The Ancient City of Palmyra Lost in Syrian History Forever

The Ancient City of Palmyra Lost in Syrian History Forever Photo Credit: Fernando Arias

Known as the "Venice of the Sands", the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra was a wealthy luxury caravan center from the 1st to the 3rd centuries. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic era, 2nd millennium BC, when the city was first documented as a caravan stop for travellers crossing the Syrian Desert.

Located at the edge of an oasis of gardens, Palmyra was a part of the Seleucid Empire and prospered after its incorporation into the Roman Empire during the first century. In 270 AD, Roman Arabia was annexed under the tutelage of Zenobia, the Queen of the newly formed Palmyrene Empire of Syria. The Queen's famous revolt against the Roman Empire would only last a few years of prosperity before reconquest by Rome was accomplished sometime between 272-273 AD – effectively disestablishing the Palmyrene Empire.

The entitlement of Ancient Palmyra was turbulently disputed throughout the many millenniums and centuries of its existence. After 1958, the site was completely excavated by the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities, and Polish expeditions led by many archaeologists, including Kazimierz Michałowski (until 1980) and Michael Gawlikowski (until 2011), concentrated efforts on discovering and restoring the ancient ruins. In 1980, the historic site was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.

In 2015, Palmyra came under the control of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which later destroyed the ancient ruins' priceless architecture and art. The physical history may be gone, but the beautiful photography and its documentation by numerous expeditions will never be erased. In response to the destruction, Creative Commons started an online repository of three-dimensional images published into the public domain to digitally reconstruct Palmyra.


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