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News and stories from the world of Archaeology and its related disciplines

Ancient Roman town of Ucetia discovered in France

Vue aérienne de la zone 1 en cours de fouille, avec de gauche à droite le bâtiment à mosaïque antique, la rue et les habitations, mis au jour à Uzès (Gard), 2017.

For the first time in over a thousand years, archeologists have laid eyes on the ancient Roman town of Ucetia, which is decked out with some surprisingly well-preserved mosaics.

The discovery by the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) was made near modern-day Uzès in the south of France during the construction of a school. The 4,000-square-meter (43,056-square-foot) site contains artifacts ranging from the Roman Republic era (1st century BCE) to the late antiquity (7th century), right through to the Middle Ages.

Nettoyage du pavement de la salle mosaïquée antique découverte à Uzès (Gard), 2017.

The town’s existence was first hinted at when researchers found an inscription saying Ucetia on a stone slab in nearby Nîmes. A few isolated fragments and mosaic pieces suggested the site of the mysterious Roman town, but it remained hidden until INRAP started to dig beneath the surface.

“Prior to our work, we knew that there had been a Roman city called Ucetia only because its name was mentioned on stela [inscripted stone slab] in Nimes, alongside 11 other names of Roman towns in the area,” Philippe Cayn of INRAP told IBTimes.

One of the main findings was a 250-square-meter (2,690-square-foot) area that the researchers believe was a public building, based on the fact it was once lined with grand columns. This building also features two large multi-colored mosaics with patterns, symbols, and animals, including an owl, duck, eagle, and fawn. Preliminary research says this building stood strong until the end of the 1st century CE.

Angle du décor du pavement mosaïqué antique, formé de motifs géométriques (postes, chevrons, damiers) découvert à Uzès (Gard), 2017.

Cayn added: “This kind of elaborate mosaic pavement is often found in the Roman world in the 1st and 2nd centuries, but this one dates back to about 200 years before that, so this is surprising.”

Another important discovery was a 500-square-meter (5,381-square-foot) urban dwelling, which contains mosaic decorations of geometrical patterns and dolphins. This building also contains several large dolia, large wine vessels, that suggests wine was produced here.

The archeologists believe there is still a lot of work to do and hope to continue their research on the site over the coming years. The site will be part of a peer-reviewed study once all the necessary groundwork is done and dusted.

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Sublime technique makes Syrian mosaics one of the greatest in the world

Hama governorate contains some of the most important mosaics in Syria, with around 50% of uncovered mosaics, most significant if which is “Tiba al-Imam,” a 600 square meters mosaic dating back to 242 AD.

Another mosaic housed at Hama National Museum is the “Musicians” mosaic. This piece, measuring 4.25 meters by 5.37 meters, depicts six female musicians and two children, in addition to old musical instrument including an organ, cymbals, two flutes, a harp and an Indian musical instrument consisting of metal bowls placed on a table.

In a statement to SANA, Professor of mosaic restoration at Athens University Stephania Chlouveraki underlined the strong composition and accuracy of representation in the Musicians mosaic, noting the small details such as attire, hair, braids, gentle smiles and wide eyes.

Prof. Chlouveraki , who is a member of the team tasked with establishing a lab for restoring mosaics in Hama National Museum, pointed out that Hama governorate contains a very important mosaic dating back to 362/363 AD depicting Socrates with six wise men standing around him.

This mosaic, which is displayed in Apamea Museum, was found beneath the Great Catherdal and Apamea. It reflects the connection that existed between the Syrian and Greek cultures.

The professor went on to discuss other important mosaics at Apamea Museum, including a mosaic depicting a deer and another depicting a beauty contest between nymphs. The latter mosaic, dating back to 362/363 AD was found in Apamea in the Roman building on which the Great Cathedral was built.

Prof. Chlouveraki said that Syrian mosaics are the richest and greatest in the world due to their sublime technique, wealth of human and natural subjects depicted in them, and their portrayal of lifestyles across various periods, underlining the skill of ancient Syrian craftsmen who were pioneer in this ancient art.

She stressed that Syrian mosaics are rare and unique archeological finds, with their magnificent figures, enchanting designs, high level of precision and skill, and the decorative elements that represent important historic records and documents of various periods, adding that Syria has a considerable and important reservoir of mosaics.

Regarding the project for documenting and resotring Mosaics in Hama Museum, Prof. Chlouveraki said the first stage of the project began in 2004 by documenting all mosaics in Syria, while the second stage which is currently underway involves establishing a lab for restoring mosaics in the museum that serves as a center for training Syrian archeological restoration workers and archeology students to restore and preserve mosaics.

She pointed out that the project aims at spreading awareness on how to properly handle mosaics, adding that staff from the General Department of Archeology and Museum were trained last year in the latest methods for restoring mosaics, while training in 2010 focused on staff from Hama Department of Archeology, who worked on a mosaic dating back to Byzantine period, which will soon be ready for display.

Ancient Syrian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine artist used colored stone or glass to make mosaics, depending on the location where the piece would be installed. Mosaics discovered across Syria depict a variety of subjects, with some depicting daily life and social, economic and cultural activities, while others depicted the beauty of nature or mythology.

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