It’s not every day that an archeological discovery makes global headlines, but once in a while, a relic so significant is unearthed that it captures the attention of the masses. Recently, an exciting discovery of an ancient Roman mosaic in Syria has done just that.

The mosaic, considered the rarest of its kind, is incredibly well-preserved and offers a glimpse into the art and life of an ancient civilization. If you haven’t heard about the fascinating discovery, here’s everything you need to know…

When was the ancient Roman mosaic discovered?

The earliest news reports began covering the discovery on October 12, 2022. Archeologists are working to unearth the mosaic in its entirety and determine the type of building that it was found underneath.

Where in Syria was the mosaic discovered?

The mosaic was found in the town of Rastan, which lies within the city of Homs in central Syria. Homs’ location is significant, as it’s not only agriculturally abundant but also a vital midway point between more interior regions and the sea.

This strategic location wasn’t lost on the ancient Romans, who called this important city Emesa. Emesa was home to nobility and even an emperor, but the mystery remains as to the origins of the mosaic…at least for now.

How old is this rare mosaic?

It’s hard to believe that this well-preserved artifact is around 1,600 years old, dating back to the 4th century. It was around this time that Constantine I ruled and, most notably, moved the empire’s capital from Rome to Byzantium, renaming it Constantinople, after himself.

What does this ancient Roman mosaic depict? 

This highly detailed mosaic features imagery ranging from ancient mythological figures, such as Neptune and his 40 mistresses, to the Trojan War. Adding to the rarity of this discovery, the mosaic’s depictions aren’t common among ancient Roman works. 

How big is the mosaic?

Clocking in at around 1,300 square feet (120 square meters), this ancient discovery has the footprint of a decent-sized house. Remember, the entire mosaic has yet to be unearthed, so its full size could grow quite significantly.

Why is the discovery of this rare ancient Roman mosaic in Syria significant?

This mosaic is considered to be the “most complete” and “rarest” of its kind, according to those spearheading the excavation efforts. Its existence could provide incredible insight into ancient Roman civilization and the mosaic itself could hint at the purpose of the building under which it was found.

Perhaps most importantly, the discovery of the mosaic comes after 11 years of civil war in Syria, wherein archeological efforts have been halted or destroyed due to the conflict. The mere fact that such a well-preserved artifact still exists following the tumult is tremendous, but the impacts it could have on the country’s tourism and the likelihood of similar discoveries in the future is a major boost to the reclaimed city.

The Role of Mosaics in Syrian Culture

The Roman influence of mosaics stood the test of time for centuries in Syria, inspiring what would eventually become Mosaic Natural. Once a thriving business just 60 miles away from the site of the newly discovered ancient Roman mosaic, Mosaic Natural was not immune to the war in Syria and was ultimately destroyed shortly after the conflict began.

Of course, the story didn’t end there. Mosaic Natural was reborn with its business based in New York and manufacturing in Turkey, where many of the company’s artists have started life anew as refugees. It is that same resiliency that makes the discovery of this ancient Roman mosaic in Syria so significant. In the face of unimaginable conflict, mosaics have united communities and brought renewed hope to those that have lost so much.