Modern Symbol of Zeugma archaeological site

Modern Symbol of Zeugma archaeological site

On the road between Diyarbakır and Hatay just an hour and a half past Şanliurfa one finds an ancient outpost of pistachio nuts and of course a treasure trove of history and culture in Gaziantep. The name of the city was originally just Antep before it was given an honorary title during the battle for Turkish Salvation (during the height of Ataturk’s leadership of Turkey). Gazi means veteran. The Gaziantep reigon is the site of an interesting archaeological story. The ancient region of Zeugma, originally a city in the Commagene kingdom, has recently been covered in the waters of the Euphrates River. The Turkish government needed to damn up part of the Euphrates River to conserve water and control water flow out of the country. The Biricik Dam was built for hydroelectric and water conservation purposes and consequently a lake was created in this valley that once was home to the inhabitants of ancient Zeugma.


What is Zeugma?

Zeugma Museum - Bored PoseidonA search on Wikipedia will tell you that Zeugma means syllepsus  or the taking together of words (example – I had an order of fries and obesity at McDonald’s the other day). Zeugma then is both an interesting combination of words and archaeological and elemental studies. The Zeugma Museum has been improved and as of this last year a much larger and newer museum has been opened and been more simply named the Gaziantep Archaeological Museum. The Zeugma Mosaic Museum is housed in the greater and more inclusive museum. The Zeugma mosaic of a Gypsy Girl is still one of the most commonly used images in Turkish tourism advertising. The image while interesting is not the best, or most beautiful of the pieces in the museum. It has simply become the symbol of a great effort that was put forth to salvage many parts of the Zeugma site from the flood waters caused by the Biricik Dam.

A visit to the Zeugma Museum will give you the opportunity to see some beautiful mosaics and also statues found in several different ancient cities of the region. The archaeological finds are highlighted of course by the Gypsy Girls eyes seen on magnets, book marks, post cards and promotional videos of Turkey world wide. Entrance through the left wing into the site can be procured for 20 TL or for free if you have a Museum Card. New deals for travelers are created each year. This year one great deal for travelers is a three day pass that gets you into many of the countries sites without extra cost. While other regional cards exist. Including ones for eastern and southern Turkey specific details are available only at the site ticket offices. Here is an example of the card available to tourists in Istanbul.

Finding the Gypsy Girl in the Museum

It can be hard to find the small mosaic of the gypsy girl in the Archaeological Museum. After entering the museum one will see signs directing you past the statue of Mercury on the right and up the stairs. You will of course want to take in the first floors many mosaics and statues before walking up the stairs. There are an equal amount of interesting geometric patterned mosaics upstairs as well. On the first floor up you will see signs and a few metal sign replicas of the famous mosaics of the museum.

Zeugma Museum 01

Just walk to the left of this mosaic and you’ll find the Gypsy Girl Mosaic Entrance.

I was confused a few times by the layout and followed the signs to both ends of the top floor before finding the dark little passage that led to the gypsy girl mosaic. The gypsy girl mosaic can be found at the far end of the left wing just fifty feet from the stairs against the far wall. The room and entrance are kept dark, and the mosaic is lit in terrible light to keep visitors from getting good pictures of the symbol used for commercial purposes by the Museum. I heard one Turkish woman remarking on how terribly lit it was to the security guard and his response was basically that the image was protected by the museum so they could market the image exclusively. The woman continued to point out that there were many much prettier mosaics she’d seen that were of greater photographic value.

Gaziantep, while an ancient city and probably the site of Antiochia ad Taurum an ancient Roman name for a Greek settlement believed to be in the location of modern Gaziantep. The city is now known for pistachios. Many delicious Gaziantep or Antep versions of foods in Turkey include crushed pistachios. Turkish Baklava is most often enjoyed with a mixture of these nuts as the flavor is felt to be richer and preferable to the Baklava made with Walnuts. My personal opinion is that pistachio baklava tastes too much like fish oil. I do however very much like antep fistik ezmesi, which is a sugary pistachio bar made of the nut and sugar pressed into a candy bar. If you get a good quality variety you won’t get little bits of shell crushed up in the bar, if you get a cheap brand then watch out for your teeth as you may bite down on a small piece of ground up (but not fully ground up) shell. Ouch!