The Cultural Afterlife of Mosaics in Turkey

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)

Continue reading

The Gordion Furniture Project

By: Krysia Spirydowicz, Associate Professor, Art Conservation Program, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, CANADA and Senior Conservator, Gordion Furniture Project, Ankara, TURKEY

Figure 1. Inlaid Table from Tumulus MM (E. Simpson, Gordion Furniture Project)

The ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion in central Anatolia was first explored in the early 1950s by a team from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Located approximately 100 km southwest of Ankara, this impressive site consists of a flat city mound with occupation levels dating from the Early Bronze Age to Hellenistic times and nearby clusters of burial mounds or tumuli. Rodney Young, the first director of excavations, explored three of the largest tumuli (Tumulus MM, P and W) as well as sections of the City Mound.  Over 40 pieces of ornate, inlaid furniture dating to the eighth century BC were discovered in wooden burial chambers located deep inside the large earthen mounds. Continue reading