turkish province of Gaziantep, is located on the banks of the Euphrates at one of the few points where merchants and travelers could cross the river in antiquity. Originally founded as a Greek settlement in 300 B.C.E., the city was conquered and renamed Zeugma (“bridge” in ancient Greek) by the Romans in 64 B.C.E. Because of its strategic location, Zeugma developed into a rich trading center. The city was abandoned in the mid-third century C.E. with the invasion of the Sasanians.
Parts of the city have been submerged underwater since the 1990s, when the Turkish government constructed a dam in the Euphrates in nearby Birecik. Excavations carried out at Zeugma over the last two decades have unearthed Roman villas, mosaic pavements, statues and other treasures. The three mosaics recently unveiled were excavated in a building known as the Muzalar House.
With the close of the 2014 field season, excavation director Kutalmış Görkay told the Hürriyet Daily News that his team will switch gears:
“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.”
The current excavation project at Zeugma is supported by Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Metropolitan Municipality of Gaziantep and the İş Bank.
Nick Furar is an intern at the Biblical Archaeology Society.
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