Text Size

ABSTRACT  |  PDF  |  STAMPA

square  SYRIAN HISTORICAL HERITAGE UNDER THREAT

Rodrigo Martín Galán

Background

When the dramatic events taking place in Syria since March 2011 began, a group of Europe based Syrian archaeologists realised that the rich historical heritage of their country could be in danger. With the worsening of the situation over time their fears have been realised. Destruction of monuments, clandestine excavations, trafficking of antiquities, loss of control by some museums over their collections, are all contributing to create the biggest threat to the historical heritage of the Near East since the Iraq war.

It would be pointless comparing Syrian and Iraqi heritage. However, it is worth noting that Syria owns one of the richest historical legacies in the world. In Syria, past and present live together in every corner of the country. Impressive monuments and hundreds of archaeological sites are to be seen everywhere. An intangible heritage, created by traditions dating back to the dawn of time, envelopes the life of cities and people alike.

Conscious of the effects of war on the historical heritage of the neighbouring country, the above mentioned Syrian archaeologists decided to respond by creating a group of professionals with the intent of contributing to the preservation of their country’s cultural richness. This initiative was led by Ali Othman, a civil servant at the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, who, at the onset of the Syrian Revolution, was working in Paris. Together with some Syrian colleagues he invited some European archaeologists, with whom he had previously collaborated in Syria for many years, to join the initiative. The result was the creation of the Endangered Syrian Heritage [1] collective.

This group of experts has defined its main tasks as follows: monitor the current destructions, gather as much information as possible about the situation, classify and analyse damages and threats, and plan for the work of reconstruction based on accurate information. The members of the group have a good knowledge of the structural problems that Syrian cultural heritage faced even before the current conflict. This allows them to accurately assess the current situation and to carry out an analysis of the real challenges to be met when the time for reconstruction comes.

The relevance of Syrian cultural heritage goes beyond the current borders of the country. In fact, every chapter of mankind’s history contains at least one page written in Syria [2]. Historical processes with far reaching consequences around the world, from Asia to Africa to Europe, have their roots in Syria. Archaeological remains found in some of the Neolithic sites in Syria are essential for understanding the transition from a prehistoric hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural one [3]. In the fourth millennium B.C.E., the land of Uruk in Southern Mesopotamia (nowadays Iraq), saw the appearance of the first cities in human history. At the end of the fourth millennium, some parts of Syria were involved in the development of this early urban civilisation, and a large number of cities were built on its soil during the second half of the third millennium. Syrian land was both a real nucleus and an essential link in the transmission of fundamental elements of those early urban societies to the Mediterranean, to Asia Minor, and even to Egypt [4].

During the second millennium B.C.E. we find in Syria the first alphabet ever invented by mankind [5]. In previous writing systems the symbols were either syllabic or hieroglyphic. For the first time in history, the inhabitants of Ugarit developed a system in which each symbol represented a phoneme. A new way of language transcription was born; this method could be applied to any language. At the end of that millennium and the beginning of the first, the country would be the heartland of the Aramean kingdoms whose culture would keep its strength for more than a thousand years. During the first millennium B.C.E. Aramaic was the lingua franca over a huge territory extending from the Mediterranean to India. Later on, in the sixth century B.C.E. Syria, under the Persian Empire, became the hub of a system of travel routes connecting the capital, Persepolis, to Egypt and Anatolia. During the second century B.C.E., one of Syria’s major cities, Antioch, was the capital of the largest Hellenistic kingdom after the death of Alexander the Macedonian. Antioch fought for hegemony in the Eastern Mediterranean [6] against Alexandria.

The Roman period witnessed a marked economic and cultural development in Syria. Some of the cities still standing today such as Apamea, Bosra, or Palmyra, are among the best preserved examples we have of urban settlements of that period. Palmyra, in particular, is a unique mixture of Roman elements and the Semitic culture of the East.

During the Byzantine Empire Syria played a central role in the development of historical trends that would form the basis of Eastern and Western European culture during the Middle Ages. Such trends include the development of architectural elements in Christian temples, the establishment of the theological basis of Christianity, and all the changes that brought about the end of antiquity and the beginning of early medieval times. Syria has preserved some of the most important archaeological traces of this crucial transitional epoch.

Later on, during the seventh century C:E., Damascus was the headquarters of the Umayyad dynasty [7]. It was a time of vibrant cultural activity that created the basis of some elements that are at the heart of Islamic kingdoms in North Africa and Europe (Al-Andalus in Spain). The great mosque of the Umayyads in Damascus marks a milestone in the history of architecture. Its influence can be traced through Kairouan in Tunisia to Cordoba in Spain.

During the Turkish Ottoman period [8], Syria continued to significantly contribute to the enrichment of Near Eastern and world heritage: souks, khans, palaces, mosques, libraries, hammams... are all conspicuous elements in the urban landscape of Syrian cities which have survived to the present day.

These traces that bear such witness to a long history are now suffering major damage, mainly due to bombardments and violent clashes taking place during the current conflict. Moreover, looting is also occurring, caused by the chaos into which the country has fallen.

In order to present a clear overview of the significant risks posed by these damages, we will organise the information we are presenting into the following categories:

1. Examples of relevant sites [9] from different historical periods, which have suffered because of the conflict. These examples highlight the danger of losing essential pages of the book of mankind’s history .

2. Museums as depositories of essential components of Syrian heritage.

3. Living and intangible heritage: those historic buildings which are still used for the purpose they were built for.

4. Heritage of the future: a huge cultural richness, that still lies buried and that faces the risk of disappearing because of looting and clandestine digs [Fig. 1].

1. Relevant Sites Damaged by the Conflict

As pointed out above, during the third millennium B.C.E. a flourishing urban civilisation spread through Syria achieving a high level of cultural development and establishing strong links with the Sumerian world. One of the most relevant archaeological sites from this period is Tell Mardikh, where an Italian team, that began the excavations in 1964, discovered the 5,000 years old city of Ebla.

This site has provided us with the most important and oldest royal archives ever found. These date back to the beginning of history (history being conceived as the periods for which we have written sources). The archives were discovered in the royal palace of the city, which was destroyed by a king of Akkad around 2,330 or 2,300 B.C.E. They occupied four rooms and they were intact. The documents were classified by the sizes of the clay tablets on which the texts were written and by their contents.

The texts were written in an early Semitic language and dealt with a variety of important issues such as diplomatic treaties or letters exchanged with neighbouring kingdoms. They provide us with a large quantity of information about international relations within the Syro-Mesopotamian world during the third millennium B.C.E. They also include the oldest known diplomatic treaty, lexical texts showing the relationship between the Eblaite language and Sumerian, accounting documents, registration of precious metals, offers to the gods and information about agricultural activities.

The site of Tell Mardikh suffered major damage in the first months of 2012 when it was turned into a battlefield between the loyalist army and the deserters. The headquarters of the Italian mission was looted causing harm to the archaeological materials stored there as well as to the documents of the scientific research that had been carried out on the site for more than 45 years.

Among the different protagonists of the Near Eastern history during the first millennium B.C.E., one of the most important groups was the Arameans. One of the key sites where remains of their golden age still exist is Tell Halaf. Tell Halaf, situated in the North-East of the country, in the heart of Northern Mesopotamia, is also fundamental to the study of the Neolithic period. The discoveries made on this site’s prehistoric settlement have given the name to one of the most important cultures of Neolithic Near East, the Halaf Culture. However, Tell Halaf is not only important for the rich prehistory of the region, but also for being the location of the city of Gauzana, capital of the Aramaic kingdom of Bit Bahiani.

The Syrian regime has installed heavy weaponry on Tell Halaf. For the time being it is not possible to measure the consequences of this action on the archaeological remains.

During the first half of the first millennium B.C.E. the Assyrians built an empire dominating large areas of the Near East. From their capitals in Nineveh and Assur they subjugated the Syrian peoples, bringing elements of their culture mixed with Aramean elements. The site of Tell Sheikh Hamad, where a German mission has discovered well preserved remains from the Assyrian times, gave researchers a good opportunity to further their knowledge of the habitats and the architecture of that time in Northern Mesopotamia. Furthermore, temples, houses, and a well preserved urban plan at the site of Dur Katlimmu helped archaeologists obtain a good knowledge of this ancient city.

Heavy fighting has taken place at Tell Sheikh Hamad between regime and rebel forces. Although it has not been possible to assess the exact extent of the damage, the latest news reports indicate the destruction of one of the Assyrian temples at the site.

In 331 B.C.E. Syria’s inhabitants saw invading armies, led by Alexander of Macedonia, pass through their lands. After the death of the military leader and more than 20 years of bloody infighting among his successors, the region fell to one of his generals, Seleucus, who inaugurated the dynasty of the Seleucids and inherited an empire spanning the Mediterranean to India. The Seleucids filled their empire with Greek colonies, in order to facilitate military control and governance as well as regulating the flow of commerce. The settlers of these colonies, being of Greek origin, transformed them into centres of Hellenic culture in Asia, but, at the same time, they themselves were influenced by the culture of the indigenous inhabitants. The results of this fertile interchange, that lasted over two centuries, gave birth to the so-called Greek-Semitic culture. This culture, so little studied and known in the West, formed the basis of later historical developments directly related to the two cultural currents that would occupy the known world for centuries: Christianity and Islam.

The Roman Empire has, in Syria, one of the most important witnesses of its transit through history, due to the remarkable preservation and the quantity of traces that it left in Syrian lands.

Apamea on the Orontes was one of the four capitals founded by the early Seleucids. It was here that they established the headquarters of their army. The city experienced a strong urban development during the Hellenistic period. Later on, in Roman times, during the second century C.E. it was embellished with public buildings and with one of the most famous and best preserved colonnades in the Near East. During the late Roman Empire an important Neo-Platonic school flourished in the city, making it a centre of philosophy that diffused throughout the Roman realm. The remains of the medieval citadel, an Arab stronghold during the times of the Crusades at the border of the Frankish territories, is located by the Greco-Roman ruins, on top of the acropolis. A well-preserved fortification from the Mameluke period (thirteenth century) dominates the hill today.

The part of the site occupied by the Greek-Roman city has been the object of clandestine excavations. As a consequence, the stratigraphical sequence, essential for scientific knowledge of the site, has been damaged. Also, a number of archaeological finds have possibly been stolen. For example, one of the important Roman mosaics has disappeared. One of the most shocking images illustrating the consequences of the conflict on the country’s historical heritage is without a doubt the shelling of Apamea’s medieval citadel [Fig. 2]. Some amateur videos, filmed by the inhabitants of the city, show the regime’s army shelling and destroying the ancient fortification [10].

In Bosra, capital of the Roman province of Arabia, some of the best preserved examples of Roman architecture have collapsed under the regime’s bombs [Fig. 3]. The city’s Roman theatre, enclosed within a medieval fortification, is not only one of the largest in the world, but also the best preserved from antiquity. This theatre is currently occupied by the army. Nobody has been able to access the site for several months. The theatre houses an archaeological museum. Nothing is known about what is happening to its contents. The military have positioned their tanks in the square in front of the fortress and have been shelling the city from both this position as well as from the castle. Many people are still living in the city’s old houses among the ruins.

Perhaps one of the most worrying cases is that of Palmyra. The situation is particularly disquieting because of the lack of reliable information at our disposal. This ancient caravan city is in the middle of the Syrian desert; therefore there is no easy access for specialists who could verify the extent of the damage. Disturbing news about fighting on the site, as well as rumours of clandestine excavations and looting have spread, but without any possibility of verification on the field.

Numerous incidents of damage have also been reported in the so-called dead cities, a group of various hundreds of settlements from the late Roman and Byzantine periods, scattered throughout the countryside between Aleppo and Idlib. Some of the oldest churches of Christianity are located in this area, as well as some of the first structures whose architecture would come to influence that of the Christian world during the Middle Ages. Among them is the monastery of Symeon Stylite, one of the most famous religious centres of late antiquity. These lands are a real open-air history book.

The architectural remains of the dead cities have been affected by fighting between loyalists and rebel troops in the region. Shelling and shooting have caused structural damage to the stone fabric of the buildings.

As far as the Islamic period goes, the list of damaged monuments is too large to enumerate. Only a few examples are enough to illustrate their relevance. Mosques and hammams located in cities like Aleppo, Dara’a or Homs have been damaged by fighting and bombing. It is worth pointing out that the Umari mosque in Dara’a has been shelled on several occasions. Gunfire has also caused damages to another important building, the Krak des Chevaliers. This is one of the most important medieval castles of non Islamic origin, in the Near East, remarkable for its state of preservation.

 

2. Museums

Syrian museums preserve the material evidence left by history in a region that was one of the major theatres of the origins of civilisation. They are the depositories of all the finds discovered in the large number of archaeological excavations carried out in Syria since the nineteenth century. These museums are spread throughout the country.

In the Aleppo Museum, a series of female figures remind us of the origin of agriculture in the land where mankind took a major step in history by developing new techniques that would allow the production of food during the Neolithic period.

In the National Museum of Damascus, clay-covered human skulls bear the traces of the ancestor worship whereby the deceased attached their descendants to the territory that provides them the means for living. Still in the same museum, in a neighbouring room, some examples of the oldest existing texts illustrate the first steps of a revolutionary new technique, writing, that could overcome the effects of time and the deficiencies of memory. This new “control” over history would evolve until the production of the first written diplomatic treaties, preserved in the Museum of Iblib. Those cuneiform tablets from the third millennium B.C.E., written in a Semitic language, and preserved in various museums, also show how humans structured the world of the gods. We learn in those texts about one of the oldest known cosmogonies that ruled, according to their beliefs, over the destiny of the people in those early Syrian cities.

Different regions of Syria enjoyed open relations with one another and with other regions. The pottery at Deir ez-Zor, at Tartus and at Lattakia illustrates regional interchanges and luxury objects at these sites also indicate evidence of long distance trade. The proof of existing contacts between different populations from various origins finds its best expression in the small tablet exposed in Damascus, a major historic treasure, the first known alphabet of history. Eight languages were spoken in the city where it was found, Ugarit. People coming from Anatolia, Cyprus, inner Syria and Egypt lived in that city during the second millennium B.C.E. and invented a system of writing more advanced than the previous one based on syllabic symbols. With this method different languages could be transcribed using only a few easy to learn graphemes. The small and fragile tablet preserved in the Damascus Museum is a big monument of human history. Aramaic, Phoenician, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, all these languages used later adaptations of this alphabet, as we still do.

The inscriptions on the mosaics kept in the Ma’arat el Nooman museum show the transition from pagan antiquity to Christianity. At the Arab Epigraphy Museum in Damascus one can admire how this technique became an art form in Arab times. Manuscripts and letters engraved in stone perpetuate the treasures of Islamic civilisation.

In the Damascus Museum, one can find the oldest known synagogue, reliquary crosses and pages of the Koran. In the modest and small museum of Shabba we can see the portrait of Philip the Arab, a son of this town who became emperor of Rome. At the Aleppo and Hamma Museums we can admire relics of the Arameans.

According to the information we are getting from Syria, many museums seem to have been emptied by the government without adhering to those requirements of modern museological practice that are essential for the collections’ preservation and for guaranteeing the adequate follow up of the pieces. The risk of losses is real. The destruction and looting, we can observe all over the country, raise serious concerns about the final destination of many of the historical treasures kept in the museums.

Due to the lack of modern infrastructure, Syrian museums have not always classified their pieces according to modern museological practices. Therefore, the location of a particular set of items in the storerooms is the only indicator we have about their origin. For this reason, when a museum is looted, or when pieces are transported without following proper procedures, we lose the information about their archaeological context. When this is lost, it is no longer possible to know which site they came from. The relevance of most of the archaeological objects kept in the museums is directly related to the historical information they provide about a period and a region. When this disappears their capacity to tell us about the history of Syria is lost.

In spite of this, sections of the collections of some museums are being placed in trucks and moved without any of the controls that should be imposed in accordance to museological practice. Moreover, several museums have been, and continue to be, looted. Pages of the book of Syrian history are being torn apart. The cultural future of the country is being mutilated. Losing the pieces and the context of the rich heritage that has been preserved in museums will prevent future generations from learning all the particularities of Syrian culture based on diversity, continuity and depth of time.

We still do not have a complete view of the museum situation; the lack of transparency and the impossibility of having the situation assessed by independent experts make it difficult to know exactly what is happening on the ground. However, some news indicate major damage to some of them has occurred.

The museum of Ma’arat el Nooman has suffered major damage both to the building and to some of the items in the permanent exhibition [Fig. 4]. This museum houses one of the most important collections of mosaics in the country. Some of them have been broken. According to the latest reports a number of objects have also disappeared from the showcases.

The Museum of Traditional Arts in Homs has been completely destroyed. It would also seem that the Archaeological Museum of the city has suffered serious damage. This museum preserves part of the treasures found in the Royal graves of Qatna, from the second millennium B.C.E., one of the most important discoveries of Near Eastern Archaeology in the last decades.

During the first days of the revolution, the contents of Dara’a Museum were transferred to other places; we do not have detailed information about their final destination. We know that the façade of the building suffered damage from gunfire, but we do not have more details. This museum used to house relevant collections of archaeological pieces from the area around the city showing the relations between Syria and the southern lands. The rich numismatic collection preserved in Dara’a is precious for the study of the monetary systems of the Near East through history.

In Hama a statuette from the eighth century B.C.E. representing an Aramean god has disappeared. It is a unique piece because of the rarity of its iconography and the fact that it is covered with gold. In the first instance the government accused armed gangs of having stolen it, however the keeper of the museum has been imprisoned. Once again, the lack of transparency makes it difficult to see the real facts behind this event. Due to its historical value, the statuette’s disappearance is currently being investigated by Interpol.

In Apamea a statue from the Roman period has been reported as missing. In Palmyra the situation is more than worrying. Because of the location of the site, far away from any urban centre, the information coming from the site is confusing. However, we have had access to a video showing members of the army piling up Palmyrene pieces of sculpture on a truck, without any professional care for their handling and transportation requirements. The final destination of this truck is unknown.

The small museum of Dura Europos has been completely looted. It was equipped with high quality informative displays and archaeological objects coming from the site.

 

3. Living Heritage

Today’s craftsmen working in the souks, like those of Aleppo and Damascus, have preserved traditional techniques, which sometimes date back several millennia. The inner organisation of these bazaars, their configuration, and, in general, their visual display create a whole environment in which tangible heritage (architecture, objects) and intangible heritage (traditions) have been preserved. In Syrian cities the old quarters’ streets can be considered open-air museums housing one of the richest living heritages in the world.

Within the ancient quarters, in close relation with the souks, that are the economic centres of the cities, we find khans, mosques, hammams, madrassas, factories, all elements that constitute the typical Near Eastern city from the Middle Ages. Walking through these quarters we witness and learn the history of the country. Buildings from different periods show us the successive phases of the development of the cities. The Umayyad Mosque of Damascus is one of the most relevant monuments in the world from the early Islamic period. Middle Ages mosques can also be found in many cities like Aleppo, Hama, Dara’a and Bosra. Civil architecture reaches a zenith of sophistication in the Maristan of Aleppo. The flourishing of architecture during Ottoman times can be admired in hammams from the sixteenth century onwards as well as in khans and in private houses.

Souks, which have been created by the accumulation of architectural elements through the centuries, encapsulate the whole history of a city [Fig. 5]. In many cases the urban plan of a souk follows an order that dates back to Roman or even earlier times. The buildings we see show the different modalities of commercial spaces from the times of the Abbasid Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, when they are frequently mentioned and described in the Arabian Nights. Even in the twenty-first century the old corporations continue to work as they did in the past, and to produce the same products they have been making for many generations, like Damascus brocade, which was highly appreciated in medieval European royal courts.

Once more, we are not able to fully measure the extent of the destruction affecting this living heritage. However a large quantity of dramatic news is reaching us every week.

A part of the medieval souk of Aleppo was burnt down [Fig. 6]. The pictures we have show serious damage. A large number of buildings inside and around the souk have undergone different degrees of destruction [Fig. 7]. Khans like Al-Quequinawi, libraries and private homes have been bombed. Also the Great Mosque, founded around 705 C.E. by Caliph Al-Walid I has been ravaged by fire. Its large collection of manuscripts might have been destroyed as well.

The list of devastations in old mosques is extensive. Let us mention only a few examples, like the Big Mosque of Maarrát el Numan from the thirteenth century, the small Ottoman sixteenth century mosque of Apamea, and the Umari mosque in Dara’a.

Special attention should be given to the martyr city of Homs, where a large portion of the historic quarters has been ravaged: private houses from the Ottoman period, hammams as well as the old souk. Homs can be brought forward as an example of a city whose historical heritage has been obliterated [Fig. 8].

However, this is not the first time that a tragedy such as this one takes place in Syria. Before 1982 Hama was described by the tourist guides as «one of the most picturesque cities in the country». The beauty of its historical quarters was compared to that of Aleppo. In 1982 an uprising of the Muslim Brothers brought about an extremely violent government reprisal. The military forces of Hafez al-Asad, founder of the dynasty and father of the current president, carried out a massacre of civilians. Between 10,000 (according to the lowest estimate) and 40,000 (highest estimate) inhabitants of the city perished. Old quarters were ravaged. The Umayyad mosque, contemporary of the one in Damascus, was bombed till it became a mass of rubble. Events in Hama were the precedent of the current tragedy, both from the human point of view and from that of heritage destruction.

 

4. Heritage of the Future

Hundreds of archaeological sites have not yet been excavated in Syria. The information they contain is waiting to be studied, as well as the still unknown historical treasures they have kept for millennia.

Illegal excavations have always taken place in the country, due to the richness of its archaeological remains. In recent years, the professionals of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria have endeavoured to preserve this heritage, both by protecting the sites and by developing adequate legislation. However, it has always been known that a certain degree of corruption has allowed the trafficking of antiquities to be a permanent reality. At times this illegal trafficking has been carried out with the connivance of individuals in high positions, like Rifat al-Asad, brother of Hafez. It is well known that he organised the trafficking of antiquities that found their way out of the country through the ports of Tartous and Lattakie.

The items that end up in this kind of trafficking are mostly obtained by illegal excavations. These digs are disastrous for three reasons:

1. They destroy the stratigraphy of a site and the archaeological context, causing loss of all the scientific data that they contain as well as all historical information.

2. Out of their context objects lose a large part of their historical and scientific value since the clues we could have to understand their meaning, function and use have disappeared.

3. The objects themselves are lost, depriving citizens of part of their heritage.

The current situation in Syria, with large regions lacking any monitoring on the part of the authorities has created an open field for clandestine diggers. Illegal activities of this kind have been reported from major sites like Apamea, Palmyra and the dead cities.

However, the lack of information about extensive areas of the country, where rich archaeological sites lay in the middle of fields far away from any city or village, raises the question that can be considered our biggest concern: what will be the actual degree of destruction we will find once the conflict is over and we go to the field to check the real situation of Syrian historical heritage?

 

[Fig. 1] Clandestine excavations at the archaeological area of Sarmada, Limestone Massif.
[Fig. 2] Different moments of the bombing of Apamea’s citadel.
[Fig. 3] Bosra, consequences of shelling on Roman architecture.
[Fig. 4] Museum of Ma’arat el Nooman. Major damage to the building and the archaeological items.
[Fig. 5] Souk of Deir ez-Zor, before and after the bombing.
[Fig. 6] Souk of Aleppo, before and after the fire.
[Fig. 7] Damages caused by shelling at the entrance of Aleppo’s citadel.
[Fig. 8] Consequences of the fight in the old quarters of Homs.


NOTE
[1
]
The group Endangered Syrian Archaeological Heritage has been publishing the information received from Syria in a Facebook page where the reader can find data, images and videos on the situation and the destruction of sites, monuments and museums: <http://www.facebook.com/Archeologie.syrienne>.
[2]
One can refer to a large amount of exhibitions and related books enhancing the matrix role of this geographical area. See Au pays de Baal et d’Astarté: 10000 ans d’art en Syrie, catalogue d’exposition (Paris 1983-1984), édité par P. Amiet, Paris, 1983; Syrie, mémoire et civilisation, catalogue d’exposition (Paris 1993-1994), édité par S. Cluzan et J. Mouliérac, Paris, 1993; Syrie, Terre de civilisations, édité par M. Fortin, Québec, 1999.
[3]
Quantities of recent studies deal with the question of sedentism, food production and related symbolic phenomena. One of the school followed Jacques Cauvin’s initial works, indicating a strong correlation between subsistence production control and changes in symbolic behaviours of the groups, see J. Cauvin, Naissance des divinités, naissance de l’agriculture. La révolution des symboles au Néolithique, Paris,1994.
[4]
A complete approach of this historical step being analyzed as the result of a Mesopotamian expansion has first been proposed by G. Algaze, The Uruk World System. The Dynamics of Expansion of Early Mesopotamian Civilization, Chicago, 1993. More recent works demonstrate that the so-called colonisation of Middle Euphrates and northern Syrian or Mesopotamian areas by a southern Mesopotamian civilization doesn’t bring to light what was a far more complex and global historical change.
[5]
See the collective publication Les débuts de l’histoire. Le Proche-Orient de l’invention de l’écriture à la naissance du monothéisme, édité par P. Bordreuil, F. Briquel-Chatonnet et C. Michel, Paris, 2008.
[6]
A good comprehensive vision of the history of Syria during the Hellenistic and Roman periods can be found in M. Sartre, D’Alexandre à Zénobie. Histoire du Levant antique, IVe siècle avant Jésus-Christ-IIIe siècle après Jésus-Christ, Paris, 2001.
[7]
For more information on the history of Damascus and Syria during the Middle Ages, see R. Burns, Damascus, a History, London-New York, 2007.
[8]
The history of Ottoman Syria has not been as deeply studied as the previous periods. However, a good approach to the provinces of the Turkish Empire can be found in C. Imber, The Ottoman Empire,1330-1650. The Structure of Power, Basingtoke, 2002.
[9]
One of the most comprehensive works about Syrian archaeological sites and museums published so far is R. Burns, Monuments of Syria, London-New York, 1992. For the archaeology of the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, see in particular Archéologie et histoire de la Syrie. II. La Syrie de l’époque achéménide à l’avènement de l’Islam, édité par J.M. Dentzer et W. Orthmann, Saarbrücken, 1989.
[10]
See <www.facebook.com/Archeologie.syrienne>.