Organization of Mosaics by House and General Trends

After quite a few weeks I’ve finally finished categorizing the images in the Antioch Recovery Project Artstor! A long monotonous task but I’m really glad I did it. I’m the kind of person who can much more easily draw conclusions and make improvements if I can see everything of interest together in one place. By organizing the images such that all mosaics corresponding to the same house, as well as house plans and in situ photographs, are grouped together under the house name, it has become much easier to see why certain things happen.

For example, at the beginning of the project, I wanted to find out why certain houses had very specific names. Like why the House of the Drinking Contest was called that when the mosaic associated with that house in the collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art depicts Psyche stealing from Eros. However, when I was through categorizing the images, it became clear that the House of the Drinking Contest is named for the large mosaic central to the house that shows Heracles and Dionysus in a drinking contest with one another. Now, things like house names seem obvious. Yet a month ago I would not have been able to confidently know things like this without searching through hundreds of images.

Going through the hundreds of images, I began to realize a few things. One of the first things was that at first glance everything felt similar. I just assumed that every mosaic had the same orange-y neutral color pallet and portrayed familiar scenes of Greek mythology.  Yet the more I began to order the images by house, the more distinct each one felt. The Atrium House featured multiple images of satyrs and maenads standing alone surrounded by layers of geometric borders. The House of Dionysus and Ariadne more prominently featured larger geometric patterns and scenes of several people together. The individual images in the Atrium House feel more isolated by the large layers of the border that separate the figures from each other. However, with the images of couples in the House of Dionysus and Ariadne together in series it feels more like it is telling a story. These differences in tone and composition may be easily noticed by an expert, but for me, it took ordering these images by original location to notice what makes each house unique.

While going through the process of categorizing the images was really helpful in familiarizing myself with the various forms on the content present in Antioch and Daphne, I hope that the complete groups will be more useful for future researchers. It has been really fulfilling to see my colleagues use these image groups to generate their own projects, including story maps and house models. I hope that these groups will be used to better understand the similarities and differences between houses, to recreate what the houses looked like in their prime, and to study patterns between houses in the same area. Whatever the direction of the Antioch Recovery Project is in the future, I hope that my contribution not only allowed me to discover clarity but provided a foundation to make new improvements moving forward.

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