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History In The Field: Enormous Roman Mosaic Found On Farmer’s Land
September 18, 2012
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The great thing about living in a country like Turkey is that history's all around you. And sometimes right under your feet - even though you may not know it.

Back in 2002, Purdue University classics professor Nick Rauh was walking through a freshly plowed farmer's field near the ancient city of Antiocha ad Cragum, in modern day Alanya, Turkey. He noticed pieces of mosaic tile mixed in with the soil.

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Rauh consulted with other archeologists, including experts at the local museum, but there was no money available to dig at the site. Last year, they found funding and got a permit to dig, and now they've uncovered about 50 per cent of the mosaic.

What they found underneath is pretty amazing: the floor, which was once the floor of a bath complex, is huge and in pristine condition. In all, it's 1,600 square feet (149 square metres).

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"To be honest, I was completely bowled over that the mosaic is that big," Michael Hoff, a University of Nebraska, Lincoln art historian and director of the mosaic expedition, told LiveScience.

And it really is well-preserved: it looks almost brand new - a little like what you might find if you pulled up old carpet in an apartment.

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For archeologists, it means a change in the way they look at the ancient city of Antiocha ad Cragum, and maybe at Southern Turkey as a whole. The area hasn't been studied much by archeologists, and a mosaic this large and intricate might suggest that the area was more Romanized than experts thought.

Here's a video of Michael Hoff talking about the find and what it means for archeologists.

And if you're not planning on a trip to southern Turkey anytime soon, here are a few other notable ruins that might be worth a look. They may not all be in such pristine shape, but you know what they say: everything old is new again.

Canada - Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site

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That's right - ruins in Canada. Gwaii Haanas National Park is on the Queen Charlotte Islands off BC, and the village of SGang Gwaay Llnagaay has "the best array of ancient Haida longhouse remains and poles standing in their original location," according to the National Parks site. It's a valuable piece of our Canadian heritage.

Scotland - Skara Brae

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Not every archeological site is found by archeologists. Sometimes it's a farmer's plow, as in the Turkish mosaic, and sometimes it's just a storm. Skara Brae, in the Scottish Orkney islands, was battered by a massive storm in 1850. Afterwards, the outline of a number of stone buildings became visible. And they're very old: the village was apparently inhabited between 3200 and 2200 BC.

Cambodia - Bayon Temple

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Look at that face. The best-known temple in the forested Angkor Archeological Park in Cambodia is Angkor Wat, but there are dozens of other ruins there which are also worth a look, like the Bayon Khmer Temple shown above. It was built in the late 12th or early 13th century, and it features about 11,000 figures carved into the walls. Can your contractor do that?

Jordan - Petra

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You probably know it best from 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,' but Petra had a long and rich history before it was immortalized by Indy. It's a desert city, inhabited since historic times by a civilization that combined Eastern and Hellenistic architecture. It was an important centre for commerce, with Chinese silks, Indian spices, and Arabian incense all trading hands. Also, the Holy Grail. Maybe.

Related stories on Strombo.com:

Canadian-Funded Archeologists Unearth Iron Age Statues

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