Monday, July 07, 2008

Topographical Map of Ancient Palmyra Planned

"Although a settlement dating back to the second millennium BC has
already been identified as Palmyra, a new settlement was evidently
established at another site in the third century BC and was later
abandoned in the Roman period. While we know a great deal about the
later Roman city, the Hellenistic settlement of Palmyra has never been
investigated," explains Project Manager Prof. Andreas Schmidt-Colinet
from the Institute of Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna.
"The current investigation gives us a unique opportunity to analyse the
transition from the Hellenistic period to the time of the Roman Empire
by studying the settlement structures that have been uncovered here over
a wide area."

Chronology of the Settlement & Trade Routes

In view of the large size of the area, the project has thus far focussed
on small sections of the ancient urban settlement structures. This work
is already yielding results, particularly as regards the chronology of
the individual phases of construction and the trade and commercial
background of the Hellenistic "Sand City". The investigations show that
building activities were divided across various major phases stretching
from the third century B.C. to the end of the third century A.D. This
indicates that the site could have fallen out of use around the time
when the city was conquered by the Roman emperor Aurelian or around the
construction of the wall under the emperor Diocletian.

Pottery finds are particularly important for helping to determine the
trade routes used by the citizens of Palmyra. Overall, the
archaeologists have found far larger amounts of local domestic pottery
than imported ceramic goods from other areas.
Nevertheless, amphorae from Rhodes - large clay containers used to
transport wine - and goods imported from Africa show that Palmyra had
connections with far flung corners of the world from the late
Hellenistic period until the late Roman period. Prof. Schmidt-Colinet
comments on the team's discoveries: "Our pottery finds reveal a
continuous progression of Hellenistic-Roman ceramics over a period of
600 years. What's more, we now have the first ever archaeological
evidence for a Hellenistic settlement with continuous habitation over
six centuries extending into the Roman period."

Looking to the future, the archaeologists aim to completely uncover a
monumental courtyard-type structure at the centre of the Hellenistic
settlement that has close parallels with Syrian caravan structures.
However, the team is not just hoping to reveal how or why the individual
rooms were built, it also wants to determine the overall importance of
the structure for the city of Palmyra. At the end of the project, the
findings from the excavations, which have been made possible by the FWF,
will be combined with aerial photographs and structures that are still
visible above ground to provide a topographical map of Palmyra."