What is the hidden meaning of research
For a long time, the Syrian desert kept a great secret under thick layers of sand - the remains of the pre-Roman-Hellenistic settlement of Palmyra, the existence of which was previously only documented. As part of a cooperation project between the Institute for Classical Archeology at the University of Vienna, the German Archaeological Institute and the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of Syria, which is financed by the FWF, this early city was localized for the first time and now offers unique insights into the structures of a pre-Roman Hellenistic settlement.
"Apart from a settlement for Palmyra that was already documented for the second millennium BC, a new settlement was apparently established elsewhere in the third century BC, which later became part of the Roman Empire. While we talked a lot about the later Roman city know, the area of the Hellenistic settlement Palmyra has so far remained unexplored ", says project leader Prof. Andreas Schmidt-Colinet from the Institute for Classical Archeology at the University of Vienna. "The current study offers us the unique opportunity to analyze the transition from the Hellenistic period to the Roman imperial period on the basis of the existing settlement structures over a larger area."
Settlement sequence & trade routes
In view of the size of the area, excerpts of the ancient urban settlement structures have been examined as examples within the framework of the project. These are already providing initial information, in particular about the chronology of the individual construction phases and the commercial and economic history of the Hellenistic "Sand City". The investigations show that the construction activities took place in different main phases and started from the third century BC. Until the end of the third century AD. The end of the use of the area can possibly be associated with the conquest of the city by the Roman Emperor Aurelian or the construction of the wall under Emperor Diocletian.
Ceramic finds are of particular importance in order to be able to understand the trade routes of the Palmyrenians. Overall, the proportion of domestic local goods outweighs the ceramics imported from other regions. Nevertheless, amphorae from Rhodes, for example - large clay vessels in which wine was transported - or goods imported from Africa document the far-reaching connections Palmyra from the late Hellenism to the late imperial period. Prof. Schmidt-Colinet comments: "Because of the ceramic finds, a reliable sequence of Hellenistic-Roman ceramics over a period of 600 years is possible for the first time. In addition, this is the first time that archaeological evidence of a six-hundred-year continuity of a Hellenistic settlement up to the Roman Empire is possible provided. "
Initial knowledge could also be gained about the keeping and use of pets. The "kitchen waste" shows that mainly sheep and goats, but also dromedaries, cattle and pigs were kept or eaten. Gazelles, wild fowl and fish, however, were apparently only rarely on the menu of the Hellenistic Palmyrenians.
In future it is the archaeologists' goal to completely uncover a monumental courtyard-like complex in the center of the Hellenistic settlement, which has close parallels to Syrian caravan constructions. The aim is not only to determine the building history or function of the individual rooms, but also to clarify the overall significance of the facility for the city of Palmyra. In the end, the findings of the excavations made possible by the FWF are combined with building structures that are still visible above ground and aerial photographs in an overall topographical plan of Palmyra.
Prof. Andreas Schmidt-Colinet
University of Vienna
Institute for Classical Archeology
Franz Klein-Gasse 1
T +43 / 1/4277 - 40601
Andreas.Schmidt-Colinet (at) univie.ac.at
The Science Fund FWF
Mag. Stefan Bernhardt
Editing & broadcast
PR&D - Public Relations for Research & Education
Campus Vienna Biocenter 2
T +43 / 1/505 70 44
contact (at) prd.at
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