A life-sized, marble head of Aphrodite was uncovered in southern Turkey during an archaeological excavation. The head was found while diggers were uncovering an ancient pool-side mosaic.
The head of the goddess of love and beauty isn’t as beautiful as the day it was carved, but the sculpture was no less impressive.
LiveScience reports that researchers believe the presence of an Aphrodite sculpture could shed light on how wide the Roman Empire’s cultural influence used to be.
Aphrodite’s head was discovered while archaeologists were working at a site called Antiochia ad Cragum (Antioch on the cliffs.” The site is on the Mediterranean coast.
Researchers think the area was once a haven for Cilician pirates, the group who kidnapped Julius Caesar and held him for ransom in 75 B.C.
However, the pirates’ reign over the region ended once the Roman Empire expanded. The city was established around the time Emperor Nero ruled, according to researchers.
NBC News notes that excavators were looking for more parts of the massive Roman mosaic when they found Aphrodite’s head instead.
They believe the goddess’ head was separated from its body long before they discovered if lying face-down in the ground. Traces of lime kilns were also found in the area, suggesting many statues and hunks of stone were burnt to be reused as concrete.
The mosaic at the site is the largest Roman work of its kind found in Turkey. It is an impressive 1,600-square-foot marble creation decorated with geometric designs.
Past scholars have argued that Turkey’s culture was too insular to be affected much by Rome’s reach. However, the presence of Aphrodite could change that perception.
The goddess’ head is the first fragment of a monumental statue discovered at Antiochia ad Cragum over eight years of excavation. The excavation’s director, Michael Hoff, explained, “We have niches where statues once were. We just don’t have any statues. Finally, we have the head of a statue. It suggests something of how mainstream these people were who were living here, how much they were a part of the overall Greek and Roman traditions.”
Along with Aphrodite’s head, archaeologists also found a second mosaic indicating traces of Roman influence. The new mosaic adorned a building that looks like it may have been a temple.