Rock-Cut Chambers In “House of Muses” Of Zeugma, Home To Numerous Mosaics

Conny Waters - - Anatolia's ancient city of Zeugma still surprises with new mosaics. Today, the most beautiful mosaics are gathered in Zeugma Mosaic Museum, in the town of Gaziantep, Turkey. It is the biggest mosaic museum in the world, containing 1700 m2 of mosaics.

Zeugma mosaicsImage credit: Hurriyet Daily News

Zeugma has long been famous for a large number of remarkable figured mosaics found there, and many of them are of exceptionally high quality. Several of the ancient Zeugma's houses unearthed recently were richly and elaborately decorated, with numerous mosaics (often with complex geometric patterns) covering the floors of the houses.

The ancient town of Zeugma sits on the banks of the Euphrates River in southeast Turkey. Zeugma (in Greek, "bridge"), one of the most important centers in the Eastern Roman Empire, is located in the southeastern province of Gaziantep’s Belkıs district, Turkey.

Mosaic of Oceanos and Tethys - 2nd/3rd Century - Zeugma Mosaic Museum - Gaziantep - Turkey. Photo credits: Adam JonesMosaic of Oceanos and Tethys - 2nd/3rd Century - Zeugma Mosaic Museum - Gaziantep - Turkey. Photo credits: Adam Jones

Recently, two rock-cut chambers were brought to light in the so-called "House of Muses",  due to the mosaics on its floor, and discovered in 2007. However, excavations in the area started in 2005, writes Hurriyet Daily News.

Professor Kutalmış Görkay, the head of the excavations, stated that the rock chambers were found after the excavation of 16 meters of earth fill in the House of Muses, adding, “We excavated 16 meters of earth fill above the rock chambers that we identified and shifted the work in this direction.

 Gaziantep Zeugma Museum Eros and Psyche mosaic BorderGaziantep Zeugma Museum Eros and Psyche mosaic Border. Image credit: Dosseman - CC BY-SA 4.

After taking this weight on it, we started excavating inside the rock chambers. Work is still continuing in this chamber, where the earth inside was emptied. We will provide the protection and reinforcement of these chambers. In particular, there are risky cracks on the ceilings in the chamber. We will complete the excavations in the other rock chamber this year, too" informed Prof.Görkay.

"Later, we plan to open these areas to visitors by taking protective measures and ensuring room security with injections or steel structures.”

 Gaziantep Zeugma Museum Water gods mosaic

Gaziantep Zeugma Museum Water gods mosaic. Image credit: Dosseman - CC BY-SA 4.0

In ancient times, Zeugma was the only point to cross the river between Anatolia and Mesopotamia for hundreds of kilometers. The city was founded by a commander under Alexander the Great around 300 B.C., Seleucus I Nicator.

 Gaziantep Zeugma Museum Dionysos mosaic

Gaziantep Zeugma Museum Dionysos mosaic. Image credit: Dosseman - CC BY-SA 4.0

In 64 BC, the Romans controlled the city. Zeugma was of great importance to the Romans as it was located at a strategically important place. Up to 70,000 people lived in the city, and it became a center for the military and commerce for the Romans. In 253 AD, it was destroyed by the Sassanids but was later rebuilt.

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In late antiquity, Zeugma was a diocese, a district under the jurisdiction of a bishop but the place was probably abandoned in the 7th century due to Persian and Arab raids.

Arabs lived there temporarily in the Middle Ages, and in the 17th century, the Turkish village of Belkis was built near the ruins.

Written by Conny Waters - Staff Writer