My time with the incredible finds from Dura Europos at the Yale University Art Gallery are some of my fondest memories…
Walking alongside the shelves, one can step from intricate African sculptures to ancient Greek vases to Chinese porcelain to a collection of Picasso ceramics. Opposite the entrance and behind glass display cases are a series of white, metal sliding shelves. They are filled with, among other things, wooden staffs, tea cups and wall fragments excavated from Dura-Europos, Syria.
Source: Show and Tell: Handling Art at the Wurtele Center
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.
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…
“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.
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.
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).