From the BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING AND BRAND STRATEGY
Bowling Green State University hosted Turkey’s Consulate General in Chicago, Engin Türesin, for a special ceremony in recognition of the arrival of 12 ancient mosaic replicas Friday, June 3 at the Wolfe Center for the Arts. The mosaic tiles are replicas of the original ancient tiles that the University acquired in 1965, which were later determined to be part of an unauthorized excavation and rightfully returned to the Republic of Turkey in November 2018.
In recognition of the University’s commitment to stewardship of cultural history and vitality, Turkish officials agreed to provide replicas of the mosaic fragments as part of negotiations when BGSU returned the original tiles.
“As a public university, our obligation to create good and responsible cultural vitality extends to a global community,” said BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers. “We are grateful to the Republic of Turkey for its collaboration in the permanent installation of the ancient mosaic tile replicas, which represents our original intention to connect an important cultural heritage with the present.”
The replicas were installed at the Wolfe Center for the Arts, where the originals had been on display from 2011 to 2018.
[RELATED: BGSU’s mosaics to be removed from Eva Marie Saint Theatre & returned to Turkey]
In 1965, under then-President William Jerome III, BGSU was beginning an era of major expansion in buildings, programs, and cultural expressions.
“One of the results of our rapid growth is a tendency to be so engrossed in contemporary architecture and design that a sense of connection to the past is lost,” Jerome said of the University’s decision. to display mosaic tiles on campus.
The mosaics represented the importance of cultural heritage within the academy. Jerome and the professors at BGSU School of Art acquired the mosaics for around $35,000 from Peter Marks of the Peter Marks Works of Art gallery in New York. At the time, the acquisition was made in accordance with the law and in good faith.
For more than 50 years, the preservation and maintenance of mosaics has been a priority for BGSU. During the construction of the Wolfe Center in 2011, the mosaics were restored and protected under an airtight glass roof in the lobby of the Eva Marie Saint Theater.
When the mosaics were purchased, they were thought to have come from a second or third century CE building in the city of Antioch, in present-day Turkey. In 2012, research by then-BGSU faculty member Dr. Stephanie Langin-Hooper and Dr. Rebecca Molholt of Brown University raised questions about the origin of the mosaics and the circumstances of their excavation before the acquisition of BGSU. They suggested that the mosaics probably came from the ancient city of Zeugma, also in Turkey.
According to Langin-Hooper, who is now assistant professor and holder of the Karl Kilinski II Chair of Hellenic Visual Culture at Southern Methodist University, the roughly 2,000-year-old mosaics came from the home of a wealthy Roman family in Zeugma, near the banks of the Euphrates. Their luxurious villa featured intricately tiled mosaic floors, with designs chosen from a pattern book, but custom-made to be unique. For their dining room, the family chose themes appropriate to the lavish dinner parties they planned to host. The floor mosaics featured theatrical masks; faces of the Maenads, the disciples of the god of wine; and colorful exotic birds that may have lived nearby.
Roman-era stone and glass pieces were buried over time before being “ripped out of their bedrock” by unauthorized excavations and eventually sold on the international antiquities market, Langin-said Hopper.
Further research and consultation with scholars, art experts and representatives of the Republic of Turkey confirmed that the mosaics have similarities in color spectrum, depictions and settings to those of Zeugma.
Once the origin and history of the mosaics was confirmed, BGSU and Turkish government officials worked together to finalize plans for returning the mosaics to the Republic of Turkey.
On November 18, 2018, BGSU hosted a press conference with state and Turkish officials to celebrate the official triumph of Homecoming Mosaics. The 12 mosaics were crated and sent to the famous Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep, where they are on permanent display.