Eastern Mediterranean Influences in Early Byzantine Sinop Flooring Mosaics

Tok E. , Köroğlu G.


  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.8


In the city center of Sinop, various mosaics dating back to the Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods have been unearthed. The depictions in these flooring mosaics mostly consist of compositions of geometric, vegetal, human, and animal figurative ornaments, which were commonly used in the Late Roman - Early Byzantine period in different areas around Mediterranean and regions of Anatolia. During various foundation excavations conducted at Sinop, mosaics of the Early Byzantine period were brought to light through the work of the experts at the Sinop Archeology Museum. Although most of the mosaics belonged to the floors of churches, some may have belonged to civilian structures.

British archaeologists carried out an excavation in the in Çiftlikköy, in the southeast of Sinop, between 1990 -1991. The floor mosaics uncovered during these excavations were found as in situ and transferred to the garden of the museum. In these mosaics, different geometric patterns were processed. During excavations for the foundations of a health center, which is located just outside the western walls of the city, geometric compositions were also found in the floor mosaics of a floor of a church.

It has been observed that the floors of the Early Byzantine churches appearing in different areas of Sinop were covered with mosaics. These mosaics were moved to the museum. The church buildings themselves were destroyed in time due to intense construction. Information about the mosaics can be obtained from old photographs and articles from museum reports. In these mosaics, geometric compositions and fruit in a basket, as well as different bird figures, were employed.

Late Roman imperial baths that were transferred in the monastery complex in Early Byzantine is known as Balatlar Church today. During archaeological excavations conducted at this site between 2016-2018, flooring mosaics were found. The mosaic flooring is in the form of different panels arranged side by side. The mosaic panels were located in the cemetery area of the monastery, and were built by the relatives of the people who were buried here. In the Greek inscriptions on the mosaic panels, to whom and from whom the mosaics were dedicated was written. Various bird figures and plant compositions were found in the mosaics. The compositions’ design, figures, and patterns symbolize paradise, abundance, and fertility.

In 2014, in the immediate vicinity of the cemetery where the mosaic panels were discovered, many production waste remains obtained suggesting a presence of a mosaic workshop. It is not certain whether this material is production waste or stored material for later repair.

Like those of the Balatlar mosaics, the designs and contents of the other floor mosaics identified in the city were similar to those of the eastern Mediterranean hinterland, as well as Anatolia. It can be understood that the designs were part of the style of decoration developed in 3th century and commonly used between the 4th and 6th centuries. Some of the selected motifs and figures appear in the eastern provinces of the empire, and have similar symbols to those representing death and eternal life in Christian iconography. The characteristic motifs, whose origins extend to Sasanian art, are found only in Sinop and Antakya within Anatolia, suggesting that travelling workshops were employed to decorate important monuments in the city.

In Sinop, one of the most important commercial port cities of the Black Sea region, the tradition of decorating the building floors with mosaics goes back to the Hellenistic period. Therefore, there must have also been local workshops and competent masters belonging to this ancient branch of business in the city.

Within the scope of this paper, the motifs and a materials analysis of the mosaics that have emerged from the excavations in Sinop will be discussed, in addition to the effects of the east on the patterns.