It was called one of the biggest archaeological finds in years: In late November 1999 Turkish and French archaeologists began excavating the ancient Roman city of Zeugma in southeastern Turkey. Within weeks, they’d unearthed two large villas containing over a dozen exquisite ancient Roman mosaics. Preliminary surveys revealed that hundreds of other villas lay buried just beneath the surface of the surrounding area. It’s a“second Pompeii,” crowed one local Turkish politician.
But time was running out for the 2,300-year-old city on the banks of the Euphrates. On April 29, 2000—less than six months after the Turkish and French team began their excavations—the Turkish government completed construction of a new hydroelectric dam that sent millions of gallons of water spilling across the surface of Zeugma. The flood waters created by the dam continue to rise at a rate of about 3 feet a day, and by late October of this year somewhere between 10 percent and 30 percent of the city’s ruins will be completely submerged beneath an artificial lake.