Syria uncovered a large intact mosaic from the Roman era, describing it as the most significant archaeological discovery since the country’s conflict began 11 years ago.
The mosaic was shown to journalists in the central town of Rastan, near Homs, Syria’s third largest city.
The mosaic, which measures approximately 1,300 square feet, was discovered in an old building excavated by Syria’s General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums.
Lebanese and Syrian businessmen from the neighboring country’s Nabu Museum bought the property, which dates back to the 4th century, and donated it to the Syrian state. Each panel was filled with square-shaped, small colorful stones measuring about half an inch on each side.
The mosaic depicts a rare portrayal of Ancient Amazon warriors in Roman mythology, said to Dr. Humam Saad, the directorate’s associate director of excavation and archaeological research.
What is in front of us is a discovery that is rare on a global scale,” Saad told The Associated Press, adding that the images are “rich in details” and include scenes from the Trojan War between the Greeks and the Trojans.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Hercules, the demigod hero, slew Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, in one of his 12 labors.
Neptune, the Ancient Roman god of the sea, and 40 of his mistresses are also depicted in the mosaic.
“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,” Saad told the Associated Press.
Sulaf Fawakherji, a famous Syrian actress and member of the Nabu Museum’s board of trustees, said she hopes they could purchase other buildings in Rastan, which she claims is filled with heritage sites and artifacts just waiting to be discovered.
“There are other buildings, and it’s clear that the mosaic extends far wider,” Fawkherji told the AP. “Rastan historically is an important city, and it could possibly be very important heritage city for tourism.”
Despite Rastan’s historical significance in the country, Saad says that prior to the country’s armed conflict, there were no significant excavation efforts in the town.
“Unfortunately, there were armed groups that tried to sell the mosaic at one point in 2017 and listed it on social media platforms,” he said.
During Syria’s decade-long violent conflict, heritage sites have been looted and destroyed.
Among the most notable incidents was ISIS taking Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts 2,000-year-old towering Roman-era colonnades and priceless artifacts, and partially destroying a Roman theater. Meanwhile, Syria’s cash-strapped government is gradually rebuilding Aleppo’s centuries-old bazaar, which it reclaimed from armed opposition forces in 2016.
Rastan was once a major opposition stronghold and was a point of intense clashes, before the Syrian government reclaimed the city in 2018.