The 1,600-square-foot work is part of the forecourt of a Roman bath at the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum on the southern Turkish coast. The mosaic dates to the third or fourth centuries A.D. and archaeologists think they’ve uncovered less than half of it.
“Its large size signals, in no small part, that the outward signs of the empire were very strong in this far-flung area,” said excavation director and UNL professor Michael Hoff in a press release. “We were surprised to have found a mosaic of such size and of such caliber in this region – it’s an area that had usually been off the radar screens of most ancient historians and archeologists, and suddenly this mosaic comes into view and causes us to change our focus about what we think (the region) was like in antiquity.”
The team has been excavating the city since 2005 and has worked on a third-century imperial temple and a street lined with shops. They hope to uncover the rest of the mosiac next summer.
“This region is not well understood in terms of history and archaeology … so everything we find adds more evidence to our understanding of this area of the Roman Empire,” Hoff said.
Hopefully the mosaic will be left in situ so visitors can see it in its original setting, like the mosaics in Ephesus and Pergamon, Turkey’s most famous Classical cities.
The best collection of Roman mosaics I’ve seen is at the Museo Nacional de Arte Romano in Mérida, Spain. The Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid also has a grand collection, but the museum is currently closed for renovation. The British Museum in London also has a good collection. I’m sure Rome has some great collections too, but when I visited I was so entranced with the churches, catacombs and monuments that I never made it into any of the archaeological museums!
[Photo courtesy University of Nebraska-Lincoln]