In the cities of Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa, which embody the traces of countless civilizations, cultures and belief systems dating back to 4000 B.C., many invaluable mosaics have been unearthed during the excavations in the last century. These mosaics show the richness and glamour of these cities in the past and were often found in the lavishly decorated homes of the wealthy traders and military officials of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, these unique and advanced mosaics have received very little public attention.
ONE Association aims to change this through the “Mosaic Road” project led by the Chairperson of the Advisory Board, the eminent historian, Prof. Dr. İlber Ortaylı, in coordination with the metropolitan municipalities of Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. The goal of this project is to create awareness for these unique mosaics throughout the world, educate and motivate the local communities to protect and promote this valuable heritage, and to create a brand new cultural tourism destination for Turkey.
Antakya and Upper Mesopotamia were home to the wealthy traders and military officials and the unique mosaics that were skilfully created to decorate their lavish villas. In fact, the famous Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, a Hatay native who lived there from 322 to 400, describes the Hatay of the Roman Empire era as “a city that no other city around the world could surpass neither in the fertility of its soil nor in its commercial wealth”. The Hatay Archeology Museum has mosaics dating back to 2 A.D. – 6 A.D. that incorporate different themes such as mythology, beliefs and daily life as well as geometrical shapes and various kinds of plants on display. These mosaics are invaluable due to their notable size as well as the advanced techniques used in their production.
The Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep remains the biggest mosaic museum in the world with a size of 30.000 square meters. Unearthed during the 1998 excavations, the world-famous “Gypsy Girl” mosaic, thought to be the Greek goddess Gaia, is one of the most noteworthy displays. Compared to Tunisian mosaics that feature a color palette of 9 colors, the Zeugma mosaics display a much richer 13.
Kahramanmaraş, a prominent trade center located on intersection of the important routes of the time, was home to the Roman-era ancient city of Germanicia, named after the Roman Emperor Caligula. The shadowing techniques and the high quality tesserae used in the mosaics there show that the highly developed Roman mosaic art influenced the Germanicia mosaics dating back to 5th century A.D. These mosaics are unique in terms of the colors and sizes of their tesserae and the stories they tell of the daily life and neighborhood relations within the context of real life, fauna and flora, rather than mythological legends.
The most important relics from Greek culture in the ancient city of Edessa in Şanlıurfa are colorful Haleplibahçe mosaics that feature outstanding craftsmanship. Not only are these the earliest examples of Amazon warrior queens depicted in mosaic, they are also one of the world’s most precious mosaics thanks to their technique, art and the use of 4 mm square tesserae derived from Euphrates.
In preparation for the project, regular meetings are held with representatives from the Municipalities, who have offered great support. Planned as a 3-night 4-day culture tour in the first phase, the project will include conferences and other events throughout the USA, Europe and Asia.