Ancient Roman mosaic lay under dumpster in Turkey

Shortly after twelve pieces of ancient mosaics were discoeverd, among them the world famous “Gypsy Girl”, good tidings of yet another ancient mosaic discovery, this time in Iznik (a county of Bursa, historically known as Nicaea) turns out to be a bitter pill to swallow.

The story started to unfold three years ago, after the discovery of an ancient roman mosaic during a drainage drill of the municipality of Iznik. Archaeologists have soon found out that the mosaic with the depiction of a human face on it, was larger than anticipated, and most of it was lying underground of a nearby private property.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Directorate of the Museum of Iznik has initiated a recovery excavation which started to reveal some parts the ancient mosaic. The district containing the mosaic which was previously an archaeological site of the third degree, has become an archaeological site of the first degree with due regulation.

However, the owner of the land, which covers most of the mosaic, was not willing to waiver claims on the land with due process. After negotiations proving futile, excavation team terminated the work, covered the mosaic with geotextile and refilled the area they excavated with river sand.

Three months later, Municipality of Nicaea paved asphalt on the way since the drainage drill was over. Mahir Unal, Minister of Culture and Tourism, ordered the removal of asphalt after being informed about the incident and the site was surrounded with bollards. Currently, with bollards gone, garbage dumpsters are placed on the site.

Taylan Sevil, Former director of the Museum of Iznik, reminding of the historical significance of the town as ancient city of Nicaea, says that this great artifact cannot be forsaken lightly. “This mosaic dates back to 3rd century AD. Mosaic remnants are very rare. Few has been found in Iznik,” he stated.

Turkish State’s handling with ancient mosaics has been subject to harsh criticism after a restoration scandal in southern province of Antioch was made public in 2015. Due to fatal errors made by the restoration crew, ancient mosaics were significantly damaged. It even became a matter of satire with some likening distorted mosaic figures to the face of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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