The Antakya Museum Hotel is an important archaeological site in Turkey. During the building, workers discovered a 2,000-year-old mosaic spanning over 9,000 square feet (850 square meters)! It’s the world’s largest mosaic artwork, and it’s certainly impressive.
The gigantic mosaic was discovered in 2010 by a construction team excavating the hotel’s foundations, and it was only recently presented to the public as part of the newly completed Antakya Museum Hotel. The outcome was well above anyone’s expectations. The world’s biggest mosaic, and perhaps the one that took the longest to create, was buried under the future hotel’s foundation.
This large mosaic tile, with its intricate geometries, is said to have been the floor of a public building in Antioch, one of the Seleucid Empire’s most important cities. Despite being damaged by a series of severe earthquakes in 526 and 528 A.D., some of the damage just adds to the mosaic’s unique visual attributes, as the mosaic stayed connected to the floor and completely intact even while the foundation itself undulated violently. This undulation creates the impression that the sculpture was made by laying a vast, spectacular carpet across a few acres of gently sloping hills.
Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great’s successor generals, built Antioch in 300 B.C., and it served as the capital of the Seleucid Empire until it was conquered by Rome in 63 B.C. It became the governor’s seat due to its strategic position between the Mediterranean and the East.
At its peak, Antioch had a population of half a million people and was so significant that it was considered a rival to Alexandria and then Constantinople for the title of a second most important city in the Roman Empire.
The Hatay Archaeological Museum has an unparalleled collection of Roman mosaics from this period, with the majority of them unearthed and conserved inside. On the other hand, the sheer magnitude of this mosaic necessitated a different approach. Rather of removing the mosaic, or a section of it, or covering it and building over it for safety reasons, archaeologists and architects worked to create a hybrid: a museum hotel.
The mosaic is currently hung from a platform attached to structural columns put into the underlying riverbed, with dedicated viewing areas erected to enable people to see the magnificent craftsmanship below. The hotel’s amenities, including the ballroom, conference rooms, pool, and gym, were built on top of the columns on a platform.
One of the most astonishing characteristics of the Antakya mosaic, apart from its immense size, is the amount of time it took to build. It started in 300 BC, when the Greeks took control of Antioch and lasted until the 1200s AD.
During those fifteen centuries, thirteen different civilizations are thought to have contributed to the mosaic! Contributors included Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, and Egyptians from various civilizations.