Sarcophagus of headmaster unearthed in ancient Greek city of Aigai

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A sarcophagus, which has been unearthed during archaeological excavations in the ancient Greek city of Aigai in the western Turkish province of Manisa, was revealed to have been belonged to a school principal after its pieces were reunited.

Sarcophagus of headmaster unearthed in ancient Greek city of Aigai

Yusuf Sezgin, the head of the Aigai excavations and an academic at Celal Bayar University’s archaeology department, said the sarcophagus dated back to 2,200 years ago and it was the first ever one that belonged to a principal in the history of archaeology.

Aigai in the Yunusemre district, which is one of the 12 cities founded by Greek colonists from Aeolia in western Asia Minor, has a history of 2,800 years. The pieces of the sarcophagus were recently unearthed in the city and reunited with the ones previously found in the same place since 2004.

As 80 percent of the sarcophagus was compiled, the findings unveiled that it belonged to a principal who was honored three times. The expressions on the sarcophagus will shed light on the history of the ancient city, Sezgin said, adding that it would be exhibited finally after finding its missing parts.

“The ruins on the sarcophagus tell us something. There are three wreaths on the sarcophagus and each of them has a different meaning. The wreaths indicate that the person in this tomb was honored three times.

The name of this person is also written in the wreaths. One says ‘Neoi,’ which means he was honored by young people, and the other says ‘Aiolida,’ which means he was honored by the public. This is important for us. The third wreath on the sarcophagus has been damaged so we failed to understand who honored him,” Sezgin said.

“The tomb also has parchment, papyrus rolls and writing sets, which reveal that the person in this tomb is a teacher. In the ancient ages, there were schools which were called Neoi Gymnasion and were attended by young people. As far as we understand here, the person lying in this tomb is the head teacher of this school.

These people were called gymnasiarchos in Greek. This was a significant job.  Public funding was used in these schools but when it is not enough, principals made investments in the school using their own money. This is why they were honored,” he added.

Sezgin said the finds revealed precious discoveries for the world of archaeology, and were intricately studying it to unveil more about its unknown history.

“When we initiated excavations in 2004, this sarcophagus was in pieces scattered around. Over the years, we found its pieces and compiled them. Works are ongoing. We are examining the language and trying to reunite all its pieces. This is the first time in the world the sarcophagus of a principal was found. This is a very precious find for archaeology. We believe that it will give us important information. We have been carrying out an international work in the graveyard field since 2015. Within the scope of this, we are working with a group of archaeologists from the German Archaeology Institute and Paris. We evaluate all cultural finds in the field of the tomb and we plan to display all the finds in the coming days. We invite everyone around to see this unique sarcophagus,” he said.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News [January 24, 2017]

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