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Marble Medusa head found in southern Turkey

Archaeologists in southern Turkey have discovered a marble head of Medusa. The head was discovered by a team of Turkish students at an excavation under the direction Michael Hoff, art historian at the University of Nebraska.

Marble Medusa head found in southern Turkey
Hoff thinks that during the Christian era many Roman sculptural elements at 
Antiochia like the Medusa head would have been destined for the kiln 
[Credit: Michael Hoff, Hixson-Lied professor, 
University of Nebraska-Lincoln]
The excavation takes place at the ruins of Antiochia ad Cragum near the town of Gazips, a Roman city which was founded in the first century. The site bears all features of a Roman outpost, such as bathhouses, shops, colonnaded streets, mosaics and a local council house.

The archaeological site had not been identified until the early 19th century and was not of particular interest to scholars after its discovery. Hoff and his colleagues have dug up enough evidence to conclude that Antiochia might have been a trade centre during the Roman Empire producing wine, agricultural products and glass.

Marble Medusa head found in southern Turkey
3D models helped the researchers figure out how the Medusa head joined with 
several other marble fragments to form a pediment [Credit: Philip Sapirstein, 
University of Nebraska-Lincoln]
Marble Medusa head found in southern Turkey
The Medusa head would not have been part of a statue. Instead, it was part of the 
architecture in one of the city’s buildings, likely a temple. Here, fragments of 
the Medusa pediment have been pieced together using 3-D photogrammetry 
techniques [Credit: Philip Sapirstein, University of Nebraska-Lincoln]
In 2012 the team discovered an enormous poolside mosaic covering 1,600 square feet with intricate geometric patterns and in 2013 the marble head of an Aphrodite sculpture. Although most artefacts of pagan art were destroyed and burnt by zealous Christians later on, the Medusa head has somehow survived.

The head of the mythical monster was often used as a means to avert evil at the site, and was therefore placed above doors. The team found the head near the foundations of a building that could have been a small temple.

Marble Medusa head found in southern Turkey
An aerial view of the bouletarian, or city council house, recently discovered 
at the ancient site of Antiochia ad Cragum [Credit: Michael Hoff, 
University of Nebraska-Lincoln]
Reconstruction of the head and other marble fragments found in the surrounding area with 3D photogrammetry techniques indicates that the artefact was not part of a free standing statue but was probably incorporated into the pediment of the building.

When excavation work is resumed next year the team plans to further excavate the city’s bouleuterion, as well as the rows of shops along a Roman street.

Source: Archaiologia Online [October 22, 2015]

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