The Cultural Afterlife of Mosaics in Turkey

Posted in: Archaeology, Archaeology and Politics, Conservation, Cultural Heritage and Property
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By: Laurent Dissard, University of Pennsylvania

Sensational discoveries of mosaics periodically make the headlines of newspapers in Turkey. After being discovered, unearthed, cleaned, and removed, these ancient floors slowly make their way to museums or private collections. For this month’s ASOR Blog on the Archaeology of Anatolia, I wish to examine the curious afterlife of mosaics in, out of, and more recently, back to Turkey. I want to analyze their transformation from buried and forgotten things in the ground, to sanitized artifacts, aesthetic masterpieces, and contested objects of desire.

Unearthed in the late 1990s at Zeugma in Southeastern Turkey during rescue excavations before the construction of the Birecik Dam, the 2nd century AD mosaic below is now displayed in the newly built Mosaic Museum of Gaziantep. It shows Achilles on the island of Skyros leaving for the Trojan War. Thetis, Achilles’ mother, knowing that her son would die by joining the Greek army, dresses him as a girl and sends him to live with a king and his beautiful daughters on the island of Skyros, far away from the war.

Odysseus (R) takes Achilles (C) away from Deidameia (L)

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3 Comments for : The Cultural Afterlife of Mosaics in Turkey
    • Sonia King
    • January 30, 2013

    Many thanks for the thorough and thoughtful article. I've reposted to 6,000 mosaic enthusiasts on my Sonia King Mosaics page on Facebook. I hope they all come and read this.

    • Mehmet ÖNAL
    • January 30, 2013

    Thank you very much you gave us last news about the mosaics of Silk Road (Edessa, Haleplibahçe, Zeugma and Antiocheia).

  1. Thanks Sonia for the link to this wonderful article and insight into what is happening in Turkey regarding such a wealthy cultural legacy.

    I personally prefer to see mosaics within their original setting but appreciate this is not always possible for a variety of reasons.

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