Archaeologists have uncovered a rare 1,600-year-old mosaic with imagery from the Trojan War underneath a building in Rastan, Syria.
Businessmen from the Nabu Museum in Lebanon had purchased the property on which the building sits and donated it to the Syrian government. Syria’s General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums was excavating the building, which itself dates to the fourth century, when they discovered the intact panels filled with small, square-shaped colorful stones.
“Rare on a Global Scale”
Dr. Humam Saad, the directorate’s associate director of excavation and archaeological research, said that the mosaic is “rare on a global scale.”
“It is not the oldest of its kind, but it’s the most complete and the rarest,” he explained.
The imagery that the mosaic depicts is “rich in details” according to Saad. This imagery depicts events from the Trojan War fought by the Trojans and Greeks, which legends date to the 12th or 13th century BCE.
Specific images include:
- Soldiers holding swords and shields
- The names of the Greek leaders who fought in the war
- Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the sea, and his mistresses
- Ancient Amazon warriors of Roman mythology, who were said to have fought alongside the people of Troy
Archaeologists expect to discover even more scenery, as well as the type of building the mosaic was located in, as they continue their work. They have uncovered 1,300 square feet (120 square meters) of the mosaic so far, but it appears to continue underneath adjacent buildings.
[Related: Rare Mosaic Floor Discovered in London]
The First of Many Discoveries?
The discovery of the mosaic is made all the more significant by the fact that it could have easily been destroyed due to the ongoing conflict in Syria.
The town of Rastan was in the hands of rebels until the government reclaimed it in 2018. In 2017, armed groups attempted to profit from the mosaic, even listing it for sale on social media.
This is just one instance of the looting and destruction that have taken place at heritage sites during the ongoing Syrian civil war. For example, the Islamic State group partially destroyed a Roman theater and even seized UNESCO World Heritage Site Palmyra, which is home to 2,000-year-old Roman colonnades and other irreplaceable artifacts.
It’s no surprise that excavations haven’t progressed much during this conflict. But now that Rastan is back in the hands of the government, there’s the potential for further discoveries.
Sulaf Fawakherji, a famous Syrian actress and trustee of the Nabu Museum, explained that “Rastan historically is an important city, and it could possibly be [a] very important heritage city for tourism.”
Fawakherji hopes that the Nabu Museum can continue to purchase buildings in Rastan, where she’s sure additional discoveries await.
[Related: Excavations Reveal Ancient Roman Mosaic Floor Beneath Italian Vineyard]
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Featured image credit: Louai Beshara / AFP / Getty Images