Women’s touch on Sardis ancient city
The floor mosaics in the largest synagogue of the ancient era, one of the most important world cultural heritage sites located in the ancient city of Sardis in the Salihli district of the western province of Manisa, have begun to be restored, The damaged parts of the 1,700-year-old mosaics, most of which are preserved, began to reshape with the fine workmanship of the women in the village.
Excavations have been continuing for 158 years in Sardis, the capital of the Lydian Kingdom, known as one of the most important states of antiquity and the civilization that first used money in history.
Many structures and artifacts from Lydian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and other cultures have been unearthed during the excavations in Sardis. And restoration work began on the floor mosaics after the roof of the Sardis Synagogue, known as the largest synagogue of the ancient era, was covered.
The damaged parts of the mosaics, some of which were dismantled in blocks during the excavations and transported to the Manisa Museum, and a large part of which were left in place, are also restored by women living in the Sart neighborhood, who spent their childhood in the ancient city. In the restoration works carried out with great patience, white mosaic pieces were brought from Bintepeler Tumulus area while black mosaic stones were brought from Antakya.
Sevinç Akça, one of the villagers working on the restoration, said, “We are restoring the mosaics. We fill in the blanks. We are very pleased, it has become a business field for us as well. We have been working here for 9-10 years. We work three months per season but this season will be longer and we will be here until the end of November.”
Speaking about the ancient city of Sardis, which has maintained its importance in every period since the Lydians and was destroyed by a great earthquake in the Byzantine period, the Head of the Sardis Ancient City Excavation Committee, Professor Nicholas D. Cahill said, “Sardis is the city of the Lydians, who are one of the Anatolian peoples. They had a special language. In the sixth century B.C., they established a great empire and printed the first money in the world. They minted the first coin with natural electron metal, a mixture of gold and silver. It again became the capital city of Persia. When Alexander the Great came, it became an important city again. In the Byzantine period, the whole city was destroyed by a great earthquake and life continued in the Acropolis.”
Stating that the excavations in the ancient city, which started 112 years ago and were interrupted from time to time, have continued uninterruptedly since 1958, Cahill said, “The excavation started in 1958. It has been continuing ever since. We work with an international team from the U.S. We work with Turks, Americans, Germans, Japanese, Ukrainians, scientists, photographers, experts in their fields. We come here every year and we live like a family. Many tourists come every day. They take pictures, read books and walk around. In particular, there is a small church behind the Temple of Artemis. It is one of the seven churches. Especially Koreans come and visit it.”
Cahill gave information about the ongoing work at the Sardis Synagogue, and said: “The synagogue was built in the fourth century during the early Roman period. It was the largest synagogue in the ancient world. All floors are mosaic. In the 1960s, all of the mosaics were removed and replaced with a concrete panel. We are doing restoration now. Last year we built a protective roof. Now we fill the missing parts of the mosaics with new mosaics. Since the mosaics are on the concrete panel, visitors can walk around the original mosaics without any damage. The missing parts were filled with concrete in the 1960s. We cut the concrete in the missing places and the women fill it with new stones that are true to the original. A team of conservators came this year for this project and provided training to women. Women also continue here on their own. The works are made in an original way with meticulous and fine craftsmanship.”