Sam Harrelson

“Dura Europos Fanboy”

Merianna just called me a “Dura Europos Fanboy” as she walked past me reading an article in this morning’s NY Times by Prof. Michael Peppard about Dura Europos while drinking coffee from my Dura Europos mug.

duranytimes

 



Destroying Dura Europos

A Greek settlement on the Euphrates not far from Syria’s border with Iraq, Dura-Europos later became one of Rome’s easternmost outposts. It housed the world’s oldest known Christian church, a beautifully decorated synagogue, and many other temples and Roman-era buildings. Satellite imagery shows a cratered landscape inside the city’s mud-brick walls, evidence of widespread destruction by looters.

Source: Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed

One of my biggest regrets in life is not making more of an effort to actually visit the site of Dura Europos (and Nimrud) before this bleak period in the area’s history. I’ll always have my memories from working with Yale’s collection of material from Dura, and my books, my journal articles, and my media clippings… but to have been there before ISIS…

carpe diem



Dura Europos Looting and Devastation Update

Tragic.

“There is a complete and massive change to this site,” Wolfinbarger says, comparing the pre-war images to those collected in 2014 of the renowned archaeological treasure.

British soldiers discovered Dura Europus in the 1920s. They hit on the wall of the ancient city while digging a trench during World War I. Excavation revealed a provincial Roman town founded in 300 B.C.

Brian Daniels, director of research at the Penn Cultural Heritage Center in Philadelphia, describes Dura Europos as “a snapshot in time.”

“It has the oldest synagogue known in the world and it also has one of the oldest house church known in the world,” Daniels says. “The level of looting and devastation that’s happened to Dura Europus is heart-breaking.”

via Via Satellite, Tracking The Plunder Of Middle East Cultural History : Parallels : NPR.



Dura Europos as a “Moonscape of Craters”

More sadness regarding ISIS and looting at Dura Europos in Syria…

“I am fearful that there will be mass looting as in Syria,” said Katharyn Hanson, a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Cultural Heritage Centre and a specialist in Mesopotamian archaeology, who is visiting Erbil. She says that Nineveh, Nimrud and other cities of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which once stretched from the Gulf to the Mediterranean, will “become like Dura-Europos on the Euphrates, a moonscape of craters [from looters pits].” Dura-Europos is a Hellenistic city whose site used to be known as “the Pompeii of the Syrian desert”.

via Iraq: Isis militants pledge to destroy remaining archaeological treasures in Nimrud – Middle East – World – The Independent.



Dura Europos and Its Art



Just received my 1938 first edition copy of M. Rostovtzeff’s Dura Europos And Its Art today. I’ve now been able to secure every first edition of books about Dura (outside of the Final Reports, which I’m working on).

Good day. 



More on Dura Europos Looting

The first image is the site of Dura Europos from June 28 2012 and the second image is from April 2 2014 (notice how many looting holes there are now):

  

Dura Europos is located right near the border of Syria and Iraq on the Euphrates and is an archaeological record of the strife this area has faced for millenia. The little fort town only existed as a functioning place for about 500 years, but was controlled by the Macedonians, Persians, Parthians, and Romans before finally being destroyed and left for us to recover by the Sassanians around 256 CE. We’ve discovered incredible records of our shared human culture such as the earliest depictions of Jesus, a full Mithraeum, a rather intact Roman citadel, and a “painted” Jewish synagogue complete with depictions of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament narratives that still cause wonderment from scholars.

It’s sad that we’re not hearing more about this cultural loss.

From the US State Department regarding looting at Dura Europos and many similar (very important) archaeological sites in Syria…

This unique Classical-period site, founded in the 3rd century BC and occupied until the 3rd century AD, demonstrates the diversity of the ancient Middle East. One of the world’s earliest churches was discovered here, as was one of the oldest preserved synagogues and numerous temples devoted to polytheistic deities. This important site of approximately 150 acres (60 hectares) is now covered by looters’ pits.

via Imagery of Archaeological Site Looting | Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.



Dura Europos Looting

The “holes” in the inset picture are looting holes from the area near the main agora at Dura Europos. Sadly, we haven’t properly excavated much of that area.

This literally breaks my heart given that we’ve properly excavated such a small amount of Dura Europos and we’ve learned so much about Judaism, early Christianity, and a plethora of other 3rd century religions flourishing under Roman rule in Syria…

We need to act rapidly against a situation that is becoming noticeably worse. In fact we are faced by a volcano in permanent eruption with a mixture of hate and horror. It is breaking down Syrian society and its values through the violent and systematic destruction of its heritage. The situation is comparable to a boiling crater of lava. Around this volcano, archaeological heritage is suffering eruptive blasts, with the population hovering between expectation, anguish and hope.

via Syrian Archaeology, ‘Scale of the Scandal’ | The ASOR Blog.

History and our cultural heritage matters.



Edge of Empires at Dura Europos

2014-06-21 18.56.35 2014-06-21 18.56.45 2014-06-21 18.57.11

Finally got my copy of Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos.

It’s a fascinating and beautiful book (I actually took some of the photos in there during my time at Yale University Art Gallery when I worked on digitizing our amazing Dura Europos collection). I could literally go on and on about Dura (ask my wife), but here’s the Amazon description:

Strategically located high above the Euphrates River between Syria and Mesopotamia, the city of Dura-Europos was founded around 300 BCE by one of the Macedonian generals who succeeded Alexander the Great. Within a century, the Near Eastern Parthians overtook and controlled the city until the Roman emperor Lucius Verus captured it in 164 CE. Dura-Europos then thrived as a critical stronghold along the Roman imperial frontier until 256 CE, when the Sasanian Persians destroyed it. By the time of its demise, Dura-Europos was a city positioned at the commercial, political, and cultural intersections of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. Edge of Empires vividly illustrates the international and pluralistic character of Dura-Europos, highlighting objects that demonstrate the coexistence of multiple religions such as polytheistic cults, Judaism, and Christianity; the great variety of languages spoken by its population; and its role as an international military garrison.

Dura is like an old friend that teaches me new things all these years later.

Now I finally need to get duraeuropos.org off the ground 🙂



Dura Europos and Me

Dura Europos

Thanks to Evernote, I’ve been able to digitize most of the notebooks I’ve written on Dura Europos. I know take digital notes on the small city, but thumbing back through my Moleskine notebooks full of clippings and hand written notes makes me feel a bit like Indiana Jones with his father’s collected notebooks on the Holy Grail.

In many ways, Dura is like my holy grail.

I started studying the city while working as a curatorial assistant to Susan Matthews at the Yale Art Gallery while doing my graduate studies there in ancient religious art. In fact, my real first job was to spend time with the thousands of objects that Yale has in its warehouses and the gallery basement and lovingly “digitize” Yale’s collection of slides, objects and paintings from its involvement with the excavation of Dura Europos in the 1930’s. It was magical.

I still go back to those dark and stuffed basements and warehouses full of artifacts, beads, paintings, statues, detritus and debris in my mind and realize what a chance Prof Matheson allowed me to fall in love with a place.

Ten years later, I still want to go:

Dura-Europos, a Melting Pot at the Intersection of Empires – NYTimes.com: “As a city of extraordinary cultural diversity,’ said Jennifer Y. Chi, an archaeologist and the exhibition’s chief curator, ‘Dura-Europos has great resonance for the modern world, where multiculturalism shapes the very nature and quality of daily life.”

Here’s a nice interactive site on Dura that the Yale Art Gallery has put together with maps, images and descriptions. I highly recommend checking it out.

I would share my Evernote notebook with you all… but would Dr Henry Jones Sr share his holy grail notebook? Nah.



What Do the Smurfs, Robert Heinlein and Dura Europos Have in Common?

The Phyrgian cap.





:)