Background:

The museum collection observations in this website are all from 2011. As a result of the war in Syria, Palmyra experienced widespread looting and damage by combatants. On 13 May 2015, ISIL launched an attack on the modern town of Tadmur. Following to ISIL offense a number of Greco-Roman busts, jewelry, and other objects looted from the museum have been found on the international market. On 18 August, Palmyra’s retired antiquities chief Khaled al-Asaad was beheaded by ISIL after being tortured for a month to extract information about the city and its treasures; al-Asaad refused to give any information to his captors

Syrian government forces recaptured Palmyra on 27 March 2016 after intense fighting against ISIL fighters. According to initial reports, the damage to the archaeological site was less extensive than anticipated, with numerous structures still standing.

The Palmyra museum during Isil;

On 21 May, and hours before ISIL entering the city, some artifacts were transported from the Palmyra museum to Damascus for safekeeping, however there was almost no information of what items has been brought to Damascus or which were left.

No reports revealed the actual condition of the museum during ISIL control (May 21st 2015 – March 27th 2016). On June 27th 2015, The Lion of Al-lāt which is an ancient statue that adorned the Temple of Al-Lat in Palmyra, was severely damaged by the Islamic state.

The first museum footage arrived after the recapturing of Palmyra by the Syrian government forces, the footage showed that a significant amount of the museum collection were still in the museum and those survived the looting has suffered grave damage.

Significance

Palmyra ( Tadmor; Arabic: تَدْمُر‎ Tadmur) is located in modern Syria in the middle of the desolate Syrian desert (Al Badya). The city owed its existence to the spring called Afqa. All around are natural barriers, dry and bare mountains to the north, west and southwest (the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mts, while to the east and south are dry flatlands, with the volcanic basalt desert of the Hauran merging into Jordan and to the southeast into Iraq and then Saudi Arabia. To the east, beyond the desert with its wadi and passes, runs the Euphrates River, but rather than being a barrier, it permitted traffic by the river to come in through the Persian Gulf from northwest India and beyond. The Tadmorean mountain range is making a semi-straight line cutting the Syrian Badua from the point of the south-west to Northeast towards the Euphrates. That meant that roads either went north or south. The southern one came through Palmyra which then became the hub of a series of roads. Thus geographically Palmyra was well-served to become an important center of trade if the decision were made to cross this desert rather than take the longer route around it.
The city grew wealthy from trade caravans; the Palmyrenes became renowned as merchants who established colonies along the Silk Road and operated throughout the Roman Empire. Palmyra’s wealth enabled the construction of monumental projects, such as the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs. Ethnically, the Palmyrenes combined elements of Amorites, Arameans, and Arabs. Its inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic), while using Greek for commercial and diplomatic purposes. Greco-Roman culture influenced the culture of Palmyra, which produced distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western traditions. The city’s inhabitants worshiped local Syrian-Mesopotamian deities and Arab gods.

By the third century AD Palmyra had become a prosperous regional center. It reached the apex of its power in the 260s, when the Palmyrene King Odaenathus defeated Persian Emperor Shapur I. The king was succeeded by regent Queen Zenobia, who rebelled against Rome and established the Palmyrene Empire. In 273, Roman emperor Aurelian destroyed the city, which was later restored by Diocletian at a reduced size. The Palmyrenes converted to Christianity during the fourth century and to Islam in the centuries following the conquest by the 7th-century Rashidun Caliphate, after which the Palmyrene and Greek languages were replaced by Arabic.

Who And Why

Syrian antiquities and artifacts are a part of the world’s human heritage as much as they are a part of our collective memory as Syrians; they provide evidence of the diversity of Syrian society throughout history. Protecting these antiquities, their neutrality and keeping them safe from conflict is everybody’s responsibility.
Our initiative aims to support these ideas, highlight our common bonds and ultimately contribute to peace-building.

Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed” (UNESCO’s Constitution)

This page has been created to spotlight the most important artifacts in the Archaeological Museum of Palmyra. It is not related to any official entity associated with the museum. Photo sources are noted as appropriate.

Other Projects by Mirath

The National Museum of Aleppo. Sheds light on the collection of the National Museum of Aleppo. https://www.facebook.com/National.Museum.Aleppo/timeline
The National Museum of Damascus. Sheds light on the collection of the National Museum of Damascus. https://www.facebook.com/Dam.Nationalmuseum
Syria’s Expat Artifacts. Highlights Syrian artifacts displayed in museums and galleries outside of Syria. https://www.facebook.com/Syria.Expat.Artifacts/timeline