A team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has discovered an impressive Roman mosaic at a little-known site in Turkey.
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]
We’ve reported before here on Gadling how the unrest in Syria has led to the damage of much of that nation’s archaeological heritage. Now Time magazine reports that the Syrian Civil War has led to a huge trade in illegal antiquities that may be lengthening the war.
Smugglers and antiquities dealers in Lebanon told the magazine that both the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian government are trading looted antiquities for weapons. One smuggler even claimed that the Free Syrian Army is organizing a special team to more systematically locate archaeological artifacts to sell. The Free Syrian Army denies the claim but admits that some of its members have engaged in looting.
While the destruction of Syria’s past may seem of little importance when compared with the 20,000 or more killed and the countless injured and displaced, the fact that the trade in looted antiquities may be fueling the conflict is troubling. It will also make it harder for Syria to recover once the war is over. It used to earn 12% of its national income from tourists attracted by the country’s many ancient and medieval sites.
There may be little left to see, with all six of its UNESCO World Heritage Sites damaged, and countless museums, archaeological sites and historic buildings looted and damaged.
One good source of information on the continuing destruction of Syria’s past is the Facebook page Syrian Heritage under Threat – grim but important reading.
[Photo of checkpoint in Damascus courtesy Voice of America]
A new exhibition at the Royal Academy in London will feature one of Britain’s most stunning archaeological discoveries of the past few years.
Back in 2010, a metal detectorist found this brass helmet in a field in Cumbria, northern England. It dates from the first to third centuries A.D. and is one of a few rare ornate cavalry helmets dating to the Roman period. These helmets were worn for tournaments and parades rather than battle.
Now it will be part of “Bronze,” an exhibition of works made of bronze or brass from the prehistoric period to the present day. More than 150 works from Africa, Asia, and Europe are organized into themes such as the human figure, animals, groups, objects, reliefs, heads and busts, and gods. Examples come from such widely different cultures as ancient Greece, Etruria, Benin, Renaissance Italy, and modern Europe.
To learn more about these helmets, check out this page on Roman parade helmets and this page on more standard-issue Roman cavalry helmets.
Bronze runs from September 15 to December 9.
[Photo courtesy Daniel Pett]
A funerary boat dating back 5,000 years has been discovered in Egypt, Ahram Online reports.
The boat was meant to take the Pharaoh Den to the afterlife and was buried in the northeast of the Giza Plateau, site of the famous (and later) pyramids. Den was a ruler of Ancient Egypt’s poorly understood First Dynasty, which saw the unification of Egypt and its development as a major civilization. Den, shown here smiting his enemies in this image courtesy CaptMondo, was the first to use the title “King of Lower and Upper Egypt.” He ruled for 42 years and was famed for his organization of the state. His tomb at Abydos, shown below in this Wikimedia Commons image, is one of the finest of the era.
The French team that made the discovery hope to restore the boat in time to put it on display at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization when it opens next year.
A section of the Inca Trail has been discovered in Peru.
The new/old section is located in the archaeologically rich Cusco region and hasn’t been used for 500 years. The Peruvian archaeologists who discovered it say that most of it is well preserved, with about a third overgrown or washed away by landslides.
The trail measures 1.7 meters (5 feet 7 inches) wide and 4.3 kilometers (2.7 miles) long and links the main trail up with the archaeological site of Kantupata. This sanctuary was associated with Macchu Picchu only a few miles away and is currently being excavated and restored.
The Inca Trail is a popular destination for trekkers. It offers some challenging walking, as well as beautiful views and sites of historical interest. It culminates with the spectacular site of Macchu Picchu, the estate for one of the last Inca emperors.
This stretch of the trail will open to hikers in about two years after it has been properly studied and restored.
[Photo courtesy Ian Armstrong]