Archaeologist Catherine Abadie-Reynal faced a race against the clock when the construction of a dam in Turkey was set to flood two ancient cities.
The city of Zeugma was founded on the banks of the Euphrates, along with its sister city Apameia, on the opposite shore, around 300 BCE by Seleucus I, a successor to Alexander the Great. In 2000, the construction of a dam made the river waters rise, flooding all of Apameia and most of Zeugma. But the work of Abadie-Reynal and other archaeologists, who continued to excavate the higher parts that were not flooded, has revealed the once-prosperous city of Zeugma, which for a time marked the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire.
We could not have imagined that a city could be as rich as it is.
Eight villas in Zeugma were excavated and 18 mosaics, several of them of spectacular beauty, saved and later exhibited in a new, local museum. A whole region has benefited from the mosaics that Abadie-Reynal and her team of dozens of workers rescued, using funds from her Rolex Award. The project has continued thanks in part to her publications, which Abadie-Reynal hopes will contribute to the introduction of new archaeological practices in the Middle East. She is currently joint leader of excavations in the ancient city of Durrës in Albania.