Archaeological excavations at the ancient Zeugma started in the late 1980s, although it was already known in the early twentieth century by locals and by some visiting Europeans that at the site some Roman mosaics and inscriptions were discovered. By the 1960s, some locals discovered the monetary value of the mosaics, and they have been involved in illegal excavations for the international market. Archaeologists who began excavation at Zeugma have reported that many of the mosaics found in Zeugma had been damaged by such illegal excavations. Archeologists are suspicious that many of the Roman mosaics in various museum catalogues, whose place of origin is described as “East Mediterranean,” or “said to be from East Turkey,” or “near Syria,” may probably be excavated from Zeugma.
One notable example of the damage of this illegal activity is the mosaic of Dionysus and Ariadne. In 1992, a local guard for Zeugma discovered a tunnel, which led to the remains of a Roman villa. Archaeologists based at the Gaziantep Museum excavated the site and uncovered a mosaic depicting the wedding of Dionysus and Ariadne. They decided to preserve it in situ. However, a large part of this mosaic was cut out by looters on 15 June 1998 , and has been missing since then. Gaziantep Museum exhibits this mosaic as it is to raise the awareness against looting and illegal trafficking of artifacts.
In the summer of 2000, one of the great frontier cities of the Roman Empire, the city of Zeugma, all but disappeared from the face of the Earth under the flood waters of a dam. In a bid to modernise, the Turkish government has embarked on one of the most ambitious engineering projects in the world, building a series of dams on the Euphrates over the past twenty years. Almost every dam threatens ancient remains that lie below in one of the most archaeologically rich regions of the world. The completion of the Birecik dam, featured in this film, has flooded the valley where Zeugma is buried. The city on the flat plain has entirely disappeared and the waters have now risen to cover 30% of the city on the hillside.
'Horizon' tells the story of the archaeologists' fifth and final visit, struggling to save what they could before the dam waters rose. It witnesses the uncovering of some of the most beautiful examples of Roman art ever found. The team’s discoveries at Zeugma caused an international outcry and further excavations were hurriedly put together.
There's recently been a move by the Turkish government to declare Zeugma a site of special archaeological interest. The remainder of the ancient city on the hillside could, in theory, still be explored.