Relief masks unearthed at ancient theater in southern Turkiye

Masks represent comedy and tragedy plays performed in Castabala, says head of excavations in ancient city

Relief masks unearthed at ancient theater in southern Turkiye

    OSMANIYE, Turkiye

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

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

“These masks represent the drama and comedy plays performed in the theater,” 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 Turkiye).

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

“In 2020, we started excavations in the theater 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 theater,” Demir said.

Noting that in the theater area, the orchestra, stage building and parados — entrance roads on both sides of the orchestra — that provide the entrance to the theater have been exposed to a great extent, Demir said: “Many architectural pieces belonging to the theater 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.