Lebanon, Baalbek-Douris

Late antique necropolis in Baalbek Douris (Lebanon)

Several sarcophagi were discovered, that were part of a large necropolis dating probably to the Roman imperial period or to the beginning of late antiquity (3./4. c. AD).



34° 0' 29.7684" N, 36° 12' 34.1928" E

Baalbek is situated in the northern Beqaa plain between the mountain ranges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. The necropolis was found in the village of Douris, ca. 3 km to the south-west of Baalbek.


Excavations in the village Douris in the vicinity of Baalbek © DAIRoad construction workers discovered in the vicinity of the Qubbat Douris, which was built in the Ayyubid period (1243 AD), a late Roman cemetery with stone sarcophagi. Almost all of these sarcophagi had already been robbed in antiquity, but one had been left intact and contained a rich assemblage of objects. According to the local inhabitants other sarcophagi had been found from time to time in the surrounding gardens, thus indicating a large necropolis that probably belonged to one of the many suburbs of ancient Baalbek and was situated close to the ancient road along the eastern border of the Beqaa plain.


In the summer of 1997 a scientific investigation of the findspot of the sarcophagi was started, as these had been removed immediately after their discovery in 1996. In close cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Lebanon as well as with students of the American University of Beirut and of the FHTW (Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft) of Berlin the topographical and geomorphological surroundings of the necropolis were investigated and the typology and burials in the necropolis studied.


Gold leaf element decorated with female heads © DAISarcophagus decorated with rosettes © DAIThe late Roman burials in the necropolis of Douris followed a common pattern: a rectangular limestone sarcophagus was used as coffin. It was put in a simple rock-cut depression in the ground. The exterior walls of the sarcophagi were decorated with rosettes, garlands and other ornaments that were not worked in great detail. Only one sarcophagus had survived the centuries intact: it contained one skeleton, probably of a woman. The deceased had thin sheets of gold-leaf put over her forehead, nose and mouth, and a wreath of golden oak leafs on her head. Oval gold-leaf elements decorated with female heads originally sewn on the clothing were found around the torso. Several glass vessels were disposed at the feet of the deceased, and a bronze coin was found close to the head, probably the so-called Charon's obol.


Direction Générale des Antiquités du Liban (Khalid Rifai, Toufiq Rifai).


M. van Ess, La nécropole de Baalbek-Douris, in: Liban, l'autre rive. Catalogue of the exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris (1998), 192 ; M. van Ess, Heliopolis - Baalbek 1898-1989 : Forschen in Ruinen (Beirut 1998) 50-51; M. van Ess - L. Petersen, Excavation of a late Roman necropolis in Baalbek - Douris, BAAL 7, 2004; K. Hitzl und L. Petersen, Die Sarkophage aus Baalbek, in: Akten des Symposiums des Sarkophag-Corpus, Marburg 2001 (2007) 299-308.

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