Archaeology Odyssey 3:6, November/December 2000

Editors’ Page: The Circumference or the Center

Where to find a civilization’s heart?

By Hershel Shanks

Archaeology Odyssey

As you read the exciting tale about the effort to save the fabulous Roman mosaics of Zeugma in eastern Turkey (“After the Flood!”), an interesting question may occur to you, as it did to me. What are they doing so far from the center of Roman civilization? This is in the hinterland of the Roman Empire, 1,400 miles from Rome itself.

You will note that in the article itself the quality and the extent of these mosaics are said to compare with those from—where? Answer: Tunisia. Modern Tunisia boasts that it has more ancient Roman mosaics than Italy. And here in eastern Turkey are more of that caliber. Another instance of the finest surviving products of a glorious ancient civilization not at its center, but at its periphery.

The most fabulous paintings from any ancient synagogue are found where? Jerusalem? No, at another eastern outpost of the Roman Empire, in modern Syria, at a site called Dura-Europos.

The earliest archaeological inscription that mentions Israel—from the 13th century B.C.—was found not in the Promised Land but in Egypt.

And the only ancient reference to King David outside the Bible was also found far from Jerusalem, at a site in northern Israel called Tel Dan.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.