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Massive Roman Mosaic in Turkey Points to Buried City

Sep 19, 2012 09:00 AM EDT

Archaeologists have unearthed a massive Roman mosaic in southern Turkey that was built during the Roman Empire.

The 1,600-square-foot mosaic, which has been decorated with careful handiwork, was initially noticed in 2001 after a farmer plowed up small pieces of the mosaic next to a still-standing bath structure.

After an investigation by the archeological museum in Alanya, Turkey, they invited Michael Hoff, director of the mosaic excavation and Hixson-Lied professor of art history at University of Nebraska, to excavate the mosaic last year.

Hoff and his team uncovered the largest mosaic of its type that decorated a bath complex. The mosaic had large squares covered with different geometric designs and ornamentation. Hoff detected that the mosaic could have been a forecourt for the bath complex, where evidence showed that at least one side of the roof covering the geometric squares could have been supported by piers.

While the middle of the mosaic had a marble-lined 25-foot-long pool, which would have been open to the sun, the other side of the mosaic is yet to be excavated. The team hopes to unearth the whole complex by next summer. According to the archeologists, the mosaic shows cultural influence of the Roman Empire in the region during the third and fourth centuries A.D.

"Its large size signals, in no small part, that the outward signs of the empire were very strong in this far-flung area," Hoff said in a news release.

"We were surprised to have found a mosaic of such size and of such caliber in this region - it's an area that had usually been off the radar screens of most ancient historians and archeologists, and suddenly this mosaic comes into view and causes us to change our focus about what we think (the region) was like in antiquity," he said.

Hoff and his team have been excavating the ancient city of Antiochia ad Cragum in Turkey since 2005 in order to find evidence to understand the influence of Roman Empire in the region. Hoff pointed out that the ancient city has not been well understood in terms of history and archaeology.

The excavators have seen various signs that could suggest the presence of an ancient Roman city such as baths, street-lined shops, temples and markets. They noted that the region has been more Romanized similar to other Roman empires across the world than it was previously thought.

While the team plans to completely uncover the mosaic by next June and open the site for public visits, they also have focused on excavating a third-century temple and street-lined shops in the region.

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