A massive Roman mosaic was unearthed in Syria, marking what some experts said was the most important archaeological discovery in the country in the last 20 years.
The mosaic was found in the town of Rastan, outside Homs, Syria’s third largest city. Rastan was an important stronghold of anti-government forces and saw some of the fiercest clashes between the Syrian military and rebels. The region, which is rich in cultural heritage, was retaken by the Syrian government in 2018.
Syrian officials told the Associated Press that the mosaic was uncovered in one such former rebel hideout that Syria’s General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums had been excavating. The historic property—it dates to the 4th century CE—was bought by Syrian and Lebanese businessmen affiliated with Lebanon’s Nabu Museum and donated to the Syrian state.
The mosaic measures some 1,300 square feet. Each panel is inlaid with small, colorful stones that portray the Amazon warriors in Roman mythology.
“What is in front of us is a discovery that is rare on a global scale,” Humam Saad, the associate director of excavation and archaeological research at the directorate, told the Associated Press. He added that the images are “rich in details,” and include episodes from the Trojan War, as well as depiction of the Roman sea god Neptune and 40 of his mistresses.
“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 AP.
This is the first significant excavation in Rastan since the conflict began in 2011. Various skirmishes and occupations have imperiled Syrian heritage sites, many of which have suffered from pillaging or outright destruction. During the Islamic State’s campaign of cultural decimation in Syria, the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was gravely damaged.
Ground efforts to restore Syria’s monuments and museums to their former glory are underway with international aid. Sulaf Fawakherji, a Syrian actress a member of the Nabu Museum’s board of trustees, told AP she hopes to purchase other historic building in Rastan that may contain cultural treasures.
“Rastan historically is an important city, and it could possibly be very important heritage city for tourism,” Fawkherji said.