City of Damascus

 

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Background

  • The city of Damascus is located in Southern Syria in the Middle East. It is considered to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, as there have been excavations showing that it was inhabited as early as 10,000-8,000 B.C. (UNESCO 2016)
  • Damascus was a major city in the past largely because of its location in the crossroads of Africa, Europe, and Asia. Over the years it has been controlled by several empires including the Roman, Byzantine, Hellenistic, and Islamic empires. What is left today symbolizes the different cultures and how they impacted the city through the years.
  • The old city and some of the new city still reflect Roman city planning, in that its streets are only either North-South or East-West. Much of what the Islamic empire constructed hasn’t lasted, while Ottoman influences are still noticeably seen. The most notable structure left standing is the Umayyad Mosque in the Old City.

 

 

  • Modern Day Damascus is the second most populous city in Syria, with just below 2 million inhabitants behind Aleppo. It is expected that Damascus will become or already has become the most populous city as a result of the civil war, as people flee from Aleppo. Damascus still functions as an important cultural center.

Endangering Factors-Damascus

  • The City of Damascus is under threat by the Syrian civil war, and meets 5 of UNESCO’s criteria, mostly on the basis of the city having rich cultural and historical importance. UNESCO aims to protect the major monuments such as the Umayyad Mosque, and other important religious structures.
  • So far much of Damascus and the Old City has faced relatively little damage, however the some of the suburbs of Damascus have faced heavy damage. The majority of the fighting in Damascus between rebels and the government have taken place in the suburbs, and there is still heavy activity within these suburbs.

 

  • Damage done to the old city has been a result of crossfire and collateral damage from conflict between different parties, as well as small-scale suicide bombings or other similar terrorist attacks. (Ching, 2016)
  • More than five years into Syria’s chaotic civil war, the capital is relatively undamaged and functioning, bustling with commuters, markets and restaurants — especially compared with Aleppo. (Barnard, 2016).
  • A recently published article from the Los Angeles Times talks of Damascus returning to relative peace, with a greater sense of security and prosperity.
Map of War in Syria

Map of War in Syria- Screenshot taken from http://syria.liveuamap.com/

 

Map of Current Damascus Conflict

Map of Current Damascus Conflict- Screenshot taken from http://syria.liveuamap.com/

 

 

  • The Umayyad Mosque and other important structures face real threat from the conflict in Syria, for reference, below is the destruction that occurred to a Mosque similar to the Umayyad Mosque. This Mosque is located in Aleppo, which is considered the center of the Syrian Civil War.

 

Aleppo Mosque Before the Syrian Civil War. Taken From: http://otecorporation.com/tempote/2015/03/02/seeds-of-war/

 

 

Aleppo Mosque After Destruction Caused by the Syrian Civil War. Taken From: http://otecorporation.com/tempote/2015/03/02/seeds-of-war/

Endangering Factors-Archaeologist’s Role

Archaeologists have the power to study human history over thousands of years, allowing them to understand issues affecting humanity on a different level than other scientists. By examining thousands of years instead of only looking at the past 100 years or so, archaeologists are better able to find underlying patterns and root causes to issues that modern-day humanity still faces, such as conflict.

  • Archaeologists have studied conflict throughout the world, one example comes from Archaeology Matters and pertains to the Valley of Oaxaca. In this valley, 19 villages were present, and they experienced increased raiding over time, which is an indication that they were engaging in conflict in order to obtain resources such as land, water, and scarce materials. This is an example where archaeologists found that resource inequality was a main factor in the conflict, adding to the general idea that most conflict is a result of the fight over resources. (Sabloff, 2008)
  • A journal written by two European archaeologists goes over the archaeology of conflict, and why archaeologists are so drawn to it. So much of the world’s cultural identity and history is tied to conflict, allowing archaeologists to learn an expansive amount about humanity’s past just by focusing on major conflicts.
  • The study of conflict by archaeologists in the land of Palestine allowed historians to fill in the gaps of the Bible according to a journal written by an archaeologist. The study of conflict was key because it allowed the researchers to study one mass of land that played a key role in the developing middle east.

Values often confront each other, which is why the act of balancing conflicting values is actually at the core of all heritage management practice.- Dominic Perring & Sjoerd van der Linde


Insight into Global Issues

Archaeologists have the power to study human history over thousands of years, allowing them to understand issues affecting humanity on a different level than other scientists. By examining thousands of years instead of only looking at the past 100 years or so, archaeologists are better able to find underlying patterns and root causes to issues that modern-day humanity still faces, such as conflict, climate change, urbanization and sustainability.

Climate change can be addressed by archaeologists by studying the archaeological record, determining patterns and key causes, and suggesting solutions to other scientists. Archaeological research being performed in Northern Mesopotamia revealed a 300-year long climate aberration related to a volcanic eruption.  Using this information, and using similar studies scientists will better be able to examine long-term patterns and be in a better position to solve them in whatever way possible. (Sandweiss, Kelley, 2012)

Sustaining the human population is one of the most pertinent global issues regarding humanity today and as we look into the future. Archaeologists are most useful in the endeavor of creating a sustainable environment for the future by studying  past successful agricultural and irrigational techniques. Humans throughout history have been looking for the most efficient ways to sustain a population, and no experts are better at studying their methods than archaeologists. One of the most intriguing examples of such study is the man-modified soil of ancient Amazonian tribes, called terra preta. This soil allowed ancient peoples to greatly increase their agricultural production, and perhaps could be applied to today’s societies struggling to produce food. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Os-ujelkgw

Bibliography

-Barnard, Anne

2016 Damascus Diary: A Syrian City Filled With Life, and Hints of Brutal Death. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/world/middleeast/damascus-diary-syria-war.html, accessed November 23, 2016.

-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 2016 (Brief Synthesis Section of Damascus Page).  Accessed 23 November, 2016. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/ 

-Ching, Kyle

2015 Art Under Assault, Electronic Document, http://sites.uci.edu/artunderattack/ancient-city-of-damascus-syria/, Accessed Nov. 24, 2016.

-Sabloff, Jeremy A. Archaeology Matters: Action Archaeology in the Modern World. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2008.
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-Perring, Dominic, and Sjoerd Van Der Linde. “The Politics and Practice of Archaeology in Conflict.” Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 11, no. 3-4 (2009): 197-213. Accessed December 1, 2016. doi:10.1179/175355210×12747818485321. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1179/175355210X12747818485321
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 -Feldbacher, Rainer. “Area of Conflict: Archaeology and Its Implications in the Holy Land.” Archaeologies 9, no. 1 (April 2013): 192-212. Accessed December 1, 2016. doi:10.1007/s11759-013-9221-8. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11759-013-9221-8
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-Sandweiss, Daniel H., and Alice R. Kelley. “Archaeological Contributions to Climate Change Research: The Archaeological Record as a Paleoclimatic and Paleoenvironmental Archive*.” Annual Review of Anthropology 41, no. 1 (2012): 371-91. Accessed December 1, 2016. doi:10.1146/annurev-anthro-092611-145941. http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-anthro-092611-145941
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-Tomorer. “The Secret Of Eldorado – TERRA PRETA.” YouTube. 2011. Accessed December 01, 2016. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Os-ujelkgw.

9 thoughts on City of Damascus

  1. I have heard a little about the City of Damascus from the Bible but have never quite looked at it from a cultural and archaeological perspective. I did not realize just how many different groups have inhabited this area over the course of hundreds of thousands of years. This site is rich is cultural history from parts all around Europe. It is crazy to think about just how many people have lived in the city throughout its existence. My site, the Old City of Sana’a is also affected by conflict and war within the area. I agree with you in that archaeologists can provide valuable insights to the causes of war and potentially how to come up with compromises or solutions to problems. I hope the fighting in Syria does not cause irreversible damage to the archaeological and cultural treasures of this area!

  2. its very interesting that your city is still inhabited today, my site which was also a city hasn’t been inhabited or had many people in it since it was abandoned, how has the continued habitation in and around your site effected it?

    1. The continued habitation of the site has affected the site because throughout time, more and more debris and dirt has been piled on top of the archaeological evidence that might be sought after. For example, Roman Damascus as archaeologists call it, is over 16 feet below the surface of modern day Damascus. So the combination of the ancient history piling up over the years, as well as more modern debris makes it difficult to excavate. This idea that Damascus has been inhabited by so many cultures though is what makes it special and worth excavating, so it is a trade-off.

  3. Do you think the site of Damascus may be threatened if the war continues and possibly gets worse? I know you said the conflict is primarily in the suburbs, but there could be a chance that the site is in danger. What kind of fallout do you think would occur if the site were to be disturbed, or worse yet, destroyed?

    1. Right now the focus of the Syrian civil war seems to be in the northern cities, but if for whatever reason the war shifts to the south and into Damascus the old city absolutely would be under threat. There has been a ton of destruction in Damascus’s sister city, Aleppo, and similar things could happen in Damascus if it becomes a new focal point of the war. If the old city of Damascus, in particular the Umayyad Mosque gets damaged or destroyed there will likely be major fallout, mostly because the mosque is considered to be the fourth holiest place in Islam, so it means a lot to Muslims around the world.

  4. The city of Damascus is so beautiful. I absolutely adore the architecture- do you think that the old architecture inspired some of the architecture we see in the middle east today?

  5. I certainly think that Damascus inspired architecture around the Middle East, as it has been such an important city to Muslims and the Middle East in general for centuries. It is one of the Middle East’s proudest cities and specifically I could see the argument of the Umayyad Mosque inspiring other mosques in the middle east. A lot of pictures that I saw of other mosques looked very similar in layout and overall appearance to the Umayyad Mosque.

  6. interesting page. any idea on the number of stored antiquities here of it’s own, as well as other cities, like Palmyra?

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