05 December 2022

Ancient Roman blanket

It looks like a blanket, but it's a mosaic floor, warped by earthquakes.
Antakya, anciently Antiochia on the Orontes, is a Turkish city renowned for its superb collection of Roman mosaics and a stunning museum. It can now add a truly remarkable geometric mosaic, lauded as being the largest surviving example in the world, to its public attractions...

Now a new attraction has opened to the public, displayed beneath a futuristic hotel. It takes the form of a unique archaeological park, the Necmi Asfuroğlu Archaeology Museum, which is home to the impressively sized great mosaic. This 1,050m² 4th-century pavement was discovered in 2009, when the Asfuroğlu family began constructing what was supposed to be a new luxury hotel on a site 2km from the centre of the modern city. However, it soon became apparent that the proposed location was full of incredible archaeology.

Instead of abandoning the project, the family decided to preserve the archaeological treasures by integrating them into their new hotel. The Asfuroğlu family worked alongside the Antakya Municipality, the Hatay Archaeology Museum, and the Adana Conservation Council for Cultural and Natural Assets to conduct the largest archaeological excavation in Turkey since the 1930s, and to plan a hotel that would cause the least disturbance to the archaeology. A team of 200, including 35 archaeologists and five restorers, worked for 18 months to complete the excavation and restoration. The finds were superb and included the great geometric pavement, beautiful mosaics such as the 2nd-century AD Bathing of Pegasus, panels devoted to the Muses, and a 5th-century mosaic of Megalopsychia, the physical embodiment of magnanimity, surrounded by birds...

The superb Pegasus or Helikon mosaic, with its Greek inscriptions, is said to contain a remarkable 160 colour shades of plant-dyed tesserae.
More information (and three additional images) at World Archaeology.  And kudos to that family for their preservation efforts.


  1. Yes, Kudos to that family for going to the expense of incorporating the display of these treasures into the hotel design, the balconies and glass floors work well.
    I'm sure it cost them plenty to do that but I guess they hope the tourist draw will balance. Also, if the hotel business goes belly up there's a good chance a museum or government would buy the building.

  2. The lovely undulating effect is allowed due to the use of lime mortar, rather than the cements in use today; modern cements would crack, but (as long as the movement isn't too much all at once) lime mortar will basically allow the movement and reseal itself.
    Both interesting, and important to know if you own an old house, as apparently using cement instead of lime mortar in some circumstances can cause significant damage to the building due to the nature of the orginal construction materials.

  3. Tesserae used in mosaics are not dyed with plants, they are minerals that naturally occur in various colors. They were carefully split into thin slabs, then cut into fingers of stone, then snipped off into cube-shaped tesserae. At the archaeological dig at El Araj on the Sea of Galilee a few years ago, that was what they said to us.

  4. Wow Lois, those are little pieces of colored stone or glass and not dyed clay tiles? That makes the mosaic twice as impressive. Thank you.


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