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Roman-era mosaic discovered in Syria

October 13, 2022

A largely intact mosaic was uncovered in Rastan near Homs. Rich in details, it shows scenes of the Trojan War and is about 1,600 years old.

Mosaic that shows writing and various figures
The most recent archeological find in SyriaImage: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP

The mosaic is "not the oldest of its kind, but it is the most complete and rare," Humam Saad, who is in charge of excavations and archaeological studies in Syria at the General Directorate of Museums and Antiquities, said Wednesday. He added that there is "no other like it." Among other things, it shows scenes of the Trojan War.

The mosaic, about 20 meters long and six meters wide (66 x 20 feet), was found under a building in Rastan, a city in the northern Syrian governorate of Homs. Rastan, a rebel stronghold, saw fierce fighting in the Syrian war. In 2018, Homs was recaptured by the Syrian government after years of civil war.

The mosaic also portrays Neptune, the ancient Roman god of the sea, and 40 of his mistresses.

Plans to continue excavations

Part of the mosaic was reportedly discovered under a house several years ago, while opposition members were digging tunnels during the civil war.

The site, which dates back to the 4th century, was donated to the Syrian government after being bought by Syrian and Lebanese businessmen with ties to the Nabu Museum in neighboring Lebanon.

Men stand around an excavated area between buildings
There might be more to discover underneath the neighboring buildingsImage: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP

Archaeologist Saad told news agency AP, "We can't identify the type of the building, whether it's a public bathhouse or something else, because we have not finished excavating yet."

There is speculation that the mosaic may actually be larger still, with trustees from the Nabu Museum voicing hope that they will be able to purchase other buildings in Rastan with an eye to securing further heritage sites.  

Archaeological finds endangered in Syria

During the civil war, many important archaeological sites in Syria were destroyed and looted. The oasis city of Palmyra is the best-known example: The terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) blew up the 2,000-year-old cultural monuments of Palmyra because they saw them as buildings of "infidels."

But some rebels also sought to cash in on such items of cultural value. Syrian archaeologist Saad told the Associated Press that rebels had tried to sell parts of the mosaic illicitly online in recent years.

db, js/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)