Archaeologists Train "Monuments Men" to Save Syria's Past

Amid the devastation and danger of civil war, Syrian archaeologists and activists are risking their lives in the battle against looting.

The ancient city of Dura-Europos sits on a bluff above the Tigris River a few miles from Syria’s border with Iraq, its mud-brick walls facing a bleak expanse of desert. Just a year ago the city’s precise grid of streets—laid down by Greek and Roman residents 2,000 years ago—was largely intact. Temples, houses, and a substantial Roman outpost were preserved for centuries by the desert sands.

“It stood out for its remarkable preservation,” says Simon James, an archaeologist at the U.K.’s University of Leicester who spent years studying the site’s Roman garrison. “Until now.” Read more.


Archaeological Remains of the Synagogue at Dura Europos, near present-day Al-Salihiyah, Syria. x 

The Dura Europos synagogue is one of the oldest and best preserved synagogues in the Jewish diaspora discovered.  It was dated to between 165 and 200 CE, when Dura Europos was under Roman control, and served as a synagogue until Dura Europos was conquered by the Sassanid king Shapur I in 257 CE and its population was enslaved.  Its brightly colored walls depicted scenes from the Torah, such as Moses being fetched from the River Nile.  What remained of the synagogue has likely been destroyed with the rest of Dura Europos by ISIS in the ongoing Syrian Civil War; a conflict that has also killed over 250,000 Syrians.  The whereabouts of the paintings on the walls of the synagogue, which were last held in Damascus, are unknown.

To read more about the significance of the discovery of the synagogue in Dura Europos, click here.

A Roman shrine to the god Mithras (Mithraeum), ca. A.D. 240, from Dura-Europos (Syria).

The cult of Mithras first became evident in Rome towards the late 1st century AD. Having originated in Persia, during the next two centuries, it spread to the frontiers of the Western empire. It is referred to as a Roman “mystery” cult, for an initiation ceremony was required in joining, and the members kept the activities and liturgy of the cult strictly secret. Due to the highly secretive nature of the cult, our evidence for it is essentially entirely archaeological. Here we have a rare of example of a Mithraeum from Dura-Europos, which appears to be originally set in private house -a rare case indeed. The Yale University Art Gallery give the following description:

A shrine to the god Mithras, the Mithraeum at Dura-Europos was commissioned A.D. 168/69 by Palmyrene archers serving in the Roman army. It was renovated and enlarged in A.D. 209/11. The reconstruction on view here represents the third and final phase, dating to around A.D. 240. Unlike most Mithraea, which were underground to commemorate the god’s birth in a cave, the Dura Mithraeum was built into a private house.

The cult of Mithras attained popularity in the Roman period among soldiers and merchants. Restricted to men, it was a mystery religion thought to include initiation, ritual banquets, and the promise of salvation after death. The primary cult image was the tauroctony, or Mithras slaying the Cosmic Bull, often paired with an image of Mithras banqueting with Sol, god of the sun (as seen in the painting at left). Other common images included events from the life of Mithras and zodiac signs. While the subjects depicted in most Mithraea are similar, style and composition vary. The Dura Mithraeum contained two tauroctony reliefs, one above the other. The side walls showed Mithras as a mounted archer in a presentation that would have resonated with the Palmyrene archers who founded the shrine. (Yale)

Courtesy of & can be viewed at the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT. Via their online collections1935.100.


Looting in Dura-Europos

Dura-Europos is an Ancient Roman Military city located in Syria along the Euphrates river. The site is best known for its multicultural population. The city had temples dedicated to Roman and Palmyrene gods and many multilingual inscriptions have been found throughout the site.  Additionally, the city contains a Jewish synagogue and the oldest Christian church in existence. Both structures date to the 3rd century CE.

In 2014 ISIS took control of the area and the site was severely looted. As of April 2014 it is estimated that over 76% of Dura-Europos has been damaged through mass looting. 

Wall painting fragment showing female face A.D. 165-256 Paint on plaster Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos1929.353Culture: Dura-Europos (Syria)Period: Roman, 2nd or 3rd century A.D. Yale University Art Gallery


Moses and the Burning Bush, Moses receives the Tablets of the LawMoses reading the TorahMoses at Mount Nebo - Dura-Europos synagogue, Syria, c. 244 CE. Tempera over plaster. One of the oldest synagogues in the world, the Dura-Europos synagogue preserves some of the most precious and unique examples of Jewish art in history. These four portraits of Moses are found on the center of the synagogue’s western wall, above the Torah niche. Note his depiction with a square halo.

Dura-Europos painted wooden shield undergoes new analysis

Painted with scenes from the Trojan War, a Roman shield is being examined in great detail, 80 years after it was excavated. Dating back to the mid-third century A.D., it was discovered by Yale archaeologists at the site of Dura-Europos, in present-day Syria. The shield is one of three that were found stacked together at the excavation site, all of which are in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG).

The three oval painted shields “are extraordinarily rare examples of ancient painting techniques on wood,” says Anne Gunnison, assistant conservator of objects at YUAG.

Gunnison, Erin R. Mysak, associate conservation scientist at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH), and Irma Passeri, associate conservator of paintings at YUAG, have been analysing the materials used to make the shields, as well as identifying treatment materials used in the field to stabilize the objects following excavation. Read more.


Roman scutum shield. This is the only known surviving example of this kind of shields. It was famous for the Testudo (tortoise) formation, used commonly by the Roman Legions during battles, particularly sieges. 

In the testudo formation, the men would align their shields to form a packed formation covered with shields on the front and top. The first row of men, possibly excluding the men on the flanks, would hold their shields from about the height of their shins to their eyes, so as to cover the formation’s front. The shields would be held in such a way that they presented a shield wall to all sides.

Dura-Europos, Syria, 1800 years old

Lower half of statuette of half-draped Aphrodite A.D. 200-256 Limestone Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos Culture: Dura-Europos (Syria) Period: Graeco-Roman or Parthian Yale University Art Gallery
It's time to end the EuroZone

This has to be the best analogy I’ve ever heard too. 

The EuroZone was doomed to fail from the beginning. 

Never mind Spain or Italy or even Belgium; the euro crisis has spread to Germany, which is struggling to sell its bonds. The Corner’s Mark Steyn likes to say that, if you take a quart of ice cream and a quart of dog faeces and mix ’em together, the result will generally taste more like the latter than the former. It’s true of international organizations (the context Mark uses) and it’s true of what’s happening in the euro zone.

EU leaders have spent the past year issuing sententious bromides about “avoiding contagion.” It’s an odd metaphor, since the usual defence against contagion is quarantine. Eurocrats, however, have insisted on taking Italy and Greece’s problems and making them everyone else’s. Result? The only economic havens in Europe are those outside the single currency: Switzerland, Scandinavia, and (oddly, when you consider that our deficit is higher than Portugal’s and almost as high as Greece’s) the United Kingdom.

From the beginning, the Brussels elites made it clear that, to adapt Abraham Lincoln, their paramount object was to save the Union. Never mind if that meant imposing epochal poverty and emigration on the southern members, and unprecedented tax rises on the northern. Never mind if it meant toppling the elected prime ministers of Italy and Greece and replacing them with Eurocrats (respectively a former European Commissioner and a former vice president of the European Central Bank — two perfect specimens of the people who caused the crisis in the first place). They were prepared to pay any price to keep the euro together — or, more precisely, to expect their peoples to pay, since EU employees are generally exempt from national taxation.

The alternative policy — an orderly unbundling of the euro — has never been seriously considered. Had it happened two years ago, a great deal of pain might have been avoided. If it happens now, there will be a cost, but it is still patently the least bad option.

Bible Scenes Uncovered in Ruins of Ancient Synagogue

Archaeologists excavating a Roman-era synagogue at the site of Huqoq, Israel, have uncovered two new panels of a mosaic floor with instantly identifiable subjects—Noah’s ark, and the parting of the Red Sea during the Israelite exodus from Egypt.

“You can see the pharaoh’s soldiers with their chariots and horses drowning, and even being eaten by large fish,” says excavation director Jodi Magness, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Such images are extremely rare in this period. “I know of only two other scenes of the parting of the Red Sea in ancient synagogues,” Magness explains. “One is in the wall paintings at Dura Europos [in Syria], which is a complete scene but different from ours—no fish devouring the Egyptian soldiers. The other is at Wadi Hamam [in Israel], but that’s very fragmentary and poorly preserved.” Read more.

Bust of Seleucus I Nicator (Europos ca 358 BC-Lisimacheia 281 BC), Macedonian general after Alexander the Great and founder of the Seleucid dynasty. bronze from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, Campania, Italy, 1st century BC.


Guys. Seriously tho.  

Have tawwakoul in Allah, hold onto your hjiab and abaya, khumoor, niqab - beard and whatever you wear or do for the sake of allah.

 Hold on to it, hold on to it hold on to it. 

Done let any mofo make you feel like youre ashamed for being a muslim. Have trust in Allah and keep your head high and be proud on your religion even if they try to pull your hjiab off. 

Read about the sahaba if you dont know how to stay strong when people ridiule your faith.  Read about them and let them inspire you, they have been through so much worse than we actually do in Europo or America in 2015.  Whenever someone calls you a terrorist or even someone attacks you, remember this and know that you got Him. Dont let such things weaken you. Read the quran, make adiyaat and dont stop doing good deeds.

Remember this hadith:

 Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “A time will come upon the people when the one who is patient (in them) in his religion (will be) like the one holding onto hot coal.” [Collected by Tirmidhi, authenticated by shaykh al-Albaani (rahimahullah). There is yet another (longer) version of this hadeeth collected by Imam Ahmad (rahimahullah) in his musnad.] 

Jannah is worth it guys. It is. Remember that.

Head of Atargatis or Tyche with doves 1st century A.D.Limestone Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos Culture: Dura-Europos (Syria) Period: Graeco-Roman or Parthian Yale University Art Gallery