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Impressively Large Jade Pendant with Unique Inscription Discovered in Belize

Impressively Large Jade Pendant with Unique Inscription Discovered in Belize

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A group of archaeologists have discovered in Belize a large, carved jade pendant that once belonged to an ancient Maya king, inscribed with a historical text delineating its first owner. The newly found object is carved in a T shape, which experts suggest that signifies “wind and breath”, and would have been worn on the king’s chest during ceremonies. The finds also include a vessel with a beaked face believed to depict a Maya god of wind.

Second Largest Maya Jade Relic Found in Belize

The jewel was first uncovered in 2015, in Nim Li Punit in southern Belize. The T-shaped pendant is considered of extraordinary archaeological value for being the second largest Maya jade artifact found in Belize to date. Geoffrey Braswell, director of the excavations and professor at University of California, San Diego, suggests in a paper he recently published in the Cambridge University journal Ancient Mesoamerica that, "It was like finding the Hope Diamond in Peoria instead of New York. We would expect something like it in one of the big cities of the Maya world. Instead, here it was, far from the center,” Braswell said as Phys Org reports .

In the movie ‘Apocalypto’, a Maya king is shown wearing a large pendant during a ceremony.

The Jewel “Spoke” to the Archaeologists

The 7.4-inch-wide, 4.1-inch-long pendant is just 0.3 inches thick, and researchers claim that sawing it into this slim shape would have been a feat in itself. Its sculptors would have used just string, fat, and jade dust. However, what makes this pedant truly significant from an archaeological point of view is that it is the only known jewel to be inscribed with a historical text, with 30 hieroglyphs describing its first owner carved into the back. "It literally speaks to us. The story it tells is a short but important one." Braswell said and added that this discovery could even change what we know about the Mayan civilization. Braswell also explained that fortunately the pendant was not torn out of history by looters, “To find it on a legal expedition, in context, gives us information about the site and the jewel that we couldn’t have otherwise had or maybe even imagined,” he said.

UC San Diego archaeologist Geoffrey Braswell holds a replica of the Maya jade pendant. Credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications.

There’s More to Learn from the Inscription on the Pendant

Christian Prager of the University of Bonn, a co-author on the paper, is currently examining closely the inscription on the pendant. According to Prager and Braswell, the jewel was possibly made for the king Janaab' Ohl K'inich and the hieroglyphs describe the king's parentage. The text, according to Braswell, also describes the accession rites of the king in the year 647, and ends with a passage that could link the king to the powerful city of Caracol in modern day Belize. The researchers don’t think the pendent was stolen, but may instead indicate the arrival of royalty at Nim Li Punit, revealing the founding of a new dynasty.

No solid conclusions can be made at this point, due to the fact that Mayan script itself is not yet fully deciphered. Many scientists have intensely disagreed before regarding Mayan culture and scripts.

The Significance of Weather for Maya Culture

The team of researchers discovered the jewel during an excavation of a palace built around the year 400 AD. Inside a tomb, which dates to about 800, they found twenty-five pottery vessels, a large stone that had been flaked into the shape of a deity, and the jade pectoral. With the exception of some teeth, there were no human remains. The T-shaped pendent also has a T carved on the front the Mayan glyph ‘ik,’ which according to the experts stands for “wind and breath.” Wind was important in Maya culture, as it brought monsoon rains that favored crops to thrive, “A recent theory is that climate change caused droughts that led to the widespread failure of agriculture and the collapse of Maya civilization. The dedication of this tomb at that time of crisis to the wind god who brings the annual rains lends support to this theory, and should remind us all about the danger of climate change,” Braswell told Phys Org.

Despite the fact that we may never learn all the details we need to know about this rare pendant, Braswell reassures that he and his team plan to return to the site during the spring of this year and do further research which may help us to understand better the usage and significance of this unique jewel.

Altun Ha

Altun Ha is located 31 miles north of Belize City on the Old Northern Highway. A two-mile dirt road connects the main road to the site. The area around the Altun Ha is rich in wildlife including armadillos, bats, squirrels, agouti, paca, foxes, raccoons, coati, tapir and the white-tailed deer. Two hundred species of birds have been recorded and there are large crocodiles that inhabit the Maya-made water reservoir.

Altun Ha was a wealthy ceremonial center boasting two main plazas, thirteen structures (including the Temple of Sun God or the Temple of the Masonry Altars). Altun Ha is not very far from the Caribbean Sea and it formed part of a unique cultural zone along with other coastal sites. There are also no stelae at Altun Ha but the discovery of rich tombs indicates that the ruling elite enjoyed access to substantial amounts of exotic goods.

Another interesting part of this site is the presence of a large, water reservoir called “Rockstone Pond”. The bottom of this reservoir is lined with yellow clay giving the bottom firmness capable of retaining water.

A Pendant Fit for a King

T o say that UC San Diego archaeologist Geoffrey Braswell was surprised to discover a precious jewel in Nim Li Punit in southern Belize is something of an understatement.

“It was like finding the Hope Diamond in Peoria instead of New York,” said Braswell, who led the dig that uncovered a large piece of carved jade once belonging to an ancient Maya king. “We would expect something like it in one of the big cities of the Maya world. Instead, here it was, far from the center,” he said.

The jewel—a jade pendant worn on a king’s chest during key religious ceremonies—was first unearthed in 2015. It is now housed at the Central Bank of Belize, along with other national treasures. Braswell recently published a paper in the Cambridge University journal Ancient Mesoamerica detailing the jewel’s significance. A second paper, in the Journal of Field Archaeology, describes the excavations.

Three of the objects buried together by the Maya around A.D. 800. Why were they entombed? Field and artifact photos courtesy Braswell.

The pendant is remarkable for being the second largest Maya jade found in Belize to date, said Braswell, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego. The pendant measures 7.4 inches wide, 4.1 inches high and just 0.3 inches thick. Sawing it into this thin, flat form with string, fat and jade dust would have been a technical feat. But what makes the pendant even more remarkable, Braswell said, is that it’s the only one known to be inscribed with a historical text. Carved into the pendant’s back are 30 hieroglyphs about its first owner.

“It literally speaks to us,” Braswell said. “The story it tells is a short but important one.” He believes it may even change what we know about the Maya.

Also important: The pendant was “not torn out of history by looters,” said Braswell. “To find it on a legal expedition, in context, gives us information about the site and the jewel that we couldn’t have otherwise had or maybe even imagined.”

Where the jewel was found

Nim Li Punit is a small site in the Toledo District of Belize. It sits on a ridge in the Maya Mountains, near the contemporary village of Indian Creek. Eight different types of parrot fly overhead. It rains nine months of the year.

Nim Li Punit was abandoned within a generation of the construction of the tomb that held the jade pendant.

On the southeastern edge of the ancient Maya zone (more than 250 miles south of Chichen Itza in Mexico, where similar but smaller breast pieces have been found), Nim Li Punit is estimated to have been inhabited between A.D. 150 and 850. The site’s name means “big hat.” It was dubbed that, after its rediscovery in 1976, for the elaborate headdress sported by one of its stone figures. Its ancient name might be Wakam or Kawam, but this is not certain.

Braswell, UC San Diego graduate students Maya Azarova and Mario Borrero, along with a crew of local people, were excavating a palace built around the year 400 when they found a collapsed, but intact, tomb. Inside the tomb, which dates to about A.D. 800, were 25 pottery vessels, a large stone that had been flaked into the shape of a deity and the precious jade pectoral. Except for a couple of teeth, there were no human remains.

What was it doing there?

The pendant is in the shape of a T. Its front is carved with a T also. This is the Mayan glyph “ik’,” which stands for “wind and breath.” It was buried, Braswell said, in a curious, T-shaped platform. And one of the pots discovered with it, a vessel with a beaked face, probably depicts a Maya god of wind.

The most important aspect of the jewel, Braswell says, is a historical text of 30 hieroglyphs on its back, a private message seen mostly by the king who wore it.

Wind was seen as vital by the Maya. It brought annual monsoon rains that made the crops grow. And Maya kings—as divine rulers responsible for the weather—performed rituals according to their sacred calendar, burning and scattering incense to bring on the wind and life-giving rains. According to the inscription on its back, Braswell said, the pendant was first used in A.D. 672 in just such a ritual.

Two relief sculptures on large rock slabs at Nim Li Punit also corroborate that use. In both sculptures, a king is shown wearing the T-shaped pendant while scattering incense, in A.D. 721 and 731, some 50 and 60 years after the pendant was first worn.

By the year A.D. 800, the pendant was buried, not with its human owner, it seems, but just with other objects. Why? The pendant wasn’t a bauble, Braswell said, “it had immense power and magic.” Could it have been buried as a dedication to the wind god? That’s Braswell’s educated hunch.

Maya kingdoms were collapsing throughout Belize and Guatemala around A.D. 800, Braswell said. Population levels plummeted. Within a generation of the construction of the tomb, Nim Li Punit itself was abandoned.

“A recent theory is that climate change caused droughts that led to the widespread failure of agriculture and the collapse of Maya civilization,” Braswell said. “The dedication of this tomb at that time of crisis to the wind god who brings the annual rains lends support to this theory, and should remind us all about the danger of climate change.”

Still and again: What was it doing there?

The inscription on the back of the pendant is perhaps the most intriguing thing about it, Braswell said. The text is still being analyzed by Braswell’s coauthor on the Ancient Mesoamerica paper, Christian Prager of the University of Bonn. And Mayan script itself is not yet fully deciphered or agreed upon.

Graduate student Mario Borrero excavates the substructure of the palace building which held the tomb.

But Prager and Braswell’s interpretation of the text so far is this: The jewel was made for the king Janaab’ Ohl K’inich. In addition to noting the pendant’s first use in A.D. 672 for an incense-scattering ceremony, the hieroglyphs describe the king’s parentage. His mother, the text implies, was from Cahal Pech, a distant site in western Belize. The king’s father died before aged 20 and may have come from somewhere in Guatemala.

It also describes the accession rites of the king in A.D. 647, Braswell said, and ends with a passage that possibly links the king to the powerful and immense Maya city of Caracol, located in modern-day Belize.

“It tells a political story far from Nim Li Punit,” Braswell said. He notes that Cahal Pech, the mother’s birthplace, for example, is 60 miles away. That’s a five-hour bus ride today, and back then would have been many days’ walk—through rainforest and across mountains. How did the pendant come to this outpost?

While it’s possible it had been stolen from an important place and whisked away to the provinces, Braswell doesn’t think so. He believes the pendant is telling us about the arrival of royalty at Nim Li Punit, the founding of a new dynasty. The writing on the pendant is not particularly old by Maya standards, but it’s the oldest found at Nim Li Punit so far, Braswell said. It’s also only after the pendant’s arrival that other hieroglyphs and images of royalty begin to show up on the site’s stelae, or sculptured stone slabs.

It could be that king Janaab’ Ohl K’inich himself moved to Nim Li Punit, Braswell said. Or it could be that a great Maya state was trying to ally with the provinces, expand its power or curry favor by presenting a local king with the jewel. Either way, Braswell believes, the writing on the pendant indicates ties that had been previously unknown.

“We didn’t think we’d find royal, political connections to the north and the west of Nim Li Punit,” said Braswell, who has been excavating in Belize since 2001 and at Nim Li Punit since 2010. “We thought if there were any at all that they’d be to the south and east.”

Even if you ignore the writing and its apparent royal provenance, the jade stone itself is from the mountains of Guatemala, southwest of Belize. There are few earlier indications of trade in that direction either, Braswell said.

We may never know exactly why the pendant came to Nim Li Punit or why it was buried as it was, but Braswell’s project to understand the site continues. He plans to return in the spring of 2017. This time, he also wants to see if he might discover a tie to the Caribbean Sea. After all, that’s a mere 12 miles downriver, a four-hour trip by canoe.


We describe a remarkable artifact discovered during our 2015 excavations at the Maya site of Nim li Punit, Belize. It is a T-shaped jade pectoral worn on the chest by ancient Maya kings during rites in which they scattered copal incense (Figure 1). These rituals are described or depicted on six carved stone monuments (stelae) at the site. What is more, two stelae at the site depict rulers wearing the pectoral. The reverse side of the jade contains a long historical hieroglyphic text. Had the piece been recovered by illegal means and ended up in a private collection, much of the text would make little sense and it could not possibly be ascribed to Nim li Punit. The priceless worth of the Nim li Punit pectoral, therefore, lies not only in its hieroglyphic inscription but also in its known archaeological context and contemporary images of its use. We briefly describe that context and present a translation of the important text on the jade pectoral, which we interpret as a “wind jewel.”

Written by Janelle Cowo on September 26, 2016

Throughout the years, more and more discoveries are being made by archaeologists studying the ancient Maya civilization in Belize. Even though Belize has hundreds of archaeological sites throughout the country, only a few have been explored, with excavation still ongoing at many.

One such site is Nim Li Punit, located in the Toledo District. Also known as “The Big Hat”, this archaeological reserve sits on 121.32 acres of land and is considered one of the smallest sites in the country.

While Nim Li Punit does not have elaborate temple, it does have some of the most unique stelae found in Belize

I have been to Nim Li Punit three times, and on my most recent visit I learned that less than 50% of the entire reserve has been excavated! The site has already produced significant discoveries and some findings haven’t been fully analyzed – I can only imagine what lies hidden beneath the remaining layers of soil!

The story of Nim Li Punit is found within these stelae

Nim Li Punit is regarded as a ceremonial center consisting of two plazas, one higher than the other. The largest structure is 33-40 feet above the plaza level and is constructed of dry sandstone.

One of the many Plazas found at Nim Li Punit

You won’t find defined temples at Nim Li Punit, mostly there are mounds, and many are not allowed to be climbed on for safety reasons.
However, it’s not the structures that make Nim Li Punit so intriguing. Rather, it is the discoveries made there. Archaeologist have found 25 stelae, of which eight are carved. Those carved stelae tell the story of the site and many secrets of the Maya civilization.

Ceremonial pottery found at Nim Li Punit are elaborately carved and painted

The most recent discovery was in May 2015 when a jade pendant was found. It is believed to be one of the most significant finds in Belize. The major find of 26 ceramic pots and several jade pieces also sheds new light on the Maya world, revealing the story of a powerful ruler and a ritual sacrifice.
However, Nim Li Punit is not the only site shaking the archaeology world in Belize. Just this year, archaeologists excavating at Xunantunich Archaeological Reserve in the Cayo District uncovered the largest tomb ever found in Belize. The discovery sheds new light into the history of the important ceremonial centre, which became one of the most powerful in the region.

Xunantunich is home to the tallest structure in Belize

Archaeologist Dr. Jaime Awe explained that skeletal remains of a Maya ruler were found inside the beautifully styled tomb which dates back to the Late Classic Period. More tests need to be done in order to confirm the time period, but what makes the find even more impressive are the objects found near the skeleton. Awe explained that the person was buried and adorned with pots, vases, jade beads and even with remains of what appears to be a wild animal.

The recent discover at Xunantunich has she new light into the life of the Ancient Maya in Belize

Although archaeologists are unravelling more about Xunantunich through this scribal room, the sacred burial site and the panel, there is still much to be found and researched. Who knows what other secrets are yet to be discovered regarding the ancient Maya civilization in Belize!
Visit Nim Li Punit and Xunantunich: Open 365 days in the year from 8AM to 5PM. A $5 fee is charged for Belizean visitors, while non-Belizeans are charged $10. All Belizeans enter the archaeological site for FREE on Sundays and Public & Bank Holidays.

About the Author: Janelle Cowo

The youngest member of the My Beautiful Belize family, Janelle loves traveling and experiencing new cultures both within and across the border of Belize. She particularly enjoys history and is an avid Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance reader. What she lacks in stature, Janelle has (and even surpasses) in spirit for adventure. She is willing to try pretty much anything, from daring jumps to new eats. Janelle lives her life according to Mae West quote “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”


Tomb is a general term for any repository for human remains, while grave goods are other objects which have been placed within the tomb. [2] Such objects may include the personal possessions of the deceased, objects specially created for the burial, or miniature versions of things believed to be needed in an afterlife. Knowledge of many non-literate cultures is drawn largely from these sources.

A tumulus, mound, kurgan, or long barrow covered important burials in many cultures, and the body may be placed in a sarcophagus, usually of stone, or a coffin, usually of wood. A mausoleum is a building erected mainly as a tomb, taking its name from the Mausoleum of Mausolus at Halicarnassus. Stele is a term for erect stones that are often what are now called gravestones. Ship burials are mostly found in coastal Europe, while chariot burials are found widely across Eurasia. Catacombs, of which the most famous examples are those in Rome and Alexandria, are underground cemeteries connected by tunnelled passages. A large group of burials with traces remaining above ground can be called a necropolis if there are no such visible structures, it is a grave field. A cenotaph is a memorial without a burial. [3]

The word "funerary" strictly means "of or pertaining to a funeral or burial", [4] but there is a long tradition in English of applying it not only to the practices and artefacts directly associated with funeral rites, but also to a wider range of more permanent memorials to the dead. Particularly influential in this regard was John Weever's Ancient Funerall Monuments (1631), the first full-length book to be dedicated to the subject of tomb memorials and epitaphs. More recently, some scholars have challenged the usage: Phillip Lindley, for example, makes a point of referring to "tomb monuments", saying "I have avoided using the term 'funeral monuments' because funeral effigies were, in the Middle Ages, temporary products, made as substitutes for the encoffined corpse for use during the funeral ceremonies". [5] Others, however, have found this distinction "rather pedantic". [6]

Related genres of commemorative art for the dead take many forms, such as the moai figures of Easter Island, apparently a type of sculpted ancestor portrait, though hardly individualized. [7] These are common in cultures as diverse as Ancient Rome and China, in both of which they are kept in the houses of the descendants, rather than being buried. [8] Many cultures have psychopomp figures, such as the Greek Hermes and Etruscan Charun, who help conduct the spirits of the dead into the afterlife.

Pre-history Edit

Most of humanity's oldest known archaeological constructions are tombs. [9] Mostly megalithic, the earliest instances date to within a few centuries of each other, yet show a wide diversity of form and purpose. Tombs in the Iberian peninsula have been dated through thermoluminescence to c. 4510 BCE, and some burials at the Carnac stones in Brittany also date back to the fifth millennium BCE. [10] The commemorative value of such burial sites are indicated by the fact that, at some stage, they became elevated, and that the constructs, almost from the earliest, sought to be monumental. This effect was often achieved by encapsulating a single corpse in a basic pit, surrounded by an elaborate ditch and drain. Over-ground commemoration is thought to be tied to the concept of collective memory, and these early tombs were likely intended as a form of ancestor-worship, a development available only to communities that had advanced to the stage of settled livestock and formed social roles and relationships and specialized sectors of activity. [11]

In Neolithic and Bronze Age societies, a great variety of tombs are found, with tumulus mounds, megaliths, and pottery as recurrent elements. In Eurasia, a dolmen is the exposed stone framework for a chamber tomb originally covered by earth to make a mound which no longer exists. Stones may be carved with geometric patterns (petroglyphs), for example cup and ring marks. Group tombs were made, the social context of which is hard to decipher. Urn burials, where bones are buried in a pottery container, either in a more elaborate tomb, or by themselves, are widespread, by no means restricted to the Urnfield culture which is named after them, or even to Eurasia. Menhirs, or "standing stones", seem often to mark graves or serve as memorials, [12] while the later runestones and image stones often are cenotaphs, or memorials apart from the grave itself these continue into the Christian period. The Senegambian stone circles are a later African form of tomb markers. [13]

Ancient Egypt and Nubia Edit

Egyptian funerary art was inseparable to the religious belief that life continued after death and that "death is a mere phase of life". [14] Aesthetic objects and images connected with this belief were partially intended to preserve material goods, wealth and status for the journey between this life and the next, [15] and to "commemorate the life of the tomb owner . depict performance of the burial rites, and in general present an environment that would be conducive to the tomb owner's rebirth." [16] In this context are the Egyptian mummies encased in one or more layers of decorated coffin, and the canopic jars preserving internal organs. A special category of Ancient Egyptian funerary texts clarify the purposes of the burial customs. The early mastaba type of tomb had a sealed underground burial chamber but an offering-chamber on the ground level for visits by the living, a pattern repeated in later types of tomb. A Ka statue effigy of the deceased might be walled up in a serdab connected to the offering chamber by vents that allowed the smell of incense to reach the effigy. [17] The walls of important tomb-chambers and offering chambers were heavily decorated with reliefs in stone or sometimes wood, or paintings, depicting religious scenes, portraits of the deceased, and at some periods vivid images of everyday life, depicting the afterlife. The chamber decoration usually centred on a "false door", through which only the soul of the deceased could pass, to receive the offerings left by the living. [18]

Representational art, such as portraiture of the deceased, is found extremely early on and continues into the Roman period in the encaustic Faiyum funerary portraits applied to coffins. However, it is still hotly debated whether there was realistic portraiture in Ancient Egypt. [19] The purpose of the life-sized reserve heads found in burial shafts or tombs of nobles of the Fourth dynasty is not well understood they may have been a discreet method of eliding an edict by Khufu forbidding nobles from creating statues of themselves, or may have protected the deceased's spirit from harm or magically eliminated any evil in it, or perhaps functioned as alternate containers for the spirit if the body should be harmed in any way. [20]

Architectural works such as the massive Great Pyramid and two smaller ones built during the Old Kingdom in the Giza Necropolis and (much later, from about 1500 BCE) the tombs in the Valley of the Kings were built for royalty and the elite. The Theban Necropolis was later an important site for mortuary temples and mastaba tombs. The Kushite kings who conquered Egypt and ruled as pharaohs during the Twenty-fifth dynasty were greatly influenced by Egyptian funerary customs, employing mummification, canopic jars and ushabti funerary figurines. They also built the Nubian pyramids, which in both size and design more closely resemble the smaller Seventeenth dynasty pyramids at Thebes than those of the Old Kingdom near Memphis. [21]

Lower-class citizens used common forms of funerary art—including shabti figurines (to perform any labor that might be required of the dead person in the afterlife), models of the scarab beetle and funerary texts—which they believed would protect them in the afterlife. [22] During the Middle Kingdom, miniature wooden or clay models depicting scenes from everyday life became popular additions to tombs. In an attempt to duplicate the activities of the living in the afterlife, these models show laborers, houses, boats and even military formations which are scale representations of the ideal ancient Egyptian afterlife. [23]

Ancient Greece Edit

The ancient Greeks did not generally leave elaborate grave goods, except for a coin to pay Charon, the ferryman to Hades, and pottery however the epitaphios or funeral oration from which the word epitaph comes was regarded as of great importance, and animal sacrifices were made. Those who could afford them erected stone monuments, which was one of the functions of kouros statues in the Archaic period before about 500 BCE. These were not intended as portraits, but during the Hellenistic period, realistic portraiture of the deceased was introduced and family groups were often depicted in bas-relief on monuments, usually surrounded by an architectural frame. [24] The walls of tomb chambers were often painted in fresco, although few examples have survived in as good condition as the Tomb of the Diver from southern Italy or the tombs at Vergina in Macedon. Almost the only surviving painted portraits in the classical Greek tradition are found in Egypt rather than Greece. The Fayum mummy portraits, from the very end of the classical period, were portrait faces, in a Graeco-Roman style, attached to mummies. [25]

Early Greek burials were frequently marked above ground by a large piece of pottery, and remains were also buried in urns. Pottery continued to be used extensively inside tombs and graves throughout the classical period. [26] The great majority of surviving ancient Greek pottery is recovered from tombs some was apparently items used in life, but much of it was made specifically for placing in tombs, and the balance between the two original purposes is controversial. The larnax is a small coffin or ash-chest, usually of decorated terracotta. The two-handled loutrophoros was primarily associated with weddings, as it was used to carry water for the nuptial bath. However, it was also placed in the tombs of the unmarried, "presumably to make up in some way for what they had missed in life." [27] The one-handled lekythos had many household uses, but outside the household, its principal use was the decoration of tombs. [28] Scenes of a descent to the underworld of Hades were often painted on these, with the dead depicted beside Hermes, Charon or both—though usually only with Charon. [29] Small pottery figurines are often found, though it is hard to decide if these were made especially for placement in tombs in the case of the Hellenistic Tanagra figurines, this seems probably not the case. [30] But silverware is more often found around the fringes of the Greek world, as in the royal Macedonian tombs of Vergina, or in the neighbouring cultures such as those of Thrace or the Scythians. [31]

The extension of the Greek world after the conquests of Alexander the Great brought peoples with different tomb-making traditions into the Hellenistic sphere, resulting in new formats for art in Greek styles. [32] A generation before Alexander, Mausolus was a Hellenized satrap or semi-independent ruler under the Persian Empire, whose enormous tomb (begun 353 BCE) was wholly exceptional in the Greek world—together with the Pyramids it was the only tomb to be included in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The exact form of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which gave the name to the form, is now unclear, and there are several alternative reconstructions that seek to reconcile the archaeological evidence with descriptions in literature. [33] It had the size and some elements of the design of the Greek temple, but was much more vertical, with a square base and a pyramidal roof. There were quantities of large sculpture, of which most of the few surviving pieces are now in the British Museum. [34] Other local rulers adapted the high-relief temple frieze for very large sarcophagi, starting a tradition which was to exert a great influence on Western art up to 18th-century Neo-Classicism. The late 4th-century Alexander Sarcophagus was in fact made for another Hellenized Eastern ruler, one of a number of important sarcophagi found at Sidon in the modern Lebanon. The two long sides show Alexander's great victory at the Battle of Issus and a lion hunt such violent scenes were common on ostentatious classical sarcophagi from this period onwards, with a particular revival in Roman art of the 2nd century. More peaceful mythological scenes were popular on smaller sarcophagi, especially of Bacchus. [35]

Etruscans Edit

Objects connected with death, in particular sarcophagi and cinerary urns, form the basis of much of current knowledge of the ancient Etruscan civilization and its art, which once competed with the culture of ancient Rome, but was eventually absorbed into it. [36] The sarcophagi and the lids of the urns often incorporate a reclining image of the deceased. The reclining figures in some Etruscan funerary art are shown using the mano cornuta to protect the grave. [37]

The motif of the funerary art of the 7th and 6th centuries BCE was typically a feasting scene, sometimes with dancers and musicians, or athletic competitions. Household bowls, cups, and pitchers are sometimes found in the graves, along with food such as eggs, pomegranates, honey, grapes and olives for use in the afterlife. [38] [39] From the 5th century, the mood changed to more somber and gruesome scenes of parting, where the deceased are shown leaving their loved ones, [40] often surrounded by underworld demons, and psychopomps, such as Charun or the winged female Vanth. The underworld figures are sometimes depicted as gesturing impatiently for a human to be taken away. [41] The handshake was another common motif, as the dead took leave of the living. [41] This often took place in front of or near a closed double doorway, presumably the portal to the underworld. Evidence in some art, however, suggests that the "handshake took place at the other end of the journey, and represents the dead being greeted in the Underworld". [41]

Ancient Rome Edit

The burial customs of the ancient Romans were influenced by both of the first significant cultures whose territories they conquered as their state expanded, namely the Greeks of Magna Graecia and the Etruscans. [42] The original Roman custom was cremation, after which the burnt remains were kept in a pot, ash-chest or urn, often in a columbarium pre-Roman burials around Rome often used hut-urns—little pottery houses. [43] From about the 2nd century CE, inhumation (burial of unburnt remains) in sarcophagi, often elaborately carved, became more fashionable for those who could afford it. [44] Greek-style medallion portrait sculptures on a stela, or small mausoleum for the rich, housing either an urn or sarcophagus, were often placed in a location such as a roadside, where it would be very visible to the living and perpetuate the memory of the dead. Often a couple are shown, signifying a longing for reunion in the afterlife rather than a double burial (see married couple funerary reliefs). [45]

In later periods, life-size sculptures of the deceased reclining as though at a meal or social gathering are found, a common Etruscan style. Family tombs for the grandest late Roman families, like the Tomb of the Scipios, were large mausoleums with facilities for visits by the living, including kitchens and bedrooms. The Castel Sant'Angelo, built for Hadrian, was later converted into a fortress. Compared to the Etruscans, though, there was less emphasis on provision of a lifestyle for the deceased, although paintings of useful objects or pleasant activities, like hunting, are seen. [46] Ancestor portraits, usually in the form of wax masks, were kept in the home, apparently often in little cupboards, [47] although grand patrician families kept theirs on display in the atrium. They were worn in the funeral processions of members of the family by persons wearing appropriate costume for the figure represented, as described by Pliny the Elder and Polybius. Pliny also describes the custom of having a bust-portrait of an ancestor painted on a round bronze shield (clipeus), and having it hung in a temple or other public place. No examples of either type have survived. [48]

By the late Republic there was considerable competition among wealthy Romans for the best locations for tombs, which lined all the approach roads to the city up to the walls, and a variety of exotic and unusual designs sought to catch the attention of the passer-by and so perpetuate the memory of the deceased and increase the prestige of their family. Examples include the Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker, a freedman, the Pyramid of Cestius, and the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, all built within a few decades of the start of the Common Era. [49]

In Italy, sarcophagi were mostly intended to be set against the wall of the tomb, and only decorated on three sides, in contrast to the free-standing styles of Greece and the Eastern Empire. The relief scenes of Hellenistic art became even more densely crowded in later Roman sarcophagi, as for example in the 2nd-century Portonaccio sarcophagus, and various styles and forms emerged, such as the columnar type with an "architectural background of columns and niches for its figures". [50] A well-known Early Christian example is the Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, used for an important new convert who died in 359. Many sarcophagi from leading centres were exported around the Empire. [51] The Romans had already developed the expression of religious and philosophical ideas in narrative scenes from Greek mythology, treated allegorically [52] they later transferred this habit to Christian ideas, using biblical scenes. [53]

China Edit

Funerary art varied greatly across Chinese history. Tombs of early rulers rival the ancient Egyptians for complexity and value of grave goods, and have been similarly pillaged over the centuries by tomb robbers. For a long time, literary references to jade burial suits were regarded by scholars as fanciful myths, but a number of examples were excavated in the 20th century, and it is now believed that they were relatively common among early rulers. Knowledge of pre-dynastic Chinese culture has been expanded by spectacular discoveries at Sanxingdui and other sites. Very large tumuli could be erected, and later, mausoleums. Several special large shapes of Shang dynasty bronze ritual vessels were probably made for burial only large numbers were buried in elite tombs, while other sets remained above ground for the family to use in making offerings in ancestor veneration rituals. The Tomb of Fu Hao (c. BCE 1200) is one of the few undisturbed royal tombs of the period to have been excavated—most funerary art has appeared on the art market without archaeological context. [54]

The discovery in 1974 of the Terracotta army located the tomb of the First Qin Emperor (died 210 BCE), but the main tumulus, of which literary descriptions survive, has not been excavated. Remains surviving above ground from several imperial tombs of the Han dynasty show traditions maintained until the end of imperial rule. The tomb itself is an "underground palace" beneath a sealed tumulus surrounded by a wall, with several buildings set at some distance away down avenues for the observation of rites of veneration, and the accommodation of both permanent staff and those visiting to perform rites, as well as gateways, towers and other buildings.

Tang dynasty tomb figures, in "three-colour" sancai glazes or overglaze paint, show a wide range of servants, entertainers, animals and fierce tomb guardians between about 12 and 120 cm high, and were arranged around the tomb, often in niches along the sloping access path to the underground chamber.

Chinese imperial tombs are typically approached by a "spirit road", sometimes several kilometres long, lined by statues of guardian figures, based on both humans and animals. A tablet extolling the virtues of the deceased, mounted on a stone representation of Bixi in the form of a tortoise, is often the centerpiece of the ensemble. In Han tombs the guardian figures are mainly of "lions" and "chimeras" in later periods they are much more varied. [55] A looted tomb with fine paintings is the Empress Dowager Wenming tomb of the 5th century CE, and the many tombs of the 7th-century Tang dynasty Qianling Mausoleum group are an early example of a generally well-preserved ensemble. [56]

The Goguryeo tombs, from a kingdom of the 5th to 7th centuries which included modern Korea, are especially rich in paintings. Only one of the Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties has been excavated, in 1956, with such disastrous results for the conservation of the thousands of objects found, that subsequently the policy is to leave them undisturbed. [57]

The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum in Hong Kong displays a far humbler middle-class Han dynasty tomb, and the mid-2nd-century Wu Family tombs of Jiaxiang County, Shandong are the most important group of commoner tombs for funerary stones. [58] The walls of both the offering and burial chambers of tombs of commoners from the Han period may be decorated with stone slabs carved or engraved in very low relief with crowded and varied scenes, which are now the main indication of the style of the lost palace frescoes of the period. A cheaper option was to use large clay tiles which were carved or impressed before firing. [59] After the introduction of Buddhism, carved "funerary couches" featured similar scenes, now mostly religious. [60] During the Han Dynasty, miniature ceramic models of buildings were often made to accompany the deceased in the graves to them is owed much of what is known of ancient Chinese architecture. Later, during the Six Dynasties, sculptural miniatures depicting buildings, monuments, people and animals adorned the tops of the hunping funerary vessels. [61] The outsides of tombs often featured monumental brick or stone-carved pillar-gates (que 闕) an example from 121 CE appears to be the earliest surviving Chinese architectural structure standing above ground. [62] Tombs of the Tang Dynasty (618–907) are often rich in glazed pottery figurines of horses, servants and other subjects, whose forceful and free style is greatly admired today. The tomb art reached its peak in the Song and Jin periods most spectacular tombs were built by rich commoners. [63]

Early burial customs show a strong belief in an afterlife and a spirit path to it that needed facilitating. Funerals and memorials were also an opportunity to reaffirm such important cultural values as filial piety and "the honor and respect due to seniors, the duties incumbent on juniors" [64] The common Chinese funerary symbol of a woman in the door may represent a "basic male fantasy of an elysian afterlife with no restrictions: in all the doorways of the houses stand available women looking for newcomers to welcome into their chambers" [65] Han Dynasty inscriptions often describe the filial mourning for their subjects. [66]

Korea Edit

Murals painted on the walls of the Goguryeo tombs are examples of Korean painting from its Three Kingdoms era. Although thousands of these tombs have been found, only about 100 have murals. [67] These tombs are often named for the dominating theme of the murals—these include the Tomb of the Dancers, the Tomb of the Hunters, the Tomb of the Four Spirits, and the Tomb of the Wrestlers. [68] Heavenly bodies are a common motif, as are depictions of events from the lives of the royalty and nobles whose bodies had been entombed. The former include the sun, represented as a three-legged bird inside a wheel, [69] and the various constellations, including especially the Four directional constellations: the Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Tortoise of the North. [70]

The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty in Korea, built between 1408 and 1966, reflect a combination of Chinese and Japanese traditions, with a tomb mound, often surrounded by a screen wall of stone blocks, and sometimes with stone animal figures above ground, not unlike the Japanese haniwa figures (see below). There is usually one or more T-shaped shrine buildings some distance in front of the tomb, which is set in extensive grounds, usually with a hill behind them, and facing a view towards water and distant hills. They are still a focus for ancestor worship rituals. From the 15th century, they became more simple, while retaining a large landscape setting. [71]

Japan Edit

The Kofun period of Japanese history, from the 3rd to 6th centuries CE, is named after kofun, the often enormous keyhole-shaped Imperial mound-tombs, often on a moated island. None of these have ever been allowed to be excavated, so their possibly spectacular contents remain unknown. [72] Late examples which have been investigated, such as the Kitora Tomb, had been robbed of most of their contents, but the Takamatsuzuka Tomb retains mural paintings. Lower down the social scale in the same period, terracotta haniwa figures, as much as a metre high, were deposited on top of aristocratic tombs as grave markers, with others left inside, apparently representing possessions such as horses and houses for use in the afterlife. [73] Both kofun mounds and haniwa figures appear to have been discontinued as Buddhism became the dominant Japanese religion. [74]

Since then, Japanese tombs have been typically marked by elegant but simple rectangular vertical gravestones with inscriptions. Funerals are one of the areas in Japanese life where Buddhist customs are followed even by those who followed other traditions, such as Shinto. The bodaiji is a special and very common type of temple whose main purpose is as a venue for rites of ancestor worship, though it is often not the actual burial site. This was originally a custom of the feudal lords, but was adopted by other classes from about the 16th century. Each family would use a particular bodaiji over generations, and it might contain a second "grave" if the actual burial were elsewhere. Many later emperors, from the 13th to 19th centuries, are buried simply at the Imperial bodaiji, the Tsuki no wa no misasagi mausoleum in the Sennyū-ji temple at Kyoto. [75]

The Americas Edit

Unlike many Western cultures, that of Mesoamerica is generally lacking in sarcophagi, with a few notable exceptions such as that of Pacal the Great or the now-lost sarcophagus from the Olmec site of La Venta. Instead, most Mesoamerican funerary art takes the form of grave goods and, in Oaxaca, funerary urns holding the ashes of the deceased. Two well-known examples of Mesoamerican grave goods are those from Jaina Island, a Maya site off the coast of Campeche, and those associated with the Western Mexico shaft tomb tradition. The tombs of Mayan rulers can only normally be identified by inferences drawn from the lavishness of the grave goods and, with the possible exception of vessels made from stone rather than pottery, these appear to contain no objects specially made for the burial. [77]

The Jaina Island graves are noted for their abundance of clay figurines. Human remains within the roughly 1,000 excavated graves on the island (out of 20,000 total) [78] were found to be accompanied by glassware, slateware, or pottery, as well as one or more ceramic figurines, usually resting on the occupant's chest or held in their hands. The function of these figurines is not known: due to gender and age mismatches, they are unlikely to be portraits of the grave occupants, although the later figurines are known to be representations of goddesses. [79]

The so-called shaft tomb tradition of western Mexico is known almost exclusively from grave goods, which include hollow ceramic figures, obsidian and shell jewelry, pottery, and other items (see this Flickr photo for a reconstruction). Of particular note are the various ceramic tableaux including village scenes, for example, players engaged in a Mesoamerican ballgame. Although these tableaux may merely depict village life, it has been proposed that they instead (or also) depict the underworld. [80] Ceramic dogs are also widely known from looted tombs, and are thought by some to represent psychopomps (soul guides), [81] although dogs were often the major source of protein in ancient Mesoamerica. [82]

The Zapotec civilization of Oaxaca is particularly known for its clay funerary urns, such as the "bat god" shown at right. Numerous types of urns have been identified. [84] While some show deities and other supernatural beings, others seem to be portraits. Art historian George Kubler is particularly enthusiastic about the craftsmanship of this tradition:

No other American potters ever explored so completely the plastic conditions of wet clay or retained its forms so completely after firing . [they] used its wet and ductile nature for fundamental geometric modelling and cut the material, when half-dry, into smooth planes with sharp edges of an unmatched brilliance and suggestiveness of form. [85]

The Maya Naj Tunich cave tombs and other sites contain paintings, carved stelae, and grave goods in pottery, jade and metal, including death masks. In dry areas, many ancient textiles have been found in graves from South America's Paracas culture, which wrapped its mummies tightly in several layers of elaborately patterned cloth. Elite Moche graves, containing especially fine pottery, were incorporated into large adobe structures also used for human sacrifices, such as the Huaca de la Luna. Andean cultures such as the Sican often practiced mummification and left grave goods in precious metals with jewels, including tumi ritual knives and gold funerary masks, as well as pottery. The Mimbres of the Mogollon culture buried their dead with bowls on top of their heads and ceremonially "killed" each bowl with a small hole in the centre so that the deceased's spirit could rise to another world. Mimbres funerary bowls show scenes of hunting, gambling, planting crops, fishing, sexual acts and births. [86] Some of the North American mounds, such as Grave Creek Mound (c. 250–150 BCE) in West Virginia, functioned as burial sites, while others had different purposes. [87]

The earliest colonist graves were either unmarked, or had very simple timber headstone, with little order to their plotting, reflecting their Puritan origins. However, a tradition of visual funerary art began to develop c. 1640, providing insights into their views of death. The lack of artistry of the earliest known headstones reflects the puritan's stern religious doctrine. Late seventeenth century examples often show a death's head a stylized skull sometimes with wings or crossed bones, and other realistic imagery depicting humans decay into skulls, bones and dust. The style softened during the late 18th century as Unitarianism and Methodism became more popular. [88] Mid 18th century examples often show the deceased carried by the wings that would apparently take its soul to heaven. [89]

There is an enormous diversity of funeral art from traditional societies across the world, much of it in perishable materials, and some is mentioned elsewhere in the article. In traditional African societies, masks often have a specific association with death, and some types may be worn mainly or exclusively for funeral ceremonies. [90] Akan peoples of West Africa commissioned nsodie memorial heads of royal personages. The funeral ceremonies of the Indigenous Australians typically feature body painting the Yolngu and Tiwi people create carved pukumani burial poles from ironwood trunks, [91] while elaborately carved burial trees have been used in south-eastern Australia. [92] The Toraja people of central Sulawesi are famous for their burial practices, which include the setting-up of effigies of the dead on cliffs. The 19th- and 20th-century royal Kasubi Tombs in Uganda, destroyed by fire in 2010, were a circular compound of thatched buildings similar to those inhabited by the earlier Kabakas when alive, but with special characteristics. [93]

In several cultures, goods for use in the afterlife are still interred or cremated, for example Hell bank notes in East Asian communities. [94] In Ghana, mostly among the Ga people, elaborate figurative coffins in the shape of cars, boats or animals are made of wood. These were introduced in the 1950s by Seth Kane Kwei. [95]

Hinduism Edit

Cremation is traditional among Hindus, who also believe in reincarnation, and there is far less of a tradition of funerary monuments in Hinduism than in other major religions. [96] However, there are regional, and relatively recent, traditions among royalty, and the samādhi mandir is a memorial temple for a saint. Both may be influenced by Islamic practices. The mausoleums of the kings of Orchha, from the 16th century onwards, are among the best known. Other rulers were commemorated by memorial temples of the normal type for the time and place, which like similar buildings from other cultures fall outside the scope of this article, though Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the most spectacular of all, must be mentioned.

Buddhism Edit

Buddhist tombs themselves are typically simple and modest, although they may be set within temples, sometimes large complexes, built for the purpose in the then-prevailing style. According to tradition, the remains of the Buddha's body after cremation were entirely divided up into relics (cetiya), which played an important part in early Buddhism. The stupa developed as a monument enclosing deposits of relics of the Buddha from plain hemispherical mounds in the 3rd century BCE to elaborate structures such as those at Sanchi in India and Borobudur in Java. Regional variants such as the pagoda of China and Japan and the candi of Indonesia evolved from the Indian form. However, none of these can strictly be called tombs. [97] Some important Tibetan lamas are buried in relatively small chortens (Tibetan stupas), sometimes of precious metal, inside or outside monasteries, sometimes after mummification. There are examples at Kursha Monastery in Zanskar and Tashiding Monastery in Sikkim, as well as the Potala Palace in Lhasa and many other monasteries. [98] However, most chortens do not function as tombs.

Christianity Edit

The Catacombs of Rome contain most of the surviving Christian art of the Early Christian period, mainly in the form of frescos and sculpted sarcophagi. They show a Christian iconography emerging, initially from Roman popular decorative art, but later borrowing from official imperial and pagan motifs. Initially, Christians avoided iconic images of religious figures, and sarcophagi were decorated with ornaments, Christian symbols like the Chi Rho monogram and, later, narrative religious scenes. [99] The Early Christians' habit, after the end of their persecution, of building churches (most famously St Peter's, Rome) over the burial places of martyrs who had originally been buried discreetly or in a mass grave perhaps led to the most distinctive feature of Christian funerary art, the church monument, or tomb inside a church. [100] The beliefs of many cultures, including Judaism and Hinduism as well as classical paganism, consider the dead ritually impure and avoid mixing temples and cemeteries (though see above for Moche, and below for Islamic culture). [101] An exception in the Classical World were the Lycians of Anatolia. There are also the Egyptian mortuary-temples, where the object of worship was the deified royal person entombed, but Egyptian temples to the major gods contained no burials. An extreme example was ancient Delos.

Christians believed in a bodily resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of Christ, and the Catholic Church only relaxed its opposition to cremation in 1963. [102] Although mass ossuaries have also been used, burial has always been the preferred Christian tradition, at least until recent times. Burial was, for as long as there was room, usually in a graveyard adjacent to the church, with a gravestone or horizontal slab, or for the wealthy or important clergy, inside it. Wall tombs in churches strictly include the body itself, often in a sarcophagus, while often the body is buried in a crypt or under the church floor, with a monument on the wall. Persons of importance, especially monarchs, might be buried in a free-standing sarcophagus, perhaps surrounded by an elaborate enclosure using metalwork and sculpture grandest of all were the shrines of saints, which became the destinations of pilgrimages. The monument to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck took decades to complete, [103] while the tomb of Saint Dominic in Bologna took several centuries to reach its final form. [104]

If only because its strong prejudice against free-standing and life-size sculpture, Eastern Orthodoxy could not have developed the tomb monument in the same way as the Western Church, and the burials of rich or important individuals continued the classical tradition of sarcophagi carved in relief, with the richness of the carving tending to diminish over the centuries, until just simple religious symbols were left. Constantine I and most later Byzantine Emperors up to 1028 were buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, which was destroyed after the fall of Constantinople of 1453. Some massive but mostly plain porphyry sarcophagi from the church are now placed outside the Istanbul Archaeology Museums. [105]

The Tomb of Antipope John XXIII in Florence is a grand Early Renaissance wall tomb by Donatello and Michelozzo although classical in style, it reflects the somewhat inharmonious stacking up of different elements typical of major Gothic tombs. It has a life-size effigy, also known as a gisant, lying on the sarcophagus, which was common from the Romanesque period through to the Baroque and beyond. [106] Ruling dynasties were often buried together, usually in monasteries the Chartreuse de Champmol was founded for that purpose by the Valois Dukes of Burgundy in 1383. The Scaliger tombs in Verona are magnificent free-standing Gothic canopied tombs—they are outside the church in a special enclosure, and so are unrestricted in height. [107] Important churches like Saint Peter's in Rome, Saint Paul's Cathedral, London, Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice (twenty-five Doges), and the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence contain large numbers of impressive monuments to the great and the good, created by the finest architects and sculptors available. Local parish churches are also often full of monuments, which may include large and artistically significant ones for local landowners and notables. Often a prominent family would add a special chapel for their use, including their tombs in Catholic countries, bequests would pay for masses to be said in perpetuity for their souls. By the High Renaissance, led by Michelangelo's tombs, the effigies are often sitting up, and later may stand. Often they turn towards the altar, or are kneeling facing it in profile. [108]

In the late Middle Ages, influenced by the Black Death and devotional writers, explicit memento mori imagery of death in the forms of skulls or skeletons, or even decomposing corpses overrun with worms in the transi tomb, became common in northern Europe, and may be found in some funerary art, as well as motifs like the Dance of Death and works like the Ars moriendi, or "Art of Dying". [109] It took until the Baroque period for such imagery to become popular in Italy, in works like the tomb of Pope Urban VIII by Bernini (1628–1647), where a bronze winged skeleton inscribes the Pope's name on a tablet below his enthroned effigy. [110] As cities became more crowded, bones were sometimes recovered after a period, and placed in ossuaries where they might be arranged for artistic effect, as at the Capuchin Crypt in Rome or the Czech Sedlec Ossuary, which has a chandelier made of skulls and bones.

The church struggled to eliminate the pagan habits of leaving grave goods except for the clothing and usual jewellery of the powerful, especially rings. Kings might be buried with a sceptre, and bishops with a crozier, their respective symbols of office. [111] The 7th-century Stonyhurst Gospel, with a unique Insular original leather binding, was recovered from St Cuthbert's coffin, itself a significant object. [112] The armour and sword of a knight might be hung over his tomb, as those of the Black Prince still are in Canterbury Cathedral. The Early Christian Church, to the frustration of historians of costume, encouraged burial in a plain white winding-sheet, as being all that would be required at the Second Coming. For centuries, most except royalty followed this custom, which at least kept clothing, which was very expensive for rich and poor alike, available for the use of the living. The use of a rich cloth pall to cover the coffin during the funeral grew during the Middle Ages initially these were brightly coloured and patterned, only later black. They were usually then given to the Church to use for vestments or other decorations. [113]

From the early 13th century to the 16th, a popular form of monument north of the Alps, especially for the smaller landowner and merchant classes, was the monumental brass, a sheet of brass on which the image of the person or persons commemorated was engraved, often with inscriptions and an architectural surround. They could be on the floor or wall inside a church. These provide valuable evidence as to changes in costume, especially for women. Many bishops and even some German rulers were commemorated with brasses. [114]

The castrum doloris was a temporary catafalque erected around the coffin for the lying in state of important people, usually in a church, the funerary version of the elaborate temporary decorations for other court festivities, like royal entries. These began in the late Middle Ages, but reached their height of elaboration in the 18th century. [115] A particular feature in Poland was the coffin portrait, a bust-length painted portrait of the deceased, attached to the coffin, but removed before burial and often then hung in the church. Elsewhere, death masks were used in similar fashion. Hatchments were a special lozenge-shaped painted coat of arms which was displayed on the house of the deceased for a mourning period, before usually being moved to hang in the church. Like mourning clothes, these fall outside a strict definition of art. [116]

For some time after the Protestant Reformation, English church monuments formed the majority of large-scale artworks added to Protestant churches, especially in sculpture. The English upper classes ceased to commission altarpieces and other religious art for churches, but their tomb monuments continued to grow in size to fill the empty wall spaces similar trends were seen in Lutheran countries, but Calvinists tended to be more disapproving of figure sculpture. [117] Many portraits were painted after death, and sometimes dead family members were included along with the living a variety of indications might be used to suggest the distinction. [118]

The large Baroque tomb monument continued likely to include a portrait of the deceased, and was more likely to include personified figures of Death, Time, Virtues or other figures than angels. The late medieval transi tomb vocabulary of images of bodily decay, such as skulls and skeletons, was sometimes re-introduced, but in a less confrontational manner. [119] Neo-Classicism, led by Antonio Canova, revived the classical stela, either with a portrait or a personification in this style there was little or no difference between the demands of Catholic and Protestant patrons. [120]

By the 19th century, many Old World churchyards and church walls had completely run out of room for new monuments, and cemeteries on the outskirts of cities, towns or villages became the usual place for burials. [121] The rich developed the classical styles of the ancient world for small family tombs, while the rest continued to use gravestones or what were now usually false sarcophagi, placed over a buried coffin. The cemeteries of the large Italian cities are generally accepted to have outdone those of other nations in terms of extravagant statuary, especially the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa, the Cimitero Monumentale di Milano and the Certosa di Bologna. [122] In Italy at least, funerary sculpture remained of equal status to other types during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and was made by the leading artists, often receiving reviews in the press, and being exhibited, perhaps in maquette form. [123]

Monuments kept up with contemporary stylistic developments during the 19th century, embracing Symbolism enthusiastically, but then gradually became detached from the avant-garde after Art Nouveau and a few Art Deco examples. [124] Where burials in church crypts or floors took place, memorial stained glass windows, mostly on normal religious subjects but with a commemorative panel, are often found. War memorials, other than on the site of a battle, were relatively unusual until the 19th century, but became increasingly common during it, and after World War I were erected even in villages of the main combatant nations. [125]

Islam Edit

Islamic funerary art is dominated by architecture. Grave goods are discouraged to the point that their absence is frequently one recognition criterion of Muslim burials. [126] Royalty and important religious figures were typically buried in plain stone sarcophagi, perhaps with a religious inscription. However, funerary architecture often offered a means of "moving beyond the strictures of formal Muslim burial rites" and expressing social dimensions such as status, piety, love for the deceased, and Muslim identity. [127]

A number of distinct architectural traditions arose for expressing these social elements. The Islamic tradition was slow in starting the hadith "condemn the building of tombs, and Muhammad himself set the example of requesting burial in an unmarked grave in one of the chambers of his house" in Medina, [128] though by at least the 12th century, buildings of the vast Al-Masjid an-Nabawi complex already marked the site. The earliest identified Muslim monumental tomb, in Samarra in Iraq, only dates from 862, and was commissioned by the Byzantine princess whose son was buried there. [129] At some point, the tradition incorporated the idea of a garden setting, perhaps following the Islamic concept of Paradise, an association certainly made when the tradition was mature, although the difficulty of reconstructing gardens from archaeology makes the early stages of this process hard to trace. At any rate, gardens surrounding tombs became established in Islamic tradition in many parts of the world, and existing pleasure gardens were sometimes appropriated for this purpose. Versions of the formal Persian charbagh design were widely used in India, Persia and elsewhere. [130]

Another influence may have been the octagonal Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, not a mausoleum itself, but "the earliest Islamic model for centrally planned commemorative buildings", adapting the Byzantine form of the martyrium in a building standing alone, though on a stone platform rather than in a garden. [131] In the Persian sphere, a tradition of relatively small mausoleums evolved, often in the shape of short hexagonal or octagonal domed towers, usually containing a single chamber, like the Malek Tomb. These single-chambered tombs developed into larger buildings in the Timurid and Mughal Empires, [132] like the Gur-e Amir tomb of Timur at Samarkand and the famous Mughal tombs of India, which culminated in the Taj Mahal. The Mughal tombs are mostly set in a large walled charbagh (chahar-bagh) or Mughal gardens, often with pavilions at the corners [132] and a gatehouse. The Taj Mahal is atypically placed at the end of the garden, backing onto the river Yamuna a central placing is usual. [133] They may have minarets, although they do not normally function as mosques. The Tomb of Jahangir lacks any dome, [134] while the Tomb of Akbar the Great has only small decorative ones. Other Islamic Indian rulers built similar tombs, such as Gol Gumbaz.

In all this tradition, the contemporary architectural style for mosques was adapted for a building with a smaller main room, and usually no courtyard. Decoration was often tilework, and could include parchin kari inlays in semi-precious stone, painting, and decorative carving. No animals would be represented, but geometric patterns and written inscriptions were common. The sarcophagus might be in a small inner chamber, dimly visible through a grille of metal or stone, or might stand in the main room. Money would be bequeathed to pay for continuous readings of the Qur'an in the mausoleum, and they were normally open for visitors to pay their respects. The Mausoleum of Khomeini, still under construction in a Tehran cemetery, and intended to be the centre of a huge complex, continues these traditions. [135]

The tradition evolved differently in the Ottoman world, where smaller single-roomed türbe typically stand on the grounds of mosque complexes, often built by the deceased. The sarcophagi (often purely symbolic, as the body is below the floor) may be draped in a rich pall, and surmounted by a real cloth or stone turban, which is also traditional at the top of ordinary Turkish gravestones (usually in stylised form). Two of the most famous are in the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul the Yeşil Türbe ("Green Tomb") of 1421 is an unusually large example in Bursa, and also unusual in having extensive tile work on the exterior, which is usually masonry, whereas the interiors are often decorated with brightly colored tiles. [136]

Other parts of the Islamic world reflected local techniques and traditions. The 15th-century royal Tomb of Askia in Mali used the local technique of mud-building to erect a 17-metre-high (56 ft) pyramidal tomb set in a mosque complex. [137] At the other end of the Islamic world, Javanese royalty are mostly buried in royal graveyards such as those at Kota GedMe and Imogiri. Mausoleums of rulers are more likely to be a side-room inside a mosque or form part of a larger complex containing perhaps a hospital, madrasah or library. Large domes, elaborately decorated inside, are common. The tomb-mosque of Sultan Qaitbay (died 1496) is a famous example, one of many in Cairo, though here the tomb chamber is unusually large compared to the whole. [138]

Funerary art tends to be conservative in style, and many grave markers in various cultures follow rather traditional patterns, while others reflect modernism or other recent styles. Public monuments representing collective memorials to particular groups of dead people continue to be erected, especially war memorials, and in the Western world have now replaced individual or family memorials as the dominant types of very large memorials Western political leaders now usually receive simple graves. Some large memorials are fairly traditional, while those reflecting more contemporary styles include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and several Holocaust memorials, such as Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the Vel d'Hiv Memorial in Paris (1994), the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin (2004), and the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial in Vienna (2000). These are in notable contrast to the style of most war memorials to the military of World War II earlier modernist memorials to the dead of World War I were sometimes removed after a time as inappropriate. [139] Some war memorials, especially in countries like Germany, have had a turbulent political history, for example the much-rededicated Neue Wache in Berlin [140] and the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which is internationally controversial. [141]

Several critics detect a crisis in public memorial style from 1945, when the traditional figurative symbolic language, and evocation of nationalist values, came to seem inadequate, especially in relation to genocide, at least on the Western side of the Iron Curtain. [142] In the Communist East the established style of Socialist Realism was still considered appropriate, at least by the authorities. [143] The generation of abstracted and conceptual war and Holocaust memorials erected in the West from the 1990s onwards seems finally to have found a resolution for these issues. [144]

Many large mausoleums have been constructed for political leaders, including Lenin's Mausoleum and those for Atatürk, Jinnah, Kim Il-Sung, Che Guevara and several Presidential memorials in the United States, although the actual burials of recent presidents are very simple, with their Presidential library and museum now usually their largest commemorative memorial. The Mausoleum of Khomeini is a grand mosque complex, as large as any medieval example, not least because it includes a 20,000 place parking lot. [135]

Relationships [ edit | edit source ]

Lin Ming [ edit | edit source ]

Lin Ming believed he owed a debt of gratitude towards the primal god race, particularly Heavenly Empress Xuanqing.

In the past within the Sky Spill Continent, because of Heavenly Empress Xuanqing, there was the Forsaken God Clan that existed there which could trace their roots back to the primal god race. Of course, the bloodlines of the Forsaken God Clan had become unbelievably thin, and in truth they were closer to humans. When Lin Ming was forced into a dead end by the Asura Divine Kingdom, it was the Forsaken God Clan that had taken him in under the shelter of Shibai. Lin Ming was then able to launch his counterattack against the Asura Divine Kingdom and shock the entire continent in a great battle after reaching Life Destruction.

Afterwards, when Lin Ming was chased down by Tian Mingzi it was again Heavenly Empress Xuanqing who had saved him. In fact, it was Heavenly Empress Xuanqing’s body that now housed Mo Eversnow’s soul.


Records of the name "Tadmor" date from the early second millennium BC [1] eighteenth century BC tablets from Mari written in cuneiform record the name as "Ta-ad-mi-ir", while Assyrian inscriptions of the eleventh century BC record it as "Ta-ad-mar". [2] Aramaic Palmyrene inscriptions themselves showed two variants of the name TDMR (i.e., Tadmar) and TDMWR (i.e., Tadmor). [3] [4] The etymology of the name is unclear the standard interpretation, supported by Albert Schultens, connects it to the Semitic word for "date palm", tamar ( תמר ‎), [note 1] [7] [8] thus referring to the palm trees that surrounded the city. [8]

The Greek name Παλμύρα (Latinized Palmyra) was first recorded by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD. [9] It was used throughout the Greco-Roman world. [7] It is generally believed that "Palmyra" derives from "Tadmor" and linguists have presented two possibilities one view holds that Palmyra was an alteration of Tadmor. [7] According to the suggestion by Schultens, "Palmyra" could have arisen as a corruption of "Tadmor", via an unattested form "Talmura", changed to "Palmura" by the influence of the Latin word palma (date "palm"), [1] in reference to the city's palm trees, then the name reached its final form "Palmyra". [10] The second view, supported by some philologists, such as Jean Starcky, holds that Palmyra is a translation of "Tadmor" (assuming that it meant palm), which had derived from the Greek word for palm, "palame". [1] [8]

An alternative suggestion connects the name to the Syriac tedmurtā (ܬܕܡܘܪܬܐ) "miracle", hence tedmurtā "object of wonder", from the root dmr "to wonder" this possibility was mentioned favourably by Franz Altheim and Ruth Altheim-Stiehl (1973), but rejected by Jean Starcky (1960) and Michael Gawlikowski (1974). [9] Michael Patrick O'Connor (1988) suggested that the names "Palmyra" and "Tadmor" originated in the Hurrian language. [1] As evidence, he cited the inexplicability of alterations to the theorized roots of both names (represented in the addition of -d- to tamar and -ra- to palame). [8] According to this theory, "Tadmor" derives from the Hurrian word tad ("to love") with the addition of the typical Hurrian mid vowel rising (mVr) formant mar. [11] Similarly, according to this theory, "Palmyra" derives from the Hurrian word pal ("to know") using the same mVr formant (mar). [11]

The city of Palmyra lies 215 km (134 mi) northeast of the Syrian capital, Damascus [12] along with an expanded hinterland of several settlements, farms and forts, the city forms part of the region known as the Palmyrene. [13] The city is located in an oasis surrounded by palms (of which twenty varieties have been reported). [8] [14] Two mountain ranges overlook the city: the northern Palmyrene mountain belt from the north and the southern Palmyrene mountains from the southwest. [15] In the south and the east Palmyra is exposed to the Syrian Desert. [15] A small wadi (al-Qubur) crosses the area, flowing from the western hills past the city before disappearing in the eastern gardens of the oasis. [16] South of the wadi is a spring, Efqa. [17] Pliny the Elder described the town in the 70s AD as famous for its desert location, for the richness of its soil, [18] and for the springs surrounding it, which made agriculture and herding possible. [note 2] [18]

Layout Edit

While the site, located near the Efqa spring on the southern bank of Wadi al-Qubur, was occupied by at least the neolithic, [20] early buildings only remain from later occupation. [21] Remains of the Assyrian city are found beneath the Hellenistic settlement. [21]

The Hellenistic settlement of Palmyra [22] had its residences expanding to the wadi's northern bank during the first century. [16] Although the city's walls originally enclosed an extensive area on both banks of the wadi, [16] the walls rebuilt during Aurelian's reign surrounded only the northern-bank section. [23] [16] Most of the city's monumental projects were built on the wadi's northern bank, [24] among them is the Temple of Bel, on a tell which was the site of an earlier temple (known as the Hellenistic temple). [25] However, excavation supports the theory that the tell was originally located on the southern bank, and the wadi was diverted south of the tell to incorporate the temple into Palmyra's late first and early second century urban organization on the north bank. [26]

Also north of the wadi was the Great Colonnade, Palmyra's 1.1-kilometre-long (0.68 mi) main street, [27] which extended from the Temple of Bel in the east, [28] to the Funerary Temple no.86 in the city's western part. [29] [30] It had a monumental arch in its eastern section, [31] and a tetrapylon stands in the center. [32] The Baths of Diocletian were on the left side of the colonnade. [33] Nearby were residences, [34] the Temple of Baalshamin, [35] and the Byzantine churches, which include "Basilica IV", Palmyra's largest church. [36] The church is dated to the Justinian age, [37] its columns are estimated to be 7 metres (23 ft) high, and its base measured 27.5 by 47.5 metres (90 by 156 ft). [36]

The Temple of Nabu and the Roman theater were built on the colonnade's southern side. [38] Behind the theater were a small senate building and the large agora, with the remains of a triclinium (banquet room) and the Tariff Court. [39] A cross street at the western end of the colonnade leads to the Camp of Diocletian, [27] [40] built by Sosianus Hierocles (the Roman governor of Syria in the reign of Diocletian). [41] Nearby are the Temple of Al-lāt and the Damascus Gate. [42]

At its height during the reign of Zenobia, Palmyra had more than 200,000 residents. [note 3] [44] The earliest known inhabitants were the Amorites in the early second millennium BC, [45] and by the end of the millennium Arameans were mentioned as inhabiting the area. [46] [47] Arabs arrived in the city in the late first millennium BC. [48] Sheikh Zabdibel, who aided the Seleucids in the battle of Raphia (217 BC), was mentioned as the commander of "the arabs and neighbouring tribes to the number of ten thousands" [49] Zabdibel and his men were not actually identified as Palmyrenes in the texts, but the name "Zabdibel" is a Palmyrene name leading to the conclusion that the sheikh hailed from Palmyra. [50] The Arab newcomers were assimilated by the earlier inhabitants, used Palmyrene as a mother tongue, [51] and formed a significant segment of the aristocracy. [52] The classical city also had a Jewish community inscriptions in Palmyrene from the necropolis of Beit She'arim in Lower Galilee confirm the burial of Palmyrene Jews. [53] During the Roman period, occasionally and rarely, members of the Palmyrene families took Greek names while ethnic Greeks were few the majority of people with Greek names, who did not belong to one of the city's families, were freed slaves. [54] The Palmyrenes seem to have disliked the Greeks, considered them foreigners, and restricted their settlement in the city. [54] During the Umayyad Caliphate, Palmyra was mainly inhabited by the Banu Kalb. [55] Benjamin of Tudela recorded the existence of 2000 Jews in the city during the twelfth century. [56] Palmyra declined after its destruction by Timur in 1400, [57] and was a village of 6,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the 20th century. [58]

Ethnicity of classical Palmyra Edit

Palmyra's population was a mixture of the different peoples inhabiting the city, [59] [60] which is seen in Aramaic, Arabic and Amorite names of Palmyrene clans, [note 4] [61] but the ethnicity of Palmyra is a matter of debate. [62] Some scholars, such as Andrew M. Smith II, consider ethnicity a concept related to modern nationalism, and prefer not to describe the Palmyrenes with ethnic designations they themselves did not know, concluding that there is a lack of evidence regarding what ethnicity the Palmyrenes perceived themselves. [63] On the other hand, many scholars, such as Eivind Seland, contend that a distinctive Palmyrene ethnicity is apparent in the available contemporary evidence. [64] The second century work De Munitionibus Castrorum mentioned the Palmyrenes as a natio, the Latin equivalent of the Greek ἔθνος (éthnos). [65] Seland noted the epigraphic evidence left by the Palmyrenes outside the city. [64] The inscriptions reveal the existence of a real diaspora satisfying the three criteria set by the sociologist Rogers Brubaker. [note 5] [66] Palmyrene diaspora members always made clear their Palmyrene origin and used the Palmyrene language, and maintained their distinct religion even when the host society's religion was close to that of Palmyra. Seland concluded that in the case of Palmyra, the people perceived themselves different from their neighbours and a real Palmyrene ethnicity existed. [67] Aside from the existence of a Palmyrene ethnicity, Aramean or Arab are the two main ethnic designations debated by historians [62] Javier Teixidor stated that "Palmyra was an Aramaean city and it is a mistake to consider it as an Arab town", while Yasamin Zahran criticized this statement and argued that the inhabitants considered themselves Arabs. [68] In practice, according to several scholars such as Udo Hartmann and Michael Sommer, the citizenry of Palmyra were mainly the result of Arab and Aramaean tribes merging into a unity with a corresponding consciousness they thought and acted as Palmyrenes. [69] [70]

Language Edit

Until the late third century AD, Palmyrenes spoke Palmyrene Aramaic and used the Palmyrene alphabet. [71] [72] The use of Latin was minimal, but Greek was used by wealthier members of society for commercial and diplomatic purposes, [73] and it became the dominant language during the Byzantine era. [74] There are several theories explaining the disappearance of the Palmyrene language shortly after the campaigns of Aurelian. The linguist Jean Cantineau assumed that Aurelian suppressed all aspects of Palmyrene culture, including the language, but the last Palmyrene inscription dates to 279/280, after the death of the Roman emperor in 275, thus refuting such a theory. [75] Many scholars ascribe the disappearance of the language to a change in society resulting from the reorganization of the Eastern Roman frontier following the fall of Zenobia. [75] The archaeologist Karol Juchniewicz ascribed it to a change in the ethnic composition of the city, resulting from the influx of people who did not speak Aramaic, probably a Roman legion. [23] Hartmann suggested that it was a Palmyrene initiative by nobles allied to Rome attempting to express their loyalty to the emperor Hartmann noted that Palmyrene disappeared in the written form, and that this does not mean its extinction as spoken language. [76] After the Arab conquest, Greek was replaced by Arabic, [74] from which, although the city was surrounded by Bedouins, a Palmyrene dialect evolved. [58]

Social organization Edit

Classical Palmyra was a tribal community, but due to the lack of sources, an understanding of the nature of Palmyrene tribal structure is not possible. [77] Thirty clans have been documented [78] five of which were identified as tribes (Phylai Φυλαί pl. of Phyle Φυλή) comprising several sub-clans. [note 6] [79] By the time of Nero Palmyra had four tribes, each residing in an area of the city bearing its name. [80] Three of the tribes were the Komare, Mattabol and Ma'zin the fourth tribe is uncertain, but was probably the Mita. [80] [81] In time, the four tribes became highly civic and tribal lines blurred [note 7] [80] by the second century clan identity lost its importance, and it disappeared during the third century. [note 8] [80] Even the four tribes ceased to be important by the third century as only one inscription mentions a tribe after the year 212 instead, aristocrats played the decisive role in the city's social organization. [83] Women seem to have been active in Palmyra's social and public life. They commissioned inscriptions, buildings or tombs, and in certain cases, held administrative offices. Offerings to gods in the names of women are documented. [84]

The last Palmyrene inscription of 279/280 refers to the honouring of a citizen by the Maththabolians, [75] which indicates that the tribal system still carried weight after the fall of Zenobia. [85] A noticeable change is the lack of development of aristocratic residences, and no important public buildings were constructed by locals, indicating that the elite diminished following the campaign of Aurelian. The social change and the reduction of the aristocratic elite is hard to explain. It could be a result of the aristocracy suffering many casualties in the war against Rome, or fleeing to the countryside. According to the historians Emanuele Intagliata, the change can be ascribed to the Roman reorganization following Zenobia's fall, as Palmyra ceased to be a rich caravan city and became a frontier fortress, leading the inhabitants to focus on satisfying the needs of a garrison instead of providing the empire with luxurious oriental items. Such a change in functions would have made the city less attractive for an aristocratic elite. [86] Palmyra benefited from the Umayyad rule since its role as a frontier city ended and the East-West trade route was restored, leading to the re-emergence of a merchant class. Palmyra's loyalty to the Umayyads led to an aggressive military retaliation from their successors, the Abbassids, and the city diminished in size, losing its merchant class. [87] Following its destruction by Timur, Palmyra maintained the life of a small settlement until its relocation in 1932. [88]

The scarce artifacts found in the city dating to the Bronze Age reveal that, culturally, Palmyra was most affiliated with western Syria. [89] Classical Palmyra had a distinctive culture, [90] based on a local Semitic tradition, [91] and influenced by Greece and Rome. [note 9] [93] To appear better integrated into the Roman Empire, some Palmyrenes adopted Greco-Roman names, either alone or in addition to a second native name. [94] The extent of Greek influence on Palmyra's culture is debated. [95] Scholars interpreted the Palmyrenes' Greek practices differently many see those characters as a superficial layer over a local essence. [96] Palmyra's senate was an example although Palmyrene texts written in Greek described it as a "boule" (a Greek institution), the senate was a gathering of non-elected tribal elders (a Near-Eastern assembly tradition). [97] Others view Palmyra's culture as a fusion of local and Greco-Roman traditions. [98]

The culture of Persia influenced Palmyrene military tactics, dress and court ceremonies. [99] Palmyra had no large libraries or publishing facilities, and it lacked an intellectual movement characteristic of other Eastern cities such as Edessa or Antioch. [100] Although Zenobia opened her court to academics, the only notable scholar documented was Cassius Longinus. [100]

Palmyra had a large agora. [note 10] However, unlike the Greek Agoras (public gathering places shared with public buildings), Palmyra's agora resembled an Eastern caravanserai more than a hub of public life. [102] [103] The Palmyrenes buried their dead in elaborate family mausoleums, [104] most with interior walls forming rows of burial chambers (loculi) in which the dead, lying at full length, were placed. [105] [106] A relief of the person interred formed part of the wall's decoration, acting as a headstone. [106] Sarcophagi appeared in the late second century and were used in some of the tombs. [107] Many burial monuments contained mummies embalmed in a method similar to that used in Ancient Egypt. [108] [109]

Art and architecture Edit

Although Palmyrene art was related to that of Greece, it had a distinctive style unique to the middle-Euphrates region. [110] Palmyrene art is well represented by the bust reliefs which seal the openings of its burial chambers. [110] The reliefs emphasized clothing, jewelry and a frontal representation of the person depicted, [110] [111] characteristics which can be seen as a forerunner of Byzantine art. [110] According to Michael Rostovtzeff, Palmyra's art was influenced by Parthian art. [112] However, the origin of frontality that characterized Palmyrene and Parthian arts is a controversial issue while Parthian origin has been suggested (by Daniel Schlumberger), [113] Michael Avi-Yonah contends that it was a local Syrian tradition that influenced Parthian art. [114] Little painting, and none of the bronze statues of prominent citizens (which stood on brackets on the main columns of the Great Colonnade), have survived. [115] A damaged frieze and other sculptures from the Temple of Bel, many removed to museums in Syria and abroad, suggest the city's public monumental sculpture. [115]

Many surviving funerary busts reached Western museums during the 19th century. [116] Palmyra provided the most convenient Eastern examples bolstering an art-history controversy at the turn of the 20th century: to what extent Eastern influence on Roman art replaced idealized classicism with frontal, hieratic and simplified figures (as believed by Josef Strzygowski and others). [115] [117] This transition is seen as a response to cultural changes in the Western Roman Empire, rather than artistic influence from the East. [115] Palmyrene bust reliefs, unlike Roman sculptures, are rudimentary portraits although many reflect high quality individuality, the majority vary little across figures of similar age and gender. [115]

Like its art, Palmyra's architecture was influenced by the Greco-Roman style, while preserving local elements (best seen in the Temple of Bel). [note 11] [118] [121] Enclosed by a massive wall flanked with traditional Roman columns, [121] [122] Bel's sanctuary plan was primarily Semitic. [121] Similar to the Second Temple, the sanctuary consisted of a large courtyard with the deity's main shrine off-center against its entrance (a plan preserving elements of the temples of Ebla and Ugarit). [121] [123]

Cemeteries Edit

West of the ancient walls, the Palmyrenes built a number of large-scale funerary monuments which now form the Valley of Tombs, [124] a one-kilometre-long (0.62 mi) necropolis. [125] The more than 50 monuments were primarily tower-shaped and up to four stories high. [126] Towers were replaced by funerary temples in the first half of the second century AD, as the most recent tower is dated to AD 128. [29] The city had other cemeteries in the north, southwest and southeast, where the tombs are primarily hypogea (underground). [127] [128]

Notable structures Edit

Public buildings Edit

  • The senate building is largely ruined. [39] It is a small building that consists of a peristyle courtyard and a chamber that has an apse at one end and rows of seats around it. [78]
  • Much of the Baths of Diocletian are ruined and do not survive above the level of the foundations. [129] The complex's entrance is marked by four massive Egyptian granite columns each 1.3 metres (4 ft 3 in) in diameter, 12.5 metres (41 ft) high and weigh 20 tonnes. [39] Inside, the outline of a bathing pool surrounded by a colonnade of Corinthian columns is still visible in addition to an octagonal room that served as a dressing room containing a drain in its center. [39]Sossianus Hierocles, a governor under Emperor Diocletian, claimed to have built the baths, but the building was probably erected in the late second century and Sossianus Hierocles renovated it. [note 12][131]
  • The Agora of Palmyra is part of a complex that also includes the tariff court and the triclinium, built in the second half of the first century AD. [132] The agora is a massive 71-by-84-metre (233 by 276 ft) structure with 11 entrances. [39] Inside the agora, 200 columnar bases that used to hold statues of prominent citizens were found. [39] The inscriptions on the bases allowed an understanding of the order by which the statues were grouped the eastern side was reserved for senators, the northern side for Palmyrene officials, the western side for soldiers and the southern side for caravan chiefs. [39]
  • The Tariff Court is a large rectangular enclosure south of the agora and sharing its northern wall with it. [133] Originally, the entrance of the court was a massive vestibule in its southwestern wall. [133] However, the entrance was blocked by the construction of a defensive wall and the court was entered through three doors from the Agora. [133] The court gained its name by containing a 5-metre (16 ft) stone slab that had the Palmyrene tax law inscribed on it. [134][135]
  • The Triclinium of the Agora is at the northwestern corner of the Agora and can host up to 40 people. [136][137] It is a small 12-by-15-metre (39 by 49 ft) hall decorated with Greek key motifs that run in a continuous line halfway up the wall. [138] The building was probably used by the rulers of the city [136] the French general director of antiquities in Syria, Henri Seyrig, proposed that it was a small temple before being turned into a triclinium or banqueting hall. [137]

Temples Edit

  • The Temple of Bel was dedicated in AD 32 [139] it consisted of a large precinct lined by porticos it had a rectangular shape and was oriented north-south. [140] The exterior wall was 205-metre (673 ft) long with a propylaea, [141] and the cella stood on a podium in the middle of the enclosure. [142]
  • The Temple of Baalshamin dates to the late 2nd century BC in its earliest phases [143] its altar was built in AD 115, [123] and it was substantially rebuilt in AD 131. [144] It consisted of a central cella and two colonnaded courtyards north and south of the central structure. [145] A vestibule consisting of six columns preceded the cella which had its side walls decorated with pilasters in Corinthian order. [146]
  • The Temple of Nabu is largely ruined. [147] The temple was Eastern in its plan the outer enclosure's propylaea led to a 20-by-9-metre (66 by 30 ft) podium through a portico of which the bases of the columns survives. [145] The peristyle cella opened onto an outdoor altar. [145]
  • The Temple of Al-Lat is largely ruined with only a podium, a few columns and the door frame remaining. [40] Inside the compound, a giant lion relief (Lion of Al-lāt) was excavated and in its original form, was a relief protruding from the temple compound's wall. [146][148]
  • The ruined Temple of Baal-hamon was located on the top of Jabal al-Muntar hill which oversees the spring of Efqa. [149] Constructed in AD 89, it consisted of a cella and a vestibule with two columns. [149] The temple had a defensive tower attached to it [150] a mosaic depicting the sanctuary was excavated and it revealed that both the cella and the vestibule were decorated with merlons. [150]

Other buildings Edit

  • The Great Colonnade was Palmyra's 1.1-kilometre-long (0.68 mi) main street most of the columns date to the second century AD and each is 9.50 metres (31.2 ft) high. [27]
  • The Funerary Temple no. 86 (also known as the House Tomb) is located at the western end of the Great Colonnade. [29][151] It was built in the third century AD and has a portico of six columns and vine patterns carvings. [61][152] Inside the chamber, steps leads down to a vault crypt. [152] The shrine might have been connected to the royal family as it is the only tomb inside the city's walls. [61]
  • The Tetrapylon was erected during the renovations of Diocletian at the end of the third century. [88] It is a square platform and each corner contains a grouping of four columns. [38] Each column group supports a 150-ton cornice and contains a pedestal in its center that originally carried a statue. [38] Out of sixteen columns, only one is original while the rest are from reconstruction work by the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities in 1963, using concrete. [152] The original columns were brought from Egypt and carved out of pink granite. [38]
  • The Walls of Palmyra started in the first century as a protective wall containing gaps where the surrounding mountains formed natural barriers it encompassed the residential areas, the gardens and the oasis. [23] After 273, Aurelian erected the rampart known as the wall of Diocletian [23] it enclosed about 80 hectares, a much smaller area than the original pre-273 city. [153][154]

Destruction by ISIL Edit

According to eyewitnesses, on 23 May 2015 ISIL militants destroyed the Lion of Al-lāt and other statues this came days after the militants had gathered the citizens and promised not to destroy the city's monuments. [155] ISIL destroyed the Temple of Baalshamin on 23 August 2015 according to Syria's antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim and activists. [156] On 30 August 2015, ISIL destroyed the cella of the Temple of Bel. [157] On 31 August 2015, the United Nations confirmed the temple was destroyed [158] the temple's exterior walls and entrance arch remain. [157] [159]

It became known on 4 September 2015 that ISIL had destroyed three of the best preserved tower tombs including the Tower of Elahbel. [160] On 5 October 2015, news media reported that ISIL was destroying buildings with no religious meaning, including the monumental arch. [161] On 20 January 2017, news emerged that the militants had destroyed the tetrapylon and part of the theater. [162] Following the March 2017 capture of Palmyra by the Syrian Army, Maamoun Abdulkarim, director of antiquities and museums at the Syrian Ministry of Culture, stated that the damage to ancient monuments may be lesser than earlier believed and preliminary pictures showed almost no further damage than what was already known. [163] Antiquities official Wael Hafyan stated that the Tetrapylon was badly damaged while the damage to the facade of the Roman theatre was less serious. [164]

Restoration Edit

In response to the destruction, on 21 October 2015, Creative Commons started the New Palmyra project, an online repository of three-dimensional models representing the city's monuments the models were generated from images gathered, and released into the public domain, by the Syrian internet advocate Bassel Khartabil between 2005 and 2012. [165] [166] Consultations with UNESCO, UN specialized agencies, archaeological associations and museums produced plans to restore Palmyra the work is postponed until the violence in Syria ends as many international partners fear for the safety of their teams as well as ensuring that the restored artifacts will not be damaged again by further battles. [167] Minor restorations took place two Palmyrene funerary busts, damaged and defaced by ISIL, were sent off to Rome where they were restored and sent back to Syria. [168] The restoration of the Lion of Al-lāt took two months and the statue was displayed on 1 October 2017 it will remain in the National Museum of Damascus. [169]

Regarding the restoration, the discoverer of Ebla, Paolo Matthiae, stated that: "The archaeological site of Palmyra is a vast field of ruins and only 20–30% of it is seriously damaged. Unfortunately these included important parts, such as the Temple of Bel, while the Arc of Triumph can be rebuilt." He added: "In any case, by using both traditional methods and advanced technologies, it might be possible to restore 98% of the site". [170]

While the area had paleolithic settlements, [172] the Efqa spring site at Palmyra had a Neolithic settlement [20] with stone tools dated to 7500 BC. [173] Archaeological sounding in the tell beneath the Temple of Bel uncovered a mud-brick structure built around 2500 BC, followed by structures built during the Middle Bronze Age and Iron Age. [21]

Early period Edit

The city entered the historical record during the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, when Puzur-Ishtar the Tadmorean (Palmyrene) agreed to a contract at an Assyrian trading colony in Kultepe. [173] It was mentioned next in the Mari tablets as a stop for trade caravans and nomadic tribes, such as the Suteans, [59] and was conquered along with its region by Yahdun-Lim of Mari. [174] King Shamshi-Adad I of Assyria passed through the area on his way to the Mediterranean at the beginning of the 18th century BC [175] by then, Palmyra was the easternmost point of the kingdom of Qatna, [176] and it was attacked by the Suteans who paralyzed the traffic along the trade routes. [177] Palmyra was mentioned in a 13th-century BC tablet discovered at Emar, which recorded the names of two "Tadmorean" witnesses. [59] At the beginning of the 11th century BC, King Tiglath-Pileser I of Assyria recorded his defeat of the "Arameans" of "Tadmar" [59] according to the king, Palmyra was part of the land of Amurru. [178] The city became the eastern border of Aram-Damascus which was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 732 BC. [179]

The Hebrew Bible (Second Book of Chronicles 8:4) records a city by the name "Tadmor" as a desert city built (or fortified) by King Solomon of Israel [180] Flavius Josephus mentions the Greek name "Palmyra", attributing its founding to Solomon in Book VIII of his Antiquities of the Jews. [144] Later Arabic traditions attribute the city's founding to Solomon's Jinn. [181] The association of Palmyra with Solomon is a conflation of "Tadmor" and a city built by Solomon in Judea and known as "Tamar" in the Books of Kings (1 Kings 9:18). [143] The biblical description of "Tadmor" and its buildings does not fit archaeological findings in Palmyra, which was a small settlement during Solomon's reign in the 10th century BC. [143] The Elephantine Jews, a diaspora community established between 650-550 BC in Egypt, might have come from Palmyra. [182] Papyrus Amherst 63 indicates that the ancestors of the Elephantine Jews were Samarians. The historian Karel van der Toorn suggested that these ancestors took refuge in Judea after the destruction of their kingdom by Sargon II of Assyria in 721 BC, then had to leave Judea after Sennacherib devastated the land in 701 BC and headed to Palmyra. This scenario can explain the usage of Aramaic by the Elephantine Jews, and Papyrus Amherst 63, while not mentioning Palmyra, refers to a "fortress of palms" that is located near a spring on a trade route in the fringes of the desert, making Palmyra a plausible candidate. [183]

Hellenistic and Roman periods Edit

During the Hellenistic period under the Seleucids (between 312 and 64 BC), Palmyra became a prosperous settlement owing allegiance to the Seleucid king. [143] [184] Evidence for Palmyra's urbanisation in the Hellenistic period is rare an important piece is the Laghman II inscription found in Laghman, modern Afghanistan, and commissioned by the Indian emperor Ashoka c. 250 BC. The reading is contested, but according to semitologist André Dupont-Sommer, the inscription records the distance to "Tdmr" (Palmyra). [note 13] [186] In 217 BC, a Palmyrene force led by Zabdibel joined the army of King Antiochus III in the Battle of Raphia which ended in a Seleucid defeat by Ptolemaic Egypt. [48] In the middle of the Hellenistic era, Palmyra, formerly south of the al-Qubur wadi, began to expand beyond its northern bank. [26] By the late second century BC, the tower tombs in the Palmyrene Valley of Tombs and the city temples (most notably, the temples of Baalshamin, Al-lāt and the Hellenistic temple) began to be built. [25] [48] [143] A fragmentary inscription in Greek from the Temple of Bel's foundations mentions a king titled Epiphanes, a title used by the Seleucid kings. [note 14] [192]

In 64 BC the Roman Republic conquered the Seleucid kingdom, and the Roman general Pompey established the province of Syria. [48] Palmyra was left independent, [48] trading with Rome and Parthia but belonging to neither. [193] The earliest known inscription in Palmyrene is dated to around 44 BC [51] Palmyra was still a minor sheikhdom, offering water to caravans which occasionally took the desert route on which it was located. [194] However, according to Appian Palmyra was wealthy enough for Mark Antony to send a force to conquer it in 41 BC. [193] The Palmyrenes evacuated to Parthian lands beyond the eastern bank of the Euphrates, [193] which they prepared to defend. [51]

Autonomous Palmyrene region Edit

Palmyra became part of the Roman Empire when it was conquered and paid tribute early in the reign of Tiberius, around 14 AD. [note 15] [48] [196] The Romans included Palmyra in the province of Syria, [195] and defined the region's boundaries. [197] Pliny the Elder asserted that both the Palmyrene and Emesene regions were contiguous [198] a marker at the Palmyrene's southwestern border was found in 1936 by Daniel Schlumberger at Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi, dating from the reign of Hadrian or one of his successors, which marked the boundary between the two regions. [note 16] [200] [201] This boundary probably ran northwards to Khirbet al-Bilaas on Jabal al-Bilas where another marker, laid by the Roman governor Silanus, has been found, 75 kilometres (47 mi) northwest of Palmyra, probably marking a boundary with the territory of Epiphania. [202] [197] Meanwhile, Palmyra's eastern border extended to the Euphrates valley. [201] This region included numerous villages subordinate to the center, [203] including large settlements such as al-Qaryatayn. [204] The Roman imperial period brought great prosperity to the city, which enjoyed a privileged status under the empire—retaining much of its internal autonomy, [48] being ruled by a council, [205] and incorporating many Greek city-state (polis) institutions into its government. [note 17] [206]

The earliest Palmyrene text attesting a Roman presence in the city dates to 18 AD, when the Roman general Germanicus tried to develop a friendly relationship with Parthia he sent the Palmyrene Alexandros to Mesene, a Parthian vassal kingdom. [note 18] [209] This was followed by the arrival of the Roman legion Legio X Fretensis the following year. [note 19] [210] Roman authority was minimal during the first century AD, although tax collectors were resident, [211] and a road connecting Palmyra and Sura was built in AD 75. [note 20] [212] The Romans used Palmyrene soldiers, [213] but (unlike typical Roman cities) no local magistrates or prefects are recorded in the city. [212] Palmyra saw intensive construction during the first century, including the city's first walled fortifications, [214] and the Temple of Bel (completed and dedicated in 32 AD). [139] During the first century Palmyra developed from a minor desert caravan station into a leading trading center, [note 21] [194] with Palmyrene merchants establishing colonies in surrounding trade centers. [209]

Palmyrene trade reached its acme during the second century, [216] aided by two factors the first was a trade route built by Palmyrenes, [18] and protected by garrisons at major locations, including a garrison in Dura-Europos manned in 117 AD. [217] The second was the Roman conquest of the Nabataean capital Petra in 106, [48] shifting control over southern trade routes of the Arabian Peninsula from the Nabataeans to Palmyra. [note 22] [48] In 129 Palmyra was visited by Hadrian, who named it "Hadriane Palmyra" and made it a free city. [219] [220] Hadrian promoted Hellenism throughout the empire, [221] and Palmyra's urban expansion was modeled on that of Greece. [221] This led to new projects, including the theatre, the colonnade and the Temple of Nabu. [221] Roman garrisons are first attested in Palmyra in 167, when the cavalry Ala I Thracum Herculiana was moved to the city. [note 23] [224] By the end of the second century, urban development diminished after the city's building projects peaked. [225]

In the 190s, Palmyra was assigned to the province of Phoenice, newly created by the Severan dynasty. [226] Toward the end of the second century, Palmyra began a steady transition from a traditional Greek city-state to a monarchy due to the increasing militarization of the city and the deteriorating economic situation [227] the Severan ascension to the imperial throne in Rome played a major role in Palmyra's transition: [225]

  • The Severan-led Roman–Parthian War, from 194 to 217, influenced regional security and affected the city's trade. [228]Bandits began attacking caravans by 199, leading Palmyra to strengthen its military presence. [228]
  • The new dynasty favored the city, [228] stationing the Cohors I Flavia Chalcidenorum garrison there by 206. [229]Caracalla made Palmyra a colonia between 213 and 216, replacing many Greek institutions with Roman constitutional ones. [227]Severus Alexander, emperor from 222 to 235, visited Palmyra in 229. [228][230]

Palmyrene kingdom Edit

The rise of the Sasanian Empire in Persia considerably damaged Palmyrene trade. [231] The Sasanians disbanded Palmyrene colonies in their lands, [231] and began a war against the Roman Empire. [232] In an inscription dated to 252 Odaenathus appears bearing the title of exarchos (lord) of Palmyra. [233] The weakness of the Roman Empire and the constant Persian danger were probably the reasons behind the Palmyrene council's decision to elect a lord for the city in order for him to lead a strengthened army. [234] Odaenathus approached Shapur I of Persia to request him to guarantee Palmyrene interests in Persia, but was rebuffed. [235] In 260 the Emperor Valerian fought Shapur at the Battle of Edessa, but was defeated and captured. [235] One of Valerian's officers, Macrianus Major, his sons Quietus and Macrianus, and the prefect Balista rebelled against Valerian's son Gallienus, usurping imperial power in Syria. [236]

Persian wars Edit

Odaenathus formed an army of Palmyrenes and Syrian peasants against Shapur. [note 24] [235] According to the Augustan History, Odaenathus declared himself king prior to the battle. [238] The Palmyrene leader won a decisive victory near the banks of the Euphrates later in 260 forcing the Persians to retreat. [239] In 261 Odaenathus marched against the remaining usurpers in Syria, defeating and killing Quietus and Balista. [240] As a reward, he received the title Imperator Totius Orientis ("Governor of the East") from Gallienus, [241] and ruled Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia and Anatolia's eastern regions as the imperial representative. [242] [243] Palmyra itself remained officially part of the empire but Palmyrene inscriptions started to describe it as a "metrocolonia", indicating that the city's status was higher than normal Roman colonias. [244] In practice, Palmyra shifted from a provincial city to a de facto allied kingdom. [245]

In 262 Odaenathus launched a new campaign against Shapur, [246] reclaiming the rest of Roman Mesopotamia (most importantly, the cities of Nisibis and Carrhae), sacking the Jewish city of Nehardea, [note 25] [247] [248] and besieging the Persian capital Ctesiphon. [249] [250] Following his victory, the Palmyrene monarch assumed the title King of Kings. [note 26] [253] Later, Odaenathus crowned his son Hairan I as co-King of Kings near Antioch in 263. [254] Although he did not take the Persian capital, Odaenathus drove the Persians out of all Roman lands conquered since the beginning of Shapur's wars in 252. [255] In a second campaign that took place in 266, the Palmyrene king reached Ctesiphon again however, he had to leave the siege and move north, accompanied by Hairan I, to repel Gothic attacks on Asia Minor. [256] The king and his son were assassinated during their return in 267 [257] according to the Augustan History and Joannes Zonaras, Odaenathus was killed by a cousin (Zonaras says nephew) named in the History as Maeonius. [258] The Augustan History also says that Maeonius was proclaimed emperor for a brief period before being killed by the soldiers. [258] [259] [260] However, no inscriptions or other evidence exist for Maeonius' reign. [261]

Odaenathus was succeeded by his son the ten-year-old Vaballathus. [262] Zenobia, the mother of the new king, was the de facto ruler and Vaballathus remained in her shadow while she consolidated her power. [262] Gallienus dispatched his prefect Heraclian to command military operations against the Persians, but he was marginalized by Zenobia and returned to the West. [255] The queen was careful not to provoke Rome, claiming for herself and her son the titles held by her husband while guaranteeing the safety of the borders with Persia and pacifying the Tanukhids in Hauran. [262] To protect the borders with Persia, Zenobia fortified different settlements on the Euphrates including the citadels of Halabiye and Zalabiye. [263] Circumstantial evidence exist for confrontations with the Sasanians probably in 269 Vaballathus took the title Persicus Maximus ("The great victor in Persia") and the title might be linked with an unrecorded battle against a Persian army trying to regain control of Northern Mesopotamia. [264] [265]

Palmyrene empire Edit

Zenobia began her military career in the spring of 270, during the reign of Claudius Gothicus. [266] Under the pretext of attacking the Tanukhids, she conquered Roman Arabia. [266] This was followed in October by an invasion of Egypt, [267] [268] ending with a Palmyrene victory and Zenobia's proclamation as queen of Egypt. [269] Palmyra invaded Anatolia the following year, reaching Ankara and the pinnacle of its expansion. [270] The conquests were made behind a mask of subordination to Rome. [271] Zenobia issued coins in the name of Claudius' successor Aurelian, with Vaballathus depicted as king [note 27] [271] since Aurelian was occupied with repelling insurgencies in Europe, he tolerated the Palmyrene coinage and encroachments. [272] [273] In late 271, Vaballathus and his mother assumed the titles of Augustus (emperor) and Augusta. [note 28] [271]

The following year, Aurelian crossed the Bosphorus and advanced quickly through Anatolia. [277] According to one account, Roman general Marcus Aurelius Probus regained Egypt from Palmyra [note 29] [278] Aurelian entered Issus and headed to Antioch, where he defeated Zenobia in the Battle of Immae. [279] Zenobia was defeated again at the Battle of Emesa, taking refuge in Homs before quickly returning to her capital. [280] When the Romans besieged Palmyra, Zenobia refused their order to surrender in person to the emperor. [270] She escaped east to ask the Persians for help, but was captured by the Romans the city capitulated soon afterwards. [281] [282]

Later Roman and Byzantine periods Edit

Aurelian spared the city and stationed a garrison of 600 archers, led by Sandarion, as a peacekeeping force. [283] In 273 Palmyra rebelled under the leadership of Septimius Apsaios, [276] declaring Antiochus (a relative of Zenobia) as Augustus. [284] Aurelian marched against Palmyra, razing it to the ground and seizing the most valuable monuments to decorate his Temple of Sol. [281] [285] Palmyrene buildings were smashed, residents massacred and the Temple of Bel pillaged. [281]

Palmyra was reduced to a village and it largely disappeared from historical records of that period. [286] Aurelian repaired the Temple of Bel, and the Legio I Illyricorum was stationed in the city. [153] Shortly before 303 the Camp of Diocletian, a castrum in the western part of the city, was built. [153] The 4-hectare (9.9-acre) camp was a base for the Legio I Illyricorum, [153] which guarded the trade routes around the city. [286] Palmyra became a Christian city in the decades following its destruction by Aurelian. [287] In late 527, Justinian I ordered the restoration of Palmyra's churches and public buildings to protect the empire against raids by Lakhmid king Al-Mundhir III ibn al-Nu'man. [288]

Arab caliphates Edit

Palmyra was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate after its 634 capture by the Muslim general Khalid ibn al-Walid, who took the city on his way to Damascus an 18-day march by his army through the Syrian Desert from Mesopotamia. [289] By then Palmyra was limited to the Diocletian camp. [88] After the conquest, the city became part of Homs Province. [290]

Umayyad and early Abbasid periods Edit

Palmyra prospered as part of the Umayyad Caliphate, and its population grew. [291] It was a key stop on the East-West trade route, with a large souq (market), built by the Umayyads, [291] [292] who also commissioned part of the Temple of Bel as a mosque. [292] During this period, Palmyra was a stronghold of the Banu Kalb tribe. [55] After being defeated by Marwan II during a civil war in the caliphate, Umayyad contender Sulayman ibn Hisham fled to the Banu Kalb in Palmyra, but eventually pledged allegiance to Marwan in 744 Palmyra continued to oppose Marwan until the surrender of the Banu Kalb leader al-Abrash al-Kalbi in 745. [293] That year, Marwan ordered the city's walls demolished. [88] [294]

In 750 a revolt, led by Majza'a ibn al-Kawthar and Umayyad pretender Abu Muhammad al-Sufyani, against the new Abbasid Caliphate swept across Syria [295] the tribes in Palmyra supported the rebels. [296] After his defeat Abu Muhammad took refuge in the city, which withstood an Abbasid assault long enough to allow him to escape. [296]

Decentralization Edit

Abbasid power dwindled during the 10th century, when the empire disintegrated and was divided among a number of vassals. [297] Most of the new rulers acknowledged the caliph as their nominal sovereign, a situation which continued until the Mongol destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258. [298]

The population of the city started to decrease in the ninth century and the process continued in the tenth century. [299] In 955 Sayf al-Dawla, the Hamdanid prince of Aleppo, defeated the nomads near the city, [300] and built a kasbah (fortress) in response to campaigns by the Byzantine emperors Nikephoros II Phokas and John I Tzimiskes. [301] After the early-11th-century Hamdanid collapse, the region of Homs was controlled by the successor Mirdasid dynasty. [302] Earthquakes devastated Palmyra in 1068 and 1089. [88] [303] In the 1070s Syria was conquered by the Seljuk Empire, [304] and in 1082, the district of Homs came under the control of the Arab lord Khalaf ibn Mula'ib. [302] The latter was a brigand and was removed and imprisoned in 1090 by the Seljuq sultan Malik-Shah I. [302] [305] Khalaf's lands were given to Malik-Shah's brother, Tutush I, [305] who gained his independence after his brother's 1092 death and established a cadet branch of the Seljuk dynasty in Syria. [306]

By the twelfth century, the population moved into the courtyard of the Temple of Bel which was fortified [299] Palmyra was then ruled by Toghtekin, the Burid atabeg of Damascus, who appointed his nephew governor. [307] Toghtekin's nephew was killed by rebels, and the atabeg retook the city in 1126. [307] Palmyra was given to Toghtekin's grandson, Shihab-ud-din Mahmud, [307] who was replaced by governor Yusuf ibn Firuz when Shihab-ud-din Mahmud returned to Damascus after his father Taj al-Muluk Buri succeeded Toghtekin. [308] The Burids transformed the Temple of Bel into a citadel in 1132, fortifying the city, [309] [310] and transferring it to the Bin Qaraja family three years later in exchange for Homs. [310]

During the mid-twelfth century, Palmyra was ruled by the Zengid king Nur ad-Din Mahmud. [311] It became part of the district of Homs, [312] which was given as a fiefdom to the Ayyubid general Shirkuh in 1168 and confiscated after his death in 1169. [313] Homs region was conquered by the Ayyubid sultanate in 1174 [314] the following year, Saladin gave Homs (including Palmyra) to his cousin Nasir al-Din Muhammad as a fiefdom. [315] After Saladin's death, the Ayyubid realm was divided and Palmyra was given to Nasir al-Din Muhammad's son Al-Mujahid Shirkuh II (who built the castle of Palmyra known as Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle around 1230). [316] [317] Five years earlier, Syrian geographer Yaqut al-Hamawi described Palmyra's residents as living in "a castle surrounded by a stone wall". [318]

Mamluk period Edit

Palmyra was used as a refuge by Shirkuh II's grandson, al-Ashraf Musa, who allied himself with the Mongol king Hulagu Khan and fled after the Mongol defeat in the 1260 Battle of Ain Jalut against the Mamluks. [319] Al-Ashraf Musa asked the Mamluk sultan Qutuz for pardon and was accepted as a vassal. [319] Al-Ashraf Musa died in 1263 without an heir, bringing the Homs district under direct Mamluk rule. [320]

Al Fadl principality Edit

The Al Fadl clan (a branch of the Tayy tribe) were loyal to the Mamluks, and in 1281, Prince Issa bin Muhanna of the Al Fadl was appointed lord of Palmyra by sultan Qalawun. [321] Issa was succeeded in 1284 by his son Muhanna bin Issa who was imprisoned by sultan al-Ashraf Khalil in 1293, and restored two years later by sultan al-Adil Kitbugha. [322] Muhanna declared his loyalty to Öljaitü of the Ilkhanate in 1312 and was dismissed and replaced with his brother Fadl by sultan an-Nasir Muhammad. [322] Although Muhanna was forgiven by an-Nasir and restored in 1317, he and his tribe were expelled in 1320 for his continued relations with the Ilkhanate, [323] and he was replaced by tribal chief Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr. [324]

Muhanna was forgiven and restored by an-Nasir in 1330 he remained loyal to the sultan until his death in 1335, when he was succeeded by his son. [324] Contemporary historian Ibn Fadlallah al-Omari described the city as having "vast gardens, flourishing trades and bizarre monuments". [325] The Al Fadl clan protected the trade routes and villages from Bedouin raids, [326] raiding other cities and fighting among themselves. [327] The Mamluks intervened militarily several times, dismissing, imprisoning or expelling its leaders. [327] In 1400 Palmyra was attacked by Timur the Fadl prince Nu'air escaped the battle and later fought Jakam, the sultan of Aleppo. [328] Nu'air was captured, taken to Aleppo and executed in 1406 this, according to Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, ended the Al Fadl clan's power. [328] [321]

Ottoman era Edit

Syria became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516, [329] and Palmyra was a center of an administrative district (sanjak). [note 30] [330] After 1568 the Ottomans appointed the Lebanese prince Ali bin Musa Harfush as governor of Palmyra's sanjak, [331] dismissing him in 1584 for treason. [332] In 1630 Palmyra came under the authority of another Lebanese prince, Fakhr-al-Din II, [333] who renovated Shirkuh II's castle (which became known as Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle). [317] [334] The prince fell from grace with the Ottomans in 1633 and lost control of the village, [333] which remained a separate sanjak until it was absorbed by Zor Sanjak in 1857. [335] The Ottoman governor of Syria, Mehmed Rashid Pasha, established a garrison in the village to control the Bedouin in 1867. [336] [337]

20th Century Edit

In 1918, as World War I was ending, the Royal Air Force built an airfield for two planes, [note 31] [338] and in November the Ottomans retreated from Zor Sanjak without a fight. [note 32] [339] The Syrian Emirate's army entered Deir ez-Zor on 4 December, and Zor Sanjak became part of Syria. [340] In 1919, as the British and French argued over the borders of the planned mandates, [338] the British permanent military representative to the Supreme War Council Henry Wilson suggested adding Palmyra to the British mandate. [338] However, the British general Edmund Allenby persuaded his government to abandon this plan. [338] Syria (including Palmyra) became part of the French Mandate after Syria's defeat in the Battle of Maysalun on 24 July 1920. [341]

With Palmyra gaining importance in the French efforts to pacify the Syrian Desert, a base was constructed in the village near the Temple of Bel in 1921. [342] In 1929, Henri Seyrig, began excavating the ruins and convinced the villagers to move to a new, French-built village next to the site. [343] The relocation was completed in 1932 [344] ancient Palmyra was ready for excavation as its villagers settled into the new village of Tadmur. [345] [343] During World War II, the Mandate came under the authority of Vichy France, [346] who gave permission to Nazi Germany to use the airfield at Palmyra [347] forces of Free France, backed by British forces, invaded Syria in June 1941, [346] and on 3 July 1941, the British took control over the city in the aftermath of a battle. [348]

Syrian Civil War Edit

As a result of the Syrian Civil War, Palmyra experienced widespread looting and damage by combatants. [349] In 2013, the façade of the Temple of Bel sustained a large hole from mortar fire, and colonnade columns have been damaged by shrapnel. [349] According to Maamoun Abdulkarim, the Syrian Army positioned its troops in some archaeological-site areas, [349] while Syrian opposition fighters positioned themselves in gardens around the city. [349]

On 13 May 2015, ISIL launched an attack on the modern town of Tadmur, sparking fears that the iconoclastic group would destroy the adjacent ancient site of Palmyra. [350] On 21 May, some artifacts were transported from the Palmyra museum to Damascus for safekeeping a number of Greco-Roman busts, jewelry, and other objects looted from the museum have been found on the international market. [351] ISIL forces entered Palmyra the same day. [352] Local residents reported that the Syrian Air Force bombed the site on 13 June, damaging the northern wall close to the Temple of Baalshamin. [353] During ISIL's occupation of the site, Palmyra's theatre was used as a place of public executions of their opponents and captives videos were released by ISIL showing the killing of Syrian prisoners in front of crowds at the theatre. [354] [355] 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. [356]

Syrian government forces supported by Russian airstrikes recaptured Palmyra on 27 March 2016 after intense fighting against ISIL fighters. [357] According to initial reports, the damage to the archaeological site was less extensive than anticipated, with numerous structures still standing. [358] Following the recapture of the city, Russian de-mining teams began clearing mines planted by ISIL prior to their retreat. [359] Following heavy fighting, ISIL briefly reoccupied the city on 11 December 2016, [360] prompting an offensive by the Syrian Army which retook the city on 2 March 2017. [361]

From the beginning of its history to the first century AD Palmyra was a petty sheikhdom, [363] and by the first century BC a Palmyrene identity began to develop. [364] During the first half of the first century AD, Palmyra incorporated some of the institutions of a Greek city (polis) [206] the notion of an existing citizenship first appears in an inscription, dated to AD 10, mentioning the "people of Palmyra". [365] In AD 74, an inscription mentions the city's boule (senate). [206] The tribal role in Palmyra is debated during the first century, four treasurers representing the four tribes seems to have partially controlled the administration but their role became ceremonial by the second century and power rested in the hands of the council. [366]

The Palmyrene council consisted of about six hundred members of the local elite (such as the elders or heads of wealthy families or clans), [note 33] [205] representing the city's four-quarters. [81] The council, headed by a president, [367] managed civic responsibilities [205] it supervised public works (including the construction of public buildings), approved expenditures, collected taxes, [205] and appointed two archons (lords) each year. [367] [368] Palmyra's military was led by strategoi (generals) appointed by the council. [369] [370] Roman provincial authority set and approved Palmyra's tariff structure, [371] but the provincial interference in local government was kept minimal as the empire sought to ensure the continuous success of Palmyrene trade most beneficial to Rome. [372] An imposition of direct provincial administration would have jeopardized Palmyra's ability to conduct its trading activities in the East, especially in Parthia. [372]

With the elevation of Palmyra to a colonia around 213–216, the city ceased being subject to Roman provincial governors and taxes. [373] Palmyra incorporated Roman institutions into its system while keeping many of its former ones. [374] The council remained, and the strategos designated one of two annually-elected magistrates. [374] This duumviri implemented the new colonial constitution, [374] replacing the archons. [368] Palmyra's political scene changed with the rise of Odaenathus and his family an inscription dated to 251 describes Odaenathus' son Hairan I as "Ras" (lord) of Palmyra (exarch in the Greek section of the inscription) and another inscription dated to 252 describes Odaenathus with the same title. [note 34] [233] Odaenathus was probably elected by the council as exarch, [234] which was an unusual title in the Roman empire and was not part of the traditional Palmyrene governance institutions. [233] [375] Whether Odaenathus' title indicated a military or a priestly position is unknown, [376] but the military role is more likely. [377] By 257 Odaenathus was known as a consularis, possibly the legatus of the province of Phoenice. [376] In 258 Odaenathus began extending his political influence, taking advantage of regional instability caused by Sasanian aggression [376] this culminated in the Battle of Edessa, [235] Odaenathus' royal elevation and mobilization of troops, which made Palmyra a kingdom. [235]

The monarchy continued most civic institutions, [376] [378] but the duumviri and the council were no longer attested after 264 Odaenathus appointed a governor for the city. [379] In the absence of the monarch, the city was administered by a viceroy. [380] Although governors of the eastern Roman provinces under Odaenathus' control were still appointed by Rome, the king had overall authority. [381] During Zenobia's rebellion, governors were appointed by the queen. [382] Not all Palmyrenes accepted the dominion of the royal family a senator, Septimius Haddudan, appears in a later Palmyrene inscription as aiding Aurelian's armies during the 273 rebellion. [383] [384] After the Roman destruction of the city, Palmyra was ruled directly by Rome, [385] and then by a succession of other rulers, including the Burids and Ayyubids, [307] [315] and subordinate Bedouin chiefs—primarily the Fadl family, who governed for the Mamluks. [386]

Military Edit

Due to its military character and efficiency in battle, Palmyra was described by Irfan Shahîd as the "Sparta among the cities of the Orient, Arab and other, and even its gods were represented dressed in military uniforms." [387] Palmyra's army protected the city and its economy, helping extend Palmyrene authority beyond the city walls and protecting the countryside's desert trade routes. [388] The city had a substantial military [201] Zabdibel commanded a force of 10,000 in the third century BC, [48] and Zenobia led an army of 70,000 in the Battle of Emesa. [389] Soldiers were recruited from the city and its territories, spanning several thousand square kilometers from the outskirts of Homs to the Euphrates valley. [201] Non-Palmyrene soldiers were also recruited a Nabatean cavalryman is recorded in 132 as serving in a Palmyrene unit stationed at Anah. [18] Palmyra's recruiting system is unknown the city might have selected and equipped the troops and the strategoi led, trained and disciplined them. [390]

The strategoi were appointed by the council with the approval of Rome. [370] The royal army in the mid 3rd century AD was under the leadership of the monarch aided by generals, [391] [392] and was modeled on the Sasanians in arms and tactics. [99] The Palmyrenes were noted archers. [393] They used infantry while a heavily armored cavalry (clibanarii) constituted the main attacking force. [note 35] [395] [396] Palmyra's infantry was armed with swords, lances and small round shields [213] the clibanarii were fully armored (including their horses), and used heavy spears (kontos) 3.65 metres (12.0 ft) long without shields. [396] [397]

Relations with Rome Edit

Citing the Palmyrenes' combat skills in large, sparsely populated areas, the Romans formed a Palmyrene auxilia to serve in the Imperial Roman army. [213] Vespasian reportedly had 8,000 Palmyrene archers in Judea, [213] and Trajan established the first Palmyrene Auxilia in 116 (a camel cavalry unit, Ala I Ulpia dromedariorum Palmyrenorum). [213] [398] [399] Palmyrene units were deployed throughout the Roman Empire, [note 36] serving in Dacia late in Hadrian's reign, [401] and at El Kantara in Numidia and Moesia under Antoninus Pius. [401] [402] During the late second century Rome formed the Cohors XX Palmyrenorum, which was stationed in Dura-Europos. [403]

Palmyra's gods were primarily part of the northwestern Semitic pantheon, with the addition of gods from the Mesopotamian and Arab pantheons. [404] The city's chief pre-Hellenistic deity was called Bol, [405] an abbreviation of Baal (a northwestern Semitic honorific). [406] The Babylonian cult of Bel-Marduk influenced the Palmyrene religion and by 217 BC the chief deity's name was changed to Bel. [405] This did not indicate the replacing of the northwestern Semitic Bol with a Mesopotamian deity, but was a mere change in the name. [406]

Second in importance, after the supreme deity, [407] were over sixty ancestral gods of the Palmyrene clans. [407] [408] Palmyra had unique deities, [409] such as the god of justice and Efqa's guardian Yarhibol, [410] [411] the sun god Malakbel, [412] and the moon god Aglibol. [412] Palmyrenes worshiped regional deities, including the greater Levantine gods Astarte, Baal-hamon, Baalshamin and Atargatis [409] the Babylonian gods Nabu and Nergal, [409] and the Arab Azizos, Arsu, Šams and Al-lāt. [409] [410]

The deities worshiped in the countryside were depicted as camel or horse riders and bore Arab names. [345] The nature of those deities is uncertain as only names are known, most importantly Abgal. [413] The Palmyrene pantheon included ginnaye (some were given the designation "Gad"), [414] a group of lesser deities popular in the countryside, [415] who were similar to the Arab jinn and the Roman genius. [416] Ginnaye were believed to have the appearance and behavior of humans, similar to Arab jinn. [416] Unlike jinn, however, the ginnaye could not possess or injure humans. [416] Their role was similar to the Roman genius: tutelary deities who guarded individuals and their caravans, cattle and villages. [407] [416]

Although the Palmyrenes worshiped their deities as individuals, some were associated with other gods. [417] Bel had Astarte-Belti as his consort, and formed a triple deity with Aglibol and Yarhibol (who became a sun god in his association with Bel). [410] [418] Malakbel was part of many associations, [417] pairing with Gad Taimi and Aglibol, [419] [419] and forming a triple deity with Baalshamin and Aglibol. [420] Palmyra hosted an Akitu (spring festival) each Nisan. [421] Each of the city's four-quarters had a sanctuary for a deity considered ancestral to the resident tribe Malakbel and Aglibol's sanctuary was in the Komare quarter. [422] The Baalshamin sanctuary was in the Ma'zin quarter, the Arsu sanctuary in the Mattabol quarter, [422] and the Atargatis sanctuary in the fourth tribe's quarter. [note 37] [420]

The priests of Palmyra were selected from the city's leading families, [423] and are recognized in busts through their headdresses which have the shape of a polos adorned with laurel wreath or other tree made of bronze among other elements. [424] The high priest of Bel's temple was the highest religious authority and headed the clergy of priests who were organized into collegia each headed by a higher priest. [425] The personnel of Efqa spring's sanctuary dedicated to Yarhibol belonged to a special class of priests as they were oracles. [425] Palmyra's paganism was replaced with Christianity as the religion spread across the Roman Empire, and a bishop was reported in the city by 325. [287] Although most temples became churches, the Temple of Al-lāt was destroyed in 385 at the order of Maternus Cynegius (the eastern praetorian prefect). [287] After the Muslim conquest in 634 Islam gradually replaced Christianity, and the last known bishop of Palmyra was consecrated after 818. [426]

Malakbel and the Roman Sol Invictus Edit

In 274, following his victory over Palmyra, Aurelian dedicated a large temple of Sol Invictus in Rome [427] most scholars consider Aurelian's Sol Invictus to be of Syrian origin, [428] either a continuation of emperor Elagabalus cult of Sol Invictus Elagabalus, or Malakbel of Palmyra. [429] The Palmyrene deity was commonly identified with the Roman god Sol and he had a temple dedicated for him on the right bank of the Tiber since the second century. [430] Also, he bore the epithet Invictus and was known with the name Sol "Sanctissimus", the latter was an epithet Aurelian bore on an inscription from Capena. [430]

The position of the Palmyrene deity as Aurelian's Sol Invictus is inferred from a passage by Zosimus reading: "and the magnificent temple of the sun he (i.e. Aurelian) embellished with votive gifts from Palmyra, setting up statues of Helios and Bel". [431] Three deities from Palmyra exemplified solar features: Malakbel, Yarhibol and Šams, hence the identification of the Palmyrene Helios appearing in Zosimus' work with Malakbel. [431] Some scholars criticize the notion of Malakbel's identification with Sol Invictus according to Gaston Halsberghe, the cult of Malakbel was too local for it to become an imperial Roman god and Aurelian's restoration of Bel's temple and sacrifices dedicated to Malakbel were a sign of his attachment to the sun god in general and his respect to the many ways in which the deity was worshiped. [432] Richard Stoneman suggested another approach in which Aurelian simply borrowed the imagery of Malakbel to enhance his own solar deity. [433] The relation between Malakbel and Sol Invictus can not be confirmed and will probably remain unresolved. [430]

Palmyra's economy before and at the beginning of the Roman period was based on agriculture, pastoralism, and trade [18] the city served as a rest station for the caravans which sporadically crossed the desert. [194] By the end of the first century BC, the city had a mixed economy based on agriculture, pastoralism, taxation, [434] [435] and, most importantly, the caravan trade. [436] Taxation was an important source of revenue for the Palmyrene government. [435] Caravaneers paid taxes in the building known as the Tariff Court, [78] where a tax law dating to AD 137 was exhibited. [135] [437] The law regulated the tariffs paid by the merchants for goods sold at the internal market or exported from the city. [note 38] [78] [439]

The classicist Andrew M. Smith II suggested that most land in Palmyra was owned by the city, which collected grazing taxes. [434] The oasis had about 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of irrigable land, [440] which surrounded the city. [441] The Palmyrenes constructed an extensive irrigation system in the northern mountains that consisted of reservoirs and channels to capture and store the occasional rainfall. [442] The most notable irrigation work is Harbaqa Dam which was constructed in the late first century AD [note 39] [443] it is located 48 km (30 mi) southwest of the city and can collect 140,000 cubic metres (4,900,000 cu ft) of water. [444] Terebinth trees in the hinterland were an important source of charcoal, resin and oil although evidence is lacking, it is possible that olive trees were also planted, and dairy products were produced in the villages [203] it is also apparent that barley was cultivated. [445] However, agriculture could not support the population and food was imported. [441]

After Palmyra's destruction in 273, it became a market for villagers and nomads from the surrounding area. [446] The city regained some of its prosperity during the Umayyad era, indicated by the discovery of a large Umayyad souq in the colonnaded street. [447] Palmyra was a minor trading center until its destruction in 1400 [448] according to Sharaf ad-Din Ali Yazdi, Timur's men took 200,000 sheep, [449] and the city was reduced into a settlement on the desert border whose inhabitants herded and cultivated small plots for vegetables and corn. [450]

Commerce Edit

If the Laghman II inscription in Afghanistan is referring to Palmyra, then the city's role in Central Asian overland trade was prominent as early as the third century BC. [188] During the first centuries AD, Palmyra's main trade route ran east to the Euphrates where it connected at the city of Hīt. [451] The route then ran south along the river toward the port of Charax Spasinu on the Persian Gulf, where Palmyrene ships traveled back and forth to India. [452] Goods were imported from India, China and Transoxiana, [453] and exported west to Emesa (or Antioch) then the Mediterranean ports, [454] from which they were distributed throughout the Roman Empire. [452] In addition to the usual route some Palmyrene merchants used the Red Sea, [453] probably as a result of the Roman–Parthian Wars. [455] Goods were carried overland from the seaports to a Nile port, and then taken to the Egyptian Mediterranean ports for export. [455] Inscriptions attesting a Palmyrene presence in Egypt date to the reign of Hadrian. [456]

Since Palmyra was not on the main trading route (which followed the Euphrates), [18] the Palmyrenes secured the desert route passing their city. [18] They connected it to the Euphrates valley, providing water and shelter. [18] The Palmyrene route connected the Silk Road with the Mediterranean, [457] and was used almost exclusively by the city's merchants, [18] who maintained a presence in many cities, including Dura-Europos in 33 BC, [215] Babylon by AD 19, Seleucia by AD 24, [209] Dendera, Coptos, [458] Bahrain, the Indus River Delta, Merv and Rome. [459]

The caravan trade depended on patrons and merchants. [460] Patrons owned the land on which the caravan animals were raised, providing animals and guards for the merchants. [460] The lands were located in the numerous villages of the Palmyrene countryside. [345] Although merchants used the patrons to conduct business, their roles often overlapped and a patron would sometimes lead a caravan. [460] Commerce made Palmyra and its merchants among the wealthiest in the region. [436] Some caravans were financed by a single merchant, [78] such as Male' Agrippa (who financed Hadrian's visit in 129 and the 139 rebuilding of the Temple of Bel). [219] The primary income-generating trade good was silk, which was exported from the East to the West. [461] Other exported goods included jade, muslin, spices, ebony, ivory and precious stones. [459] For its domestic market Palmyra imported a variety of goods including slaves, prostitutes, olive oil, dyed goods, myrrh and perfume. [438] [459]

Palmyra's first scholarly description appeared in a 1696 book by Abednego Seller. [462] In 1751, an expedition led by Robert Wood and James Dawkins studied Palmyra's architecture. [463] French artist and architect Louis-François Cassas conducted an extensive survey of the city's monuments in 1785, publishing over a hundred drawings of Palmyra's civic buildings and tombs. [462] Palmrya was photographed for the first time in 1864 by Louis Vignes. [462] In 1882, the "Palmyrene Tariff", an inscribed stone slab from AD 137 in Greek and Palmyrene detailing import and export taxation, was discovered by prince Semyon Semyonovich Abamelik-Lazarev in the Tariff Court. [464] It has been described by the historian John F. Matthews as "one of the most important single items of evidence for the economic life of any part of the Roman Empire". [465] In 1901, the slab was gifted by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II to the Russian Tsar and is now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. [466]

Palmyra's first excavations were conducted in 1902 by Otto Puchstein and in 1917 by Theodor Wiegand. [344] In 1929, French general director of antiquities of Syria and Lebanon Henri Seyrig began large-scale excavation of the site [344] interrupted by World War II, it resumed soon after the war's end. [344] Seyrig started with the Temple of Bel in 1929 and between 1939 and 1940 he excavated the Agora. [345] Daniel Schlumberger conducted excavations in the Palmyrene northwest countryside in 1934 and 1935 where he studied different local sanctuaries in the Palmyrene villages. [345] From 1954 to 1956, a Swiss expedition organized by UNESCO excavated the Temple of Baalshamin. [344] Since 1958, the site has been excavated by the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities, [343] and Polish expeditions of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw, [467] led by many archaeologists including Kazimierz Michałowski (until 1980) and Michael Gawlikowski (until 2009). [344] [468] The stratigraphic sounding beneath the Temple of Bel was conducted in 1967 by Robert du Mesnil du Buisson, [89] who also discovered the Temple of Baal-hamon in the 1970s. [149] In 1980, the historic site including the necropolis outside the walls was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. [469]

The Polish expedition concentrated its work on the Camp of Diocletian while the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities excavated the Temple of Nabu. [345] Most of the hypogea were excavated jointly by the Polish expedition and the Syrian Directorate, [470] while the area of Efqa was excavated by Jean Starcky and Jafar al-Hassani. [34] The Palmyrene irrigation system was discovered in 2008 by Jørgen Christian Meyer who researched the Palmyrene countryside through ground inspections and satellite images. [471] Most of Palmyra still remains unexplored especially the residential quarters in the north and south while the necropolis has been thoroughly excavated by the Directorate and the Polish expedition. [34] Excavation expeditions left Palmyra in 2011 due to the Syrian Civil War. [472]

8 Buildings with No History

While it is not odd to find ancient architecture with no history, one location was a surprise. In Somerset, another case of mysterious foundations came to light. Only this time, the scale was breathtaking. During medieval times, the site would have been home to an impressive group of buildings. The complex, occupied for 200 years between the 12th-14th centuries, consisted of a vast area where courtyards were surrounded by stone structures.

The buildings themselves would have been commanding and decorated with floor and roof tiles of exquisite craftsmanship. Some of the recovered tiles resembled those from Glastonbury Abbey. Since the ruins are not far away and richly decorated, it is plausible that this was also some sort of religious center. Thousands of monasteries were disbanded and their material confiscated for other building projects, but the Somerset complex, discovered in 2013, vanished long before that era. It is extremely rare for a site of this size and significance to be erased from the land, history, and human memory.

Archaeologists Find High-Quality Jadeite Tool at Ancient Maya Salt-Working Site in Belize

The jadeite gouge after discovery. Image credit: Heather McKillop.

Jadeite is a hard rock that varies from translucent to opaque. During the Classic Period of 300-900 CE, high-quality translucent jadeite was typically reserved for unique and elaborate jadeite plaques, figurines and earrings for royalty and other elites.

However, Louisiana State University’s Professor Heather McKillop and colleagues recovered the 1,200-year-old jadeite tool at Ek Way Nal, one of 110 ancient salt working sites comprising the Paynes Creek Salt Works.

“The salt workers were successful entrepreneurs who were able to obtain high-quality tools for their craft through the production and distribution of a basic biological necessity: salt. Salt was in demand for the Maya diet,” Professor McKillop said.

“We have discovered that it was also a storable form of wealth and an important preservative for fish and meat.”

The Ek Way Nal tool is made of exceptionally high-quality jadeite, which is surprising given its utilitarian context.

The translucent appearance of the artifact results from tightly woven grains in the material, which make the jadeite particularly durable and, therefore, even more desirable for use as a tool.

Wooden handle for the jadeite gouge. Image credit: Heather McKillop.

“This jadeite tool is the first of its kind that has been recovered with its wooden handle intact,” Professor McKillop noted.

Analysis of the wood’s structure shows that the handle is made from the Honduran rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii).

“Although the jadeite tool was probably not used on wood or hard materials, it may have been used in other activities at the salt works, such as scraping salt, cutting and scraping fish or meat, or cleaning calabash gourds,” Professor McKillop said.

The team’s paper was published in the journal Antiquity.

Heather McKillop et al. 2019. Demystifying jadeite: an underwater Maya discovery at Ek Way Nal, Belize. Antiquity 93 (368): 502-518 doi: 10.15184/aqy.2019.35

Watch the video: Olmec Imperial Green Jade Necklace (May 2022).