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Camilla Care

New article in magazine highlights Dura-Europas in Syria

Vaseline 1 month ago

To Israelis, Syria is a troubled, war-torn country that supports terrorist attacks on Israel. Yet parts of it are archaeological gems. The Dura-Europos site in modern-day Syria is known for its exceptional state of preservation. Like Pompeii, this ancient city has yielded many great discoveries and serves as a window into the world of ancient Hellenistic, Parthian and Roman times.

But despite Dura-Europos’s prominence in Near Eastern scholarship, just a few miles downstream of the Euphrates River there is another city that offers a long-neglected opportunity for study. A new article in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies entitled “The Ancient City of Giddan/Eddana (Anqa, Iraq) the ‘Forgotten Twin of Dura-Europos’” identifies the city of Anqa as an almost mirror image of Dura-Europos, of similar size, similar composition and potentially equivalent. value for scientists from the region.

Anqa is located just across the Syrian border from Dura-Europos, in what is now the Al-Qaim district of Iraq’s Anbar Governorate. The remains include an identifying mound at the northern end of the site, a polygonal inner wall circuit and a large outer defensive wall (enceinte).

Located at a point where the Euphrates floodplains radically narrow, the city would have controlled movement between the densely populated part of the valley upstream and the downstream trade route that linked Syria, northern Mesopotamia and Babylonia, making the city a would have acquired great strategic and economic significance.

Dura-Europos was built on a steep slope, 90 meters above the southwestern bank of the Euphrates River. It is located near the village of Salhiyé, in modern-day Syria. It was founded around 300 BCE by Seleucus I Nicator, who also established the Seleucid Empire as one of Alexander the Great’s Diadochi. In 113 B.C. the Parthians conquered and held it, with a short Roman break of 50 years.

Syrian troops of President Bashar Assad are seen on al-Haara Hill in the Quneitra area, Syria, July 17, 2018 (credit: SANA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The Romans decisively conquered Dura-Europos in 165 CE and greatly expanded it as their easternmost stronghold in Mesopotamia until it was conquered by the Sasanian Empire after a siege in 256–57 CE. The population was deported and the abandoned city eventually became covered in sand and mud and disappeared from view.

Dura-Europos is of extreme archaeological importance and was called the ‘Pompeii of the Desert’ because it was abandoned after the conquest in 256 to 57 CE and nothing was built over it. As we recall, it was looted and largely destroyed by Islamic State between 2011 and 2014 during the Syrian Civil War.

Archaeologists did not pay attention to the site until around 1850

However, archaeologists paid no attention to the site until the publication in 1850 of a British expeditionary survey of the Middle Euphrates, followed by a more thorough survey of the site conducted in the late 1930s by Aurel Stein, including aerial photographs of the standing position. structures, but even after these forays there was little need to learn more than the geographical location of this sister city to Dura-Europos.

One reason for the difference in interest between Anqa and Dura-Europos, suggests the article’s author, Prof. Simon James of the University of Leicester, an Iron Age and Roman archaeologist and author. His research interests include the Roman world and its interactions with the Celts and Middle Eastern peoples, as well as the history of British and French colonial intervention in the region.

In 1920, as a result of the San Remo Conference, Iraq was occupied by the British and Syria by the French. As James wrote, the “new political, military, and administrative border created a barrier to research and understanding of the past history of the region as a whole.”

But while Dura-Europos and some other locations in Iraq and Syria have suffered looting, destruction and civilian deaths as a result of conflict in the region, Anqa has remained relatively untouched.

As further archaeological research is conducted, he suggested, Anqa could continue to provide valuable insight into the history of the Middle Euphrates. And furthermore, because methods of digital scholarship bring thinkers together “despite political boundaries,” the practice of studying such sites can even, in James’s words, help “address the consequences of colonialism in archaeology.”