Archaeologists race to save Roman relics

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Archaeologists are racing against the clock to excavate and preserve the remains of a Roman city that could become as famous as Pompeii and the Colosseum in Rome.

Archaeologists are racing against the clock to excavate and preserve the remains of a Roman city that could become as famous as Pompeii and the Colosseum in Rome.

In the world's largest ever architectural dig, a team led by 50 experts from Britain is battling to save relics in Zeugma, in south-east Turkey, before it is covered by water trapped by a new dam. A third of the site of the city will be flooded in just over a month by the Birecik dam on the Euphrates river.

The dammed water will provide electricity and irrigation for people near the dig-site by the Syrian border. But unless the 200-strong team from Turkey, France and Italy, and led by the Oxford Archeological Unit of Britain, removes or protects the artefacts by 24 October, they will be lost under the water.

"The site is certainly going to teach us more than other famous sites like the Colosseum - it tells us about all aspects of Roman life," said a project manager from the unit, David Wilkinson.

"We are looking at really good houses of wealthy merchants and the poor areas on the steep, rocky slopes. We have found artefacts like scales and weaving machines," he said. Most of the finds are in "pretty good condition" because the area is so dry, Mr Wilkinson said. He added that the area as a whole "has the potential to become as well known as Pompeii or the Colosseum".

Large items that cannot be saved from the water, such as mosaic flooring, will be specially protected and sealed, before being reburied. "This technique can protect items for as long as they are there," Mr Wilkinson said. If one day the water is gone, people will be able to uncover the treasures.

Zeugma was founded in the third century BC by a Macedonian ruler of Syria. In its heyday, it would have been bigger than Roman London or Paris, with about 50,000 inhabitants.

Comments