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Late Antique Floor Mosaics in Constantinople before the Great Palace

Örgü Dalgıç, New York University, Junior Fellow 2007–2008

During my Junior Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, I completed the writing of my dissertation entitled “Late Antique Floor Mosaics in Constantinople prior to the Great Palace.” I successfully defended my dissertation at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, just before the end of my fellowship period.

In my dissertation, I brought together for the first time the complete corpus of floor mosaics from Istanbul, from thirteen sites, dating from the second to the sixth century CE. This is also the first systematic and contextual study of this mostly unpublished material. The corpus is here divided into three groups: (1) the Belediye Sarayı (City Hall) mosaics at Saraçhane; (2) the Kocamustafapaşa mosaic; and (3) the rest of the mosaics from Istanbul, geometric and ornamental.

At Dumbarton Oaks, I finalized my conclusions and finished writing the first chapter, on the Belediye mosaics discovered in a salvage excavation in 1953. Bringing together unpublished site photographs and sketch plans from various archives and the literary references to the topography of Constantinople in the period, I suggested a new attribution for the mosaics: the paving for the peristyle of the gymnasium of the Thermae Constantianae, one of Constantinople's most prominent but long-lost public monuments.

I researched and wrote chapter three during the second semester of the fellowship year. In this chapter I considered nonfigural mosaics from Istanbul in two parts, Roman (pre-Constantinian) mosaics, and the mosaics of Constantinople.

During the fellowship period, I delivered two papers: “Mosaics of Constantinople: Paving the Way to the Great Palace” at the Archaeology and the Cities of Asia Minor in Late Antiquity conference organized at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in January 2008; and “Saraçhane Mosaics: Reconstructing the Art, Architecture and Topography,” at the 33rd Byzantine Studies Conference at the University of Toronto in October 2007. I also prepared and submitted an article in collaboration with Thomas F. Mathews entitled “A New Interpretation of the Church of Peribleptos and its Place in Middle Byzantine Architecture,” to be published in Proceedings of International Symposium in Memory of Sevgi Gönül-Change in the Byzantine World in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (Istanbul, 2007).