Zeugma, literally "bridge" or "crossing" in ancient Greek, was located at the major ancient overpass on the Euphrates, and thus at the intersection of the major east-west trade route with the north-south route that ran along the otherwise unsurpassable river. A Hellenistic settlement was established ca. 300 BC by Seleucus, as twin towns facing each other on either coast of the Euphrates, named Seleuceia after himself and Apamea after his Persian wife. By virtue of its unique strategic position, it became the site of a Roman legion in the early Imperial period. As a major eastern frontier city, Roman Zeugma was the scene of frequent intercultural encounters, which is reflected in the archaeological finds from the site.


Though archaeological research in Zeugma goes back to the 1970s, most of what is known from the site was discovered during the extensive rescue works sponsored by the Republic of Turkey, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Packard Humanities Institute in 2000. The works were undertaken after it was publicly realized that with the construction of the nearby Birecik Dam, the entire town of Apamea as wall as a part of Seleuceia were to be flooded by the waters of the Euphrates. Several Roman house complexes that are now flooded by the dam waters were excavated, and exquisite mosaics and frescoes found in them were transferred to the Gaziantep Museum.


In 2005, the direction of the Zeugma Excavations and the coordination of research on the site were placed under the direction of Assoc. Prof. Kutalmış Görkay, allowing for comprehensive and long-term plans for the excavations to be developed. The Zeugma Archaeological Project is now directed from Ankara University, Department of Archaeology.