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OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD


Zeugma Mosaic Museum has overcome theft, vandalism and fl ooding to become home to the world’s largest collection of mosaics. Archaeologist Dr Aysegul Gurgezoglu tells Kathleen Whyman how these artworks were rescued


MYTHOLOGICAL MYSTERY


The museum’s aim is to present the mosaics as they would have originally been displayed.


What is Zeugma Mosaic Museum?


The museum, in Gaziantep, Turkey, opened on 9th September 2011 and has the largest collection of mosaics in the world. The mosaics were discovered during the Zeugma ancient city excavations and date back to AD 2-3. These mosaics decorated the bathrooms and rooms of villas, many depicting mythological scenes. In addition to the mosaics discovered at Zeugma, the museum holds Byzantium mosaics discov- ered in Gaziantep. Most of these mosaics were found on the fl oor of churches. The museum received 3,000 visitors in its fi rst two days of opening.


How were the mosaics discovered? In 1999, construction work on Turkey’s Birecik Dam was almost complete when mosaics were discovered in Poseidon and Euphrates villas at the ancient city of Zeugma. With water levels rising, archae- ologists worked meticulously and quickly to retrieve the mosaics. The artworks came from what would have been shallow pools, sinks and the bases of rooms.


42 As a result of this excavation 1,500sq m


(16,000sq ft) of mosaic was found, as well as thousands of archaeological artefacts. There would have been more but many were stolen and vandalised.


How were the mosaics restored?


As water levels rose during the excavation, drawings were made of all the mosaics, murals, architectural pieces and of the other similar fi ndings that were uncovered. After they were documented, the artefacts were moved to the Gaziantep Museum. Using steel disks, experts cut the mosa-


ics carefully in the images’ most suitable places, like a puzzle, then transferred them to storage or to laboratories. The broken or damaged fl oor mosaics


were kept and restoration and conserva- tion work was carried out. Gaziantep Museum carried out the exca-


vations during 1999 and 2000. The work was continued from 2000 to 2005 by a multi-national archaeological team. Since 2005 Ankara University has been responsi- ble for all of the excavations.


Read Attractions Management online attractionsmanagement.com/digital Please describe the mosaics


The subjects found on the Roman mosa- ics at Zeugma are based on mythological themes and geometric shapes. However, with the acceptance of Christianity, instead of the mythological imagery and abstract subjects, images of religion and Christianity can be found. The subjects of the mosaics include Akhileus, the birth of Venus and the gods of the Euphrates – Galatia, Dionysus and Ariadne, Antiope and Satyros.


What were the challenges?


The archaeologists had to work at great speed, as there was a fl ood threat due to the dam being built. The water from the dam is now stable and routine excavations are carried out on the parts of the ancient site not affected by water.


Where were the mosaics kept?


Before the Zeugma Mosaic Museum opened, the mosaics were exhibited in a small display at the Gaziantep Archaeological Museum. As the mosaics


AM 4 2011 ©cybertrek 2011


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