cukurbagarchaeologicalproject
cukurbagarchaeologicalproject

Ancient Nicomedia

About the Project

References

Ancient Nicomedia

Nicomedia was founded in 284 BC as the capital of the Hellenistic Kingdom of Bithynia (Geography 12.4.2; Hamilton & Falconer 1854–1857). Despite several destructive earthquakes, its strategic location made the city a significant trading, military and artistic centre throughout the ages. Although it was once one of the four largest cities of the Roman world, there has been no systematic excavation of ancient Nicomedia. What we know about the city comes principally from ancient literary sources, chance finds in the heart of modern İzmit and recent topographical surveys (Çalık-Ross 2007). A thorough investigation of the Çukurbağ reliefs, which are decorated with several historical and mythological themes concerning Nicomedia, and of the building to which they once belonged is therefore crucial, both for a better understanding of Nicomedia and of the wider Roman world. 

About the Project

During salvage excavations in 2001 and 2009, polychromic reliefs and statues of an impressive Roman structure were discovered within the basement of a modern building in the Çukurbağ neighbourhood of İzmit. Our ongoing project involves the stylistic and iconographical analysis of the Çukurbağ reliefs and statues, and 3D digital reconstruction of the structure to which they once belonged. The two main aims of the project are to shed light on the art and history of Roman Nicomedia and to learn more about the technical aspects of polychromic relief sculpture in Roman art more broadly. 

A striking aspect of the Çukurbağ sculptures is their well-preserved and lively painted colours—a rare example in Roman art. Our project applies scientific methods such as portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF) scanning and 3D laser scanning to the Çukurbağ find. These will not only illuminate aspects of the colouring and gilding of Roman relief sculpture, but also provide information on many technical aspects, such as the recycling of stone (spoila), the use of sculptors’ and painters’ tools, and building construction techniques. Ancient textual sources also imply that Nicomedia was the centre of a significant marble industry and served as a major outlet for the export of processed Proconnesian and Phrygian Docimion marble (Ward-Perkins 1980; Güney 2012). The Çukurbağ sculptures are of Proconnesian marble and will contribute to an understanding of the Nicomedian sculptural workshops, which formed part of this industry. 

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