Zeugma Ancient City

Zeugma Ancient City

Zeugma is a historic city located in Belkis Village, situated on the banks of the Euphrates River, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) east of Nizip/Gaziantep. The city has been continuously inhabited since the prehistoric era and is notable for being one of two points on either side of the Euphrates that provide easy passage. Throughout history, Zeugma served as an important trade center due to its strategic location, allowing for both land and river transportation.

During the Hellenistic Era, Zeugma established its position as one of the greatest cities in Anatolia. When Rome came to rule the region, the settlement of a military garrison called 4th Legion further increased the city's importance. This period also saw a flourishing of artistic activities, leading to a cultural development in Zeugma.

Recent excavations have revealed many Roman villas in Zeugma, showcasing beautifully-decorated floor mosaics. Visitors from all over the world have been drawn to the archaeological site of Zeugma to witness the unique mosaics depicting various Greek mythology gods, including those on the floors of pools, dining halls, and rooms.

Zeugma Ancient City

Despite undergoing numerous excavations, Zeugma faced a significant setback in 2000 when the ruins were flooded by the Birecik Dam. Nonetheless, the historic city remains an important cultural and historical site, offering valuable insights into the region's past.

In 2000, David W. Packard, an American philanthropist, read about Zeugma in the New York Times and decided to fund an emergency excavation. He hired the Oxford Archaeological Unit, under the direction of Robert Earley, to find mosaic specialists and a French team to rescue precious artifacts from the old town on the Euphrates River before it was flooded by the Birecik Dam.

With a budget of five million dollars, 60 archaeologists and 200 workers worked together to excavate three areas of the site from June to October 2000. The initial priority was given to salvage and document Zone A, which disappeared under the dam waters in July 2000. The archaeologists then moved on to Zone B, which was scheduled to be submerged by October 2000 when the water reached its maximum level. Zone C, consisting of the higher parts of the city, was not affected by the dam.

Thanks to the frantic emergency excavations, 45 mosaics were found, 22 of which were almost intact, earning Zeugma the nickname "the second Pompeii". Initially, these mosaics were exhibited in the Gaziantep Archaeological Museum, but in May 2011, the Zeugma Mosaic Museum was opened to showcase the impressive findings.

Overall, Packard's funding and the archaeological teams' efforts helped to salvage and document important historical artifacts and mosaics before they were lost to the flooding caused by the construction of the Birecik Dam. The excavation also shed light on the rich history and cultural heritage of the ancient city of Zeugma.