World’s Largest Intact Mosaic Is on View in the Basement of a Luxury Hotel in Turkey

Mosaic floors abounded in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. In temples, churches, and private homes, mosaics illustrated scenes from mythology or boasted geometric motifs. Modern developers frequently encounter these floors when excavating in places such as Italy or Turkey. In 2010, workers encountered an especially impressive mosaic while digging the foundation for a new hotel in Antakya, Turkey. They found an ancient mosaic measuring 9,000 square feet, making it the largest intact mosaic ever excavated.

The Antakya mosaic features intricate geometric and figural designs crafted from thousands of small stone tesserae. Scholars speculate it was once the floor of a large public building in ancient Antioch. In modern Turkey, Antioch was founded by Seleucus I Nicator, a general of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered lands east to Bactria (modern Afghanistan). When he died, his empire was divided among his generals. Seleucus fought for Babylonia and upon it founded the Seleucid Empire. Antioch thrived as a trade center.

The city was the center of conflicts between empires in the period of the mosaic's creation. The Sassanians, the Rashidun Caliphate, and the Byzantines all held control at various times. The mosaic certainly existed by 526 CE, a period of Byzantine rule in the city. This date is known because it was the first of two earthquakes which visibly rippled the mosaic. The second occurred two years later in 528 CE. Despite these fluctuations in the floor, the vast majority of the mosaic is intact.

The discovery of the ancient flooring beneath the hotel building site has resulted in a unique creation: a museum hotel. Archeologists worked with architects to design a lofty, modern building which not only preserves the ancient floor below but also allows guests a peek at a piece of history. The Museum Hotel Antakya offers a unique experience. The oldest intact mosaic is not the hotel's only famous attraction, though. Special windows allow for viewing St. Pierre, the nearby cave-church built by the Crusaders.

An ancient mosaic is the largest intact example ever excavated; it is located in Antakya, Turkey.

The floor likely belonged to a public building in ancient Antioch, a city at the friction point of empires throughout history.

The mosaic is on display within a specially-crafted hotel which also serves as a museum.

The Museum Hotel Antakya: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [Colossal]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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