HOMS, Syria, June 23 (Xinhua) -- A section of a rare Roman-era mosaic panel, unveiled Thursday to the public in central Syria's al-Rastan City located in Homs Province, offered a glimpse into the hidden treasures that emerged after the 12-year-long Syrian war.
Discovered last year, the well-preserved 300-square-meter flooring panel was inlaid with thousands of colored mosaic pieces made of small grains and glass, showcasing rare tableaux featuring Amazon characters, a water deity, and nymphs from Greek mythology. It also bears the names of the kings who partook in the legendary Trojan War fought in the ancient lands of western Anatolia.
Besides the depictions of the Amazon Wars and the God of the Sea, the panel also showed another scene in ancient Greek Homer's epic poem The Iliad -- the Battle of the Centaurs. Archeologist told Xinhua at the site that the panel's end has yet to be unearthed, as the excavation work is still underway until the entire flooring is revealed.
Mohamad Nazir Awad, Syria's director general of antiquities and museums, told Xinhua that its significance derived not only from the scenes and stories it conveys, but also from its sheer size, because flooring panels of such size are a rare find.
"It's an exceptional discovery in terms of the depicted topics included in the Homer Iliad such as the God of the Sea, Poseidon, and the Amazon wars as well as the Battle of the Centaurs, which we have uncovered now. This is what makes this discovery important on the local and international levels," he told Xinhua.
Nazir expected heritage management in Syria to generate more benefits for the local communities, particularly for those where the relics were found. Such discoveries would make the area a popular destination for tourists with a passion for archaeology, thus creating socioeconomic benefits for local communities, he said.
"The concept in heritage management in Syria today is to make these discoveries one of the economic, social, and development levers and (promote) sustainable development for the people here in this area," he said. "We think that in the future it will be an important visiting point that is no less important than archaeological sites (most) visited in Syria, including (the ancient cities of) Palmyra and Apamea, and other places."
While all the new discoveries and restoration work have been undertaken by Syrian archeologists and working teams, the U.S. and Western sanctions on Syria have obstructed the importation of crucial restoration materials and modern excavation tools, posing a formidable obstacle for their work, Haidar Youssef, a Syrian archeologist and field supervisor, told Xinhua.
"Unfortunately, the restoration materials used to support and restore this painting are mostly imported materials that do not exist in Syria, due to the sanctions imposed on Syria. Unfortunately, we are suffering from difficulty in securing these materials," he lamented.
Despite all the challenges, he said, "we have built a strong, distinguished, and empowered national cadre who are able to carry out all the excavation work and compensate for the shortage resulting from the sanctions." ■