Zeugma excavations to last a century
This year’s archaeological excavations in the ancient city of Zeugma, which lies on the coast of the Euphrates River and is famous for the Gypsy Girl Mosaic, has unearthed bronze pieces from the clothing of legion units, silver and iron materials, rings, fibulas, ceramics, ivory and bone needles and frescoes, with experts saying excavations in the ancient site may last a century.
Located in the southeastern province of Gaziantep’s Nizip district, the Zeugma Mosaic Museum is home to many splendors unearthed in the ancient city, where excavations have been going on since 2005 by Ankara University’s archaeology department’s Professor Kutalmış Görkay and his team.
The excavation team is currently working in a Roman villa called the “Muzolar House” on an area of 20 decares. Works will end on Sept. 18.
Deputy head of the excavations and Gazi University’s archeology department’s academic Associated Professor Ayşe Fatma Erol said the ancient city of Zeugma was one of the most important intersections that gave passage to Mesopotamia on the Euphrates River.
She said thanks to this feature, the ancient city kept its political, military and economic significance throughout history.
“With its position on the Euphrates River, Zeugma was a Hellenistic and Roman city that served as a bridge and gateway for many civilizations. The city was formed in the Hellenistic era by Seleukos King Seleukos I with the name ‘Selevkia.’ Romans were dominant there since the 1st century B.C. The city’s name became Zeugma after the Romans. It means bridge-gateway,” she added.
Traces of Paleolithic Age
Erol said the city, perched on the eastern border of the Roman Empire, kept this position until the second half of the 2nd century, and that the history of the city dates back to the early Paleolithic age. The city lost importance in 253 after the Sasanian attacks.
The first excavations were realized by the Gaziantep Museum in 1987 before works were accelerated in 1990 with the construction of the Birecik Dam, which was initiated as part of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP).
“A 25-person team is working in the field of the Roman villa, known as the Muzolar House. We worked here in the past years, too. This year, the works in the atrium of the house are being finished. Also, operations for the restoration and conservation of frescoes have been maintained, too,” she said.
Erol said excavations will last many years in Zeugma just like in the ancient city of Ephesus in the Aegean province of İzmir.
“Excavations in Ephesus have lasted for more than 100 years. This place has the same archaeological potential, too. Zeugma became famous for the Gypsy Girl Mosaic. We can find more mosaics and sculptures in the unexcavated parts of the ancient city. I believe that mosaics equivalent to or more beautiful than the Gypsy Girl Mosaic can be found in places to be excavated in the future. The field where we work is a very small part of the city. The most difficult thing here is that there is an intense layer of fill because the city was established on a slope. We can reach the artifacts after removing a layer fill of 13 to 14 meters,” Erol said.