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Relief masks unearthed at ancient theatre in southern Turkey

January 7, 2022 at 3:28 pm

Relief masks depicting the comedy and drama plays played at the Kastabala Ancient City, which dates back to 500 BC, were unearthed on the architectural blocks of the theater in Osmaniye, Turkiye on December 30, 2021 [Muzaffer Çağlıyaner/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish archaeologists have unearthed 10 relief masks depicting comedy and tragedy plays performed in the ancient city of Castabala, which dates back to 500 BC, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Castabala, located 12 kilometres (7.45 miles) from the city centre of Osmaniye province, has survived to the present day with its colonnaded street, theatre, bath structure, churches and historical castle.

“These masks represent the drama and comedy plays performed in the theatre,” Faris Demir, an academician from Osmaniye Korkut Ata University who heads the excavations in the ancient city, told Anadolu Agency.

Noting that funny expressions are depicted in masks for comedy plays and frightening facial expressions are depicted for tragedy plays, Demir said that, among the masks depicted, the Pan Goat draws attention.

He said Castabala is the most important and only sacred city of Cilicia (modern southern Turkey).

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While the theatre part of the ancient city was largely unearthed during excavations carried out last year, it was determined that the masks found depicted the theatre plays staged at that time, and sullen masks were made for drama and smiling masks for comedy.

“In 2020, we started excavations in the theatre area, which is the most important structure of the city. In a short period of two years, we have revealed a large part of the theatre,” Demir said.

Noting that in the theatre area, the orchestra, stage building and parados — entrance roads on both sides of the orchestra — that provide the entrance to the theatre have been exposed to a great extent. Demir said: “Many architectural pieces belonging to the theatre were moved to the stone sorting area for restoration and conservation purposes.”

“One of the important remains we found is the inscribed statue ground dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian by the people’s assembly,” he added.