Large Roman mosaic uncovered in Turkey
Part of a huge mosaic pavement has been uncovered in southern Turkey by archaeologists and students from a University of Nebraska-Lincoln, led by Professor of Art History Michael Hoff.
“This is very possibly the largest Roman mosaic found in the region,” Hoff said.
An ancient city
Hoff’s team has been excavating the remains of the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum on the southern Turkish coast since 2005 as part of a long term project.
Antiochus of Commagene, a client-king of Rome, founded the ancient city in the middle of the first century.
Antiochia ad Cragum was a modest city by Roman standards but still containing the typical trappings one would expect from a Roman provincial city – temples, baths, markets and colonnaded streets. The city thrived during the Empire from an economy that focused on agricultural products, especially wine and timber.
Located in Cilicia in Anatolia, Antiochia ad Cragum has also been called Antiochetta and Antiohia Parva which basically translate to ‘Little Antioch’. Its name ‘Cragum’ comes from its position on the Cragus mountain overlooking the coast. It is located in the area of modern Guney about 12km from the city of Gazipasa and was officially founded by Antiochis IV around 170 BC when he came to rule over Rough Cilicia.
The site and its harbour likely served as one of the many havens for Cilician pirates along the South Anatolian coast, due to its small coves and hidden inlets but its pirate past ended with Pompey’s victory in the first century BC and the take over by Antiochis IV.
The city itself was built on the sloping ground that comes down from the Taurus mountain range which terminates at the shore creating steep cliffs; in some places several hundred metres high.
Seasons of excavation leads to discovery
Excavation work has focused on a third-century temple dedicated to the Roman imperial cult, and also a colonnaded street lined with commercial shops. In July, the team began to explore the mosaic, which was part of a Roman Bath. The decoration consists of large square panels, each filled with geometric designs.
“This would have been a very formal associated pavement attached to the bath,” Hoff said. The mosaic is so large, in fact, that the excavation team have uncovered only an estimated 40 percent of its total area.
It appears the mosaic served as a forecourt for the adjacent large bath house, and that at least on one side, evidence shows there was a roof covering the pavement that would have been supported by piers.
Central to the mosaic was an 7.5m long marble-lined pool, which would have been open to the sun. The other half of the mosaic, adjacent to the bath, has yet to be revealed but is expected to match the section uncovered this year.
A chance discovery
Team members first noticed the mosaic in 2001. Nicholas Rauh of Purdue University, the director of a large archaeological survey project that included Hoff, noticed that ploughing by a local farmer had brought up pieces of a mosaic in a field next to a standing bath structure. The find was brought to the attention of the archaeological museum in Alanya, who two years later made a minor investigation that revealed a small portion of the mosaic.
Last year, the museum invited Hoff to clear the entire mosaic and to preserve it for tourists to view and scholars to study.
Hoff’s 60-person team also included Birol Can, assistant professor of archaeology at Atatürk University in Ezrurum, Turkey, a sister university to the University of Nebraska; students from UNL; other students from Turkey and the United States; and workers from a nearby village. About 35 students participated in the project as part of a summer field school Hoff runs.
The significance of this summer’s discovery has him eager to return to the site and see what the rest of the excavation will uncover.
“As an archaeologist, I am always excited to make new discoveries. The fact that this discovery is so large and also not completely uncovered makes it doubly exciting,” he said.
Source: University of Nebraska–Lincoln
- Antiochia ad Cragum Archaeological Research Project
- Marten, M.G., Spatial and Temporal Analyses of the Harbor at Antiochia ad Cragum (2005) (pdf)
- Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited – Antiochia ad Cragum
- Archaeological Field School at Antiochia ad Cragum | Facebook