November 2, 2015


Part of the excavated mosaic floor of a late antique building (Peter Jülich)

(November 2, 2015)  Classical scholars from Münster are excavating one of the few sites of ancient Roman Syria in Turkey that are currently accessible as a result of the political situation in the Middle East

Münster classical scholars discovered invaluable ancient Syrian mosaics and buildings and are excavating one of the few sites that are currently accessible for studies on ancient Roman Syria despite the tense political situation in the Middle East. “The ancient city of Doliche, which was part of the province of Syria in Roman times, lies at the fringes of the Turkish metropolis of Gaziantep today”, explains Prof. Dr. Engelbert Winter from University of Münster’s Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”. “The city is one of the few places where Syrian urban culture from the Hellenistic-Roman era can currently still be studied.” Urban centres of this kind have thus far barely been explored. Famous sites in today’s Syria that would qualify for such research, such as Apamea or Cyrrhus, have either been destroyed or are inaccessible because of the war.

View from Dülük Baba Tepesi of the urban area of Doliche,
situated on the mound at the centre of the picture
Foto: Forschungsstelle Asia Minor"

Prof. Winter spoke towards the end of the first excavation season of the new excavation project on urban development in ancient Syria, which the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) is funding with a total of 600,000 euros starting this year. At the same time, the researchers are continuing their excavations in the sanctuary of Iuppiter Dolichenus, in which the Cluster of Excellence is involved.

View of the newly excavated parts of the abbey of St. Solomon at Dülük Baba Tepesi
Foto: Peter Jülich

“The situation today at the site of Apamea, one of the most important ancient cities of Syria, is particularly bad”, according to Prof. Winter. “Illicit excavations, clearly visible in satellite imagery, have destroyed the entire urban area. It remains doubtful if research there will ever be possible again. The excavations in Cyrrhus, which had recently been resumed, also had to be stopped due to the current situation.” On the other hand, the ancient city of Antioch on the Orontes, formerly the capital of the Roman province of Syria and today the Turkish metropolis of Antakya, is largely inaccessible as a result of modern construction. “For the time being, therefore, our excavations in the city of Doliche, which is situated on Turkish territory and which can, in addition, well developed through extensive preliminary work and accessible to archaeological research, can provide new information about the urban culture in the ancient Northern Syrian midland”, says excavation director Prof. Winter of the University of Münster’s Asia Minor Research Centre.

Bronze figurine of a stag from the early 1st millennium BC
Foto: Peter Jülich

Outstanding mosaic with filigran pattern

“The most outstanding discovery of our excavations is a high-quality mosaic floor in a splendid complex of buildings with a court enclosed by columns that originally covered more than 100 square metres”, explains archaeologist Dr. Michael Blömer. “Because of its size and the strict, well-composed sequence of filigran geometric patterns, the mosaic is one of the most beautiful examples of late antique mosaic art in the region.” Even if the building’s function is as yet unclear, it has to be a wealthy urban villa. “These first findings already reveal the potential that the site has for further research into the environment of the urban elites and for questions as to the luxurious furnishing in urban area.”

read entire press  release >>