Zeugma is the name given to two cities, Apamea e Seleucia, founded by Seleucus I (312-281 BC) on opposite banks of the Euphrates river in southeastern Anatolia, Turkey. The two cities were linked by a bridge which later gave them the name of Zeugma, which means 'bridge' in Greek. The site was identified in 1970 by the German archaeologist Jorg Wagner. In the 1970s and '80s, further archaeological studies were conducted by David Kennedy of the University of Western Australia, Catherine Abadie-Reynal of the University of La Rochelle and the Turkish Ministry of Culture - Gaziantep Museum.
During the same period, Zeugma was threatened by a large regional hydroelectric project, which involved the construction of a few dams. One of these, the Birecick dam and its reservoir, was about to submerge 30% of the surface of the ancient city during the summer of 2000. The flooding would happen in two phases, the first ending in June 2000 and covering so-called 'Area A'; the second would end in October 2000 and cover 'Area B.' In May of 2000, thanks also to the exceptional discovery of movable finds and two homes lavishly decorated with frescoes and mosaics, the efforts of the editor of a Gaziantep newspaper managed to capture the attention of the international press, and the plea for help for Zeugma rapidly circled the globe. The Packard Humanities Institute (PHI), based in California, responded to the appeal and quickly made available the funding and human resources necessary to organize and coordinate an immediate action plan, together with the Turkish Ministry of Culture.