The Syrian conflict has caused suffering to people and their heritage alike. The site of Palmyra, historically important and politically charged, has been a victim of this conflict, and its rich cultural heritage has been damaged. One way to mitigate the losses is to turn to archival material, and, through that, reconstruct what has been lost.
Harald Ingholt excavated in Palmyra, and studied Palmyrene art all his life. His photographic archive is an invaluable source of information, containing documentation images and notes on objects, while his diaries contain precise information about his excavations and his finds. This rich material has been digitised, but it has not been made available to the public.
The project Archive Archaeology: Preserving and Sharing Palmyra’s Cultural Heritage through Harald Ingholt’s Digital Archives has three main objectives:
(1) to publish and make the digital archive accessible online to the public in a searchable form and to publish the excavation diaries including a full assessment of the graves documented in these
(2) to assess damages and losses of Palmyrene cultural heritage based on the primary evidence collected in the unpublished archive and the diaries
(3) to reconstruct lost and damaged contexts based on the evidence collected in the archive.
This project will be under the leadership of Professor Rubina Raja. She is one of the leading scholars of Palmyrene art and culture, and as Director of the Palmyra Portrait Project, she has organised several international conferences, two major exhibitions, published extensively on Palmyrene society and heritage, and, together with her team, collected over 4000 portraits from Palmyra, more than a quarter of which are located in Syria, while the others are scattered around the world.
The project will have several long-term outcomes. Thanks to the information collected on the archive and the excavation diaries, and together with the research already conducted by the Palmyra Portrait Project in preparation of this project, it will be possible to recontextualise and recreate artefact assemblages that have been affected by the war in Syria. The project can furthermore help identify and trace looted antiquities. The context of damaged and destroyed antiquities can be reconstructed and situated within the framework of Palmyrene archaeology. This will give access to lost heritage to the people of Palmyra, and help reconstruction and redisplay efforts at Palmyra. Since the material will be made searchable and open access, it will be possible for a range of individuals and institutions to perform further research with the published material. This will be a major step forward in documentation practice, since often data cannot or is not made available open access within such documentation projects.