In 2007, the Turkish government embarked on a dam reconstruction project near the historical city of Zeugma along the Syrian border. The government feared the project might cause flooding, and archaeologists feared those floods could wash away any ancient treasures that had not yet been uncovered.
A team of archaeologists led by Professor Kutalmış Görkay of Ankara University therefore embarked on a series of expeditions to find and retrieve as many artifacts as possible. In 2014, they unearthed three Ancient Greek mosaics with glass tiles that date back to 2200 BC. The mosaics are in remarkably pristine condition.
One depicts the Nine Muses: Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Ourania, Polymnia, Terpsichore and Thalia. These goddesses created the arts and inspired artists and scholars. Some of them also developed the tools associated with given arts; for example, Euterpe was credited with inventing several musical instruments. Artists in both ancient Greece and the much later Renaissance often invoked the Muses and portrayed them in their works.
Another mosaic portrayed Oceanus, a personification of the oceans, and his sister Tethys. Various fish and sea creatures swim around them. The last mosaic depicts the sea god Poseidon driving a chariot. He is also surrounded by sea creatures.
The city Zeugma, also known as Selukia-on-the-Euphrates, was founded in 300 BC by Seleucus I Nicator, a general who served Alexander the Great. He named the city after himself. The Roman Empire conquered the city in 64 BC and changed its name to Zeugma. The city served as a crossroads between the Romans and the Persian Empire, and it was famous for its architecture and art. At its peak, Zeugma was home to 80,000 people. As the Roman Empire declined, Zeugma did as well. It fell to the Persians in 253 AD and was eventually forgotten until the rediscovery of its art and artifacts.
In 2011, the Turkish government established the Zeugma Mosaic Museum to house ancient mosaics found in Zeugma and other sites. Professor Görkay has said that many homes during 2200 BC had mosaics. The mosaics were sometimes designed to fit a theme; a newly-wed couple might have a mosaic depicting lovers in their bedroom, for instance.
While Zeugma is now 80 percent underwater, Görkay and his colleagues continue working to find and retrieve more artifacts.