Archaeologists come across a ‘jovial’ skeleton mosaic in Turkey

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People did have sense of humor (with a dash of hedonism) in the 3rd century BC, or around 2,300 years ago. At least that is what is evident from an incredible ancient mosaic recently discovered in Hatay, a Turkish province that just borders Syria from the north. Th artwork in question features a seemingly ‘cheerful’ looking skeleton casually holding a drink, while a Greek inscription by his head reads – “Be cheerful, enjoy life.”

According to state-based Anadolu (news) Agency, Hatay province is already home to the most number of mosaics found in Turkey. As for this particularly jovial artwork, it was originally positioned along the dining area of a contemporary house. The residence was located in Antiocheia, a city that grew to be the third largest in the world during the Roman era. As Demet Kara, an archaeologist from the Hatay Archaeology Museum, said –

Antiocheia was a very important, rich city. There were mosaic schools and mints in the city. The ancient city of Zeugma in [the southeastern province of] Gaziantep might have been established by people who were trained here. Antiocheia mosaics are world famous.

As for the symbolism behind the entire set of these mosaics, including the ‘cheerful’ skeleton, Kara made it clear –

There are three scenes on glass mosaics made of black tiles. Two things are very important among the elite class in the Roman period in terms of social activities: The first is the bath and the second is dinner. In the first scene, a black person throws fire. That symbolizes the bath. In the middle scene, there is a sundial and a young clothed man running towards it with a bare-headed butler behind. The sundial is between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. 9 p.m. is the bath time in the Roman period. He has to arrive at supper at 10 p.m. Unless he can, it is not well received. There is writing on the scene that reads he is late for supper and writing about time on the other. In the last scene, there is a reckless skeleton with a drinking pot in his hand along with bread and a wine pot. The writing on it reads ‘be cheerful and live your life.

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Via: Hurriyet Daily News

  • Juan

    III century BC is not the Roman period. Be it journalistic or political confusion, the fact is those remains are Greek -Hellenistic.

  • Cassie

    Thanks for sharing. Just for the record, the city was originally Greek and would have been Greek in that period, something that the article (from a Turkish newspaper) avoids saying due to government policy of decades to obfuscate the originally Greek status of many ancient sites in Turkey. (They had to admit to the inscription being Greek of course, because that is impossible to hide! The other city they mention – Zeugma – was also Greek. All of the cities of antiquity in Turkey were built many centuries before the Turks ever even set foot in the region).
    Just for the record 🙂

  • thanks for sharing – ARC mICHAEL OUTSTANDING

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