Ancient mosaics seriously damaged during restoration in Turkey’s Hatay
At least 10 mosaics, held in the world’s second largest mosaic museum in Turkey’s southern city of Hatay, were seriously damaged during restoration, a local newspaper has reported.
The scandal erupted after local mosaic craftsman Mehmet Daşkapan brought the issue to the attention of a local newspaper in Antakya, a district of Hatay.
“Valuable pieces from the Roman period have been ruined. They have become caricatures of their former selves. Some are in an especially poor condition and have lost their originality and value,” Daşkapan said.
Among the damaged mosaics are world-famous panels including a mosaic depicting the sacrifice of Isaac and a mosaic of Narcissus, he added.
“The panel that I saw could not have been the original mosaic from the 2nd century A.D. Some of its stones are missing, while others have been misplaced, creating a discordant look,” Daşkapan stated.
Mustafa Bozdemir, the deputy director of the Culture Ministry’s Heritage and Museums department, has issued a written statement, saying an investigation commission has been formed to look into the allegations.
The commission’s initial evaluations have led to the suspension of all restoration work.
“Necessary information will be provided once the commission completes its investigation,” Bozdemir stated.
Daşkapan also underlined the urgency of suspending restoration work in order to protect the remaining artifacts.
“The new museum currently exhibits around 65 percent of its inventory,” he said, particularly expressing his concern for valuable panels such as a mosaic of Oceanus and Tethys, which have not been damaged yet.
The botched restoration has become a matter of humor, too. "Perhaps, the restoration's target was to liken him to [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan," joked famous cartoonist Selçuk Erdem, from the weekly magazine Penguen.
Two other cartoonists at Penguen, Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, were jailed to 11 months in prison in March over a satirical piece on free speech in which they were convicted of including a hidden gesture “insulting” Erdoğan.
The shoddy restoration works in Antakya are reminiscent of a scandal in 2012, when a Spanish woman took it upon herself to repair a 19th century fresco by Elias Garcia Martinez at the Church of Santuario de Misericordi, rendering the image of Christ unrecognizable.