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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Joint Research Seminar
Departments of Archaeology, and Classics and Ancient History
Durham University

Wednesday 21 June 2017
4 pm
Ritson Room, Department of Classics and Ancient History, North Bailey, Durham

Dr. Tuna Şare Ağtürk
Associate Professor of Archaeology and Art History
Director of Çukurbağ Archaeological Project (TÜBİTAK 115242)
Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University

Painted Marble Reliefs from Tetrarchic Nicomedia

Ancient Nicomedia, which emerged as the most important capital of the eastern Roman Empire during the Tetrarchy, now lies below the modern industrial city of İzmit. This paper presents the first preliminary results of our TÜBİTAK granted project conducting archaeological and scientific research of a new series of painted architectural reliefs from a monumental terraced temple complex found in Çukurbağ district at the heart of modern İzmit. Rescue excavations conducted by Kocaeli Archaeology Museum in 2001 and 2009 revealed more than thirty-five sculpted relief panels (average height 1.0, width 1.5 meters) along with numerous sculpted fragments, many of which preserve extensive ancient polychromy. The reliefs depict Roman military expeditions, imperial rulers and soldiers in battle with barbarians, imperial processions, religious ceremonies, as well as mythological narratives (possibly foundation myths), agonistic games (chariot races, boxers) and theatrical performances. The majority appear to date from the time of Diocletian and Maximian’s “diarchy” (286-293), but interestingly both earlier reused material (probably of second century date) and later additions (probably of 4th century date) are also present. The well-preserved coloration on the reliefs illuminate multiple aspects of little known art of this period, including the color-coded costumes of the new imperial administration. The larger architectural complex appears to have collapsed and partially buried during the devastating earthquake of 358, thereby fortuitously preserving the extensive coloration on the reliefs.