Metanavigation

Urbanism in Roman and Islamic times: Palmyra

Investigations of the Hellenistic settlement

Location

Location

Germany
34° 33' 15.7104" N, 38° 16' 2.4888" E

Fig. 1 Magnetogram of the hellenistic town © DAIPalmyra is situated in the Syrian Steppe, roughly halfway between Damascus and the Euphrates.

History

Currently there is only literary evidence regarding the history of Palmyra in the Hellenistic period. The city prospered from the 1st to the 3rd century AD as an important trade centre of the Syrian desert. Furthermore, it acted as an intermediary between the Roman Empire on the one hand and the Parthian Empire as well as the Sassanians on the other.

Objectives

The Palmyra textiles are one of the largest datable complexes of ancient textiles known today. The large amount of recent finds made the conservation and detailed study of all Palmyrene textiles an urgent necessity. Altogether more than 2000 fragments of textiles were conserved, documented and - in part - presented to the public in a permanent exhibition. Technical, as well as chemical, analyses, a summarizing catalogue and scientific evaluation of the complex as a whole are currently in print. Pre-Roman, "Hellenistic" Palmyra appears to be situated in an area south of the later, Amphora stamp from Rhodos, 3rd cent. BC © DAI"Roman", city, which has seen no building activity since. It is therefore ideally suited for large-scale studies of "Hellenistic" urban structures - the first such project in this area. In 1997/98, geophysical surveys were carried out in the area. These clearly showed subterranean building remains, which extended across an area of about 20ha (see image). The data gained from this geophysical survey are assessed and verified by means of both trenching and comparison with aerial photographs. In combination with a survey (and subsequent documentation) of all visible and standing remains, a plan of the site is to be constructed. This is to serve as the basis for further research on the urban structure and development of early Palmyra.

Results

The textiles can be separated into two distinct groups: on the one hand local texiles, primarily wool, linen and cotton of very high quality and richly decorated. On the other hand, imported silks from China, some of which can be linked directly to certain imperial workshops. The textiles from datable tombs of the 1st and 2nd centuries provide a wealth of data on the economy and trade (e.g. the "Silk Road"), as well as on techniques of both manufacture and dyeing. Furthermore, they can be utilized to provide information regarding daily life, funerary rites (i.e. mummification) and perceptions of the afterlife. At the same time, interesting parallels can be identified between textile decoration and typical Palmyrene architectural ornaments. Pre-Roman, "Hellenistic" Palmyra appears to be situated in an area south of the later, "Roman", city, which has seen no building activity since. It is therefore ideally suited for large-scale studies of "Hellenistic" urban structures - the first such project in this area. In 1997/98, geophysical surveys were carried out in the area. These clearly showed subterranean building remains, which extended across an area of about 20ha Fig. 4 Oktopus, gilt stucco of a wall decoration, 1.-2. century AD © DAIFig. 3 Court - like arrangement ("caravan building") in the centre of the hellenistic town © DAI(see image). The data gained from this geophysical survey are assessed and verified by means of both trenching and comparison with aerial photographs. In combination with a survey (and subsequent documentation) of all visible and standing remains, a plan of the site is to be constructed. This is to serve as the basis for further research on the urban structure and development of early Palmyra.

Cooperation / Cooperation partners

Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées de la Syrie (DGAMS)

scientific cooperation:
Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege
CNRS Paris
Fachhochschule Köln
TU München
Universität Damaskus

Contact

Prof. Dr. Andreas Schmidt-Colinet
Institut für Klassische Archäologie
Franz-Klein-Gasse 1
A-1190 Wien
Tel. 0043/1/427740601; Fax 0043/1/42779406
E-Mail: andreas.schmidt-colinet@univie.ac.at

W. al-As'ad
Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées de la Syrie, Palmyra Branch

Bibliography

A. Schmidt-Colinet (Hrsg.), Palmyra. Kulturbegegnung im Grenzbereich (1995, 2. Aufl. 1997) 50ff. Abb. 78-115: (u.a. mit Beiträgen von A. Stauffer);
A. Schmidt-Colinet - A. Stauffer - Khaled al-As'ad, Die Textilien aus Palmyra (2000) (u.a. mit Beiträgen von H. Böhmer und L. von Falkenhausen).
A. Schmidt-Colinet (Hrsg.), Palmyra. Kulturbegegnung im Grenzbereich (1995, 2. Aufl. 1997) 73 Abb. 116;
ders., "Ich suche die Seleukiden" in: Macellum. Festschrift R. Fleischer (2001) 259 ff.;
ders. - Kh. al-As'ad (u.a.), Zur Urbanistik des hellenistischen Palmyra. Ein Vorbericht, DaM 12, 2000, 61 ff.

Contact

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