Bringing the Dead Cities to Life


In terms of archaeology, Syria is among the most prosperous countries in the world. The nation’s architectural archaeology documents thousands of years of human habitation — a physical legacy of the rich cultural history of the region. The ongoing conflict in the country places much of this archaeological heritage, and with it the cultural identity of the Syrian people, at risk. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2011 (UNESCO site ID 1348), the Dead Cities are a group of ancient deserted villages lying on a long limestone ridge in northwest Syria. Abandoned between 700 and 900 AD, the settlements endure in a remarkable state of preservation. Structures including churches, funerary monuments, bath houses, and public buildings remain frozen in time offering an unparalleled insight into the rural history of the region in the late Antique and early Byzantine periods. In this project, we combine a fact-finding and condition monitoring initiative across the Dead Cities region with a digital surveying and modelling project to bring these remarkable settlements to life. By sharing the beauty of these remarkable sites with the world, we hope to underline the importance of supporting the Syrian people in their efforts to preserve and celebrate their cultural heritage.