Friday, January 19, 2018

A Tale of Two Cities: The Excavations at Zeugma on the Euphrates

With Memories of our April CAS excursion to the remarkable site of Gobekli Tepe still fresh, January promises a new adventure into Turkey when Dr. Jennifer Tobin takes us on a time adventure into the classic world of Zeugma on the Euphrates.

Around 300 BCE Seleucids (Dynasties founded by Alexander’s generals) I founded the twin cities of Seleucia and Apamea, each on opposite sides of the Euphrates River. The bridge that united them, the only permanent crossing of the Euphrates be-tween the Taurus Mountains and Babylonia, became so important that the two cities eventually became known as Zeugma, or “Bridgetown.”

Zeugma became one of the more significant urban centers of the Seleucid Empire, and when it became part of the Roman province of Syria early in the 1st century CE it hosted one of the Syrian legions, Legio IIII Scythica. The influx of soldiers and civilians swelled the population of the two cities, causing a building boom of houses and shops. In the mid-third century this thriving community was sacked by a Sasanid (Persian Dynasty) invasion led by Shapur I, and nearly every quarter of Zeugma was destroyed by fire.

Late in the 20th century, in or-der to improve the socio-economic climate of the Gaziantep region of Tur-key, the Birecik Dam was constructed over the Euphrates River, just down-stream from Zeugma.

The resulting artificial lake completely flooded Apamea, while approximately 30% of Seleucia was inundated. As the flood waters rose over Seleucia emergency excavations were organized.

Funded by the Packard Humanities Institute, a multinational team raced against time to uncover the buried city. The excavations yielded evidence for public life in the city, including several baths, a temple and a possible hall of records, but more spectacular were the results from the domestic quarters, which uncovered a number of houses, many sumptuously decorated with fine mosaics and elaborate wall paintings. This lecture will present an over-view of the Zeugma excavations, concentrating on the remains from the private sector of the settlement.

Jennifer Tobin: Brief Biography

Jennifer Tobin graduated from Stan-ford University with two BA’s, in Classical Studies and English Literature, and took her PhD in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. She was a visiting Assistant Professor at Bilkent University, in Ankara, Turkey, and at Arizona State University, and since 2005 has been an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr. Tobin has participated in excavations in Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and Turkey and has led archaeological tours for such companies as Far Horizons, Peter Sommers, Roads Scholars and Smithsonian.

She has authored two books, Black Cilicia: A Study of the Plain of Issus during the Roman and Late Roman Periods (Oxford, BAR International Series 1275, 2004) and Herodes Attikos and the City of Athens: Patronage and Conflict under the Antonines, (Amsterdam: JC Gieben, 1997) and is completing a book on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. She has also recorded a series of lectures on the ancient world with Recorded Books.

Zeugma Mosaic Museum

Zeugma Mosaic Museum, in the town of Gaziantep, Turkey, is the biggest mosaic museum in the world. The museum's mosaics are focused on Zeugma, thought to have been founded by a general in Alexander the Great’s army. The treasures, including the mosaics, remained relatively unknown until 2000 when artifacts appeared in museums and when plans for new dams on the Euphrates meant that much of Zeugma would be forever flooded. A large number of the mosaics remain covered and teams of researchers continue to work on the project.

The 90,000-square-foot museum features a 7,500-square-foot exhibition hall and replaces the Bardo National Museum in Tunis as the world’s largest mosaic museum.

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