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Facing the Palmyrenes

A feature in Current World Archaeology and a new podcast episode on the PastCast delve into research on urban Palmyra and portrait sculpture.

Current World Archaeology 111

In the just published feature ‘Facing the Palmyrenes: Exploring Life and Death in a Desert City’ in Current World Archaeology, we are face to face with the ancient Palmyrenes. Through the thousand of limestone portraits that belonged to the large tomb complexes of Palmyra in Antiquity, UrbNet’s researach administrator, Eva Mortensen, and centre director, Professor Rubina Raja, unfold the story about the desert city and its tradition-bound yet adaptable inhabitants.

Rubina Raja has for ten years directed research projects about Palmyra and palmyrene portrait sculpture at Aarhus University. The research conducted within these projects has drawn scholarly attention to the large corpus of funerary portrait sculpture from the city and what this huge amount of material can tell us about the past and the people once living in Palmyra. Some of the results of the projects are highlighted in the Current World Archaeology feature.

In continuation of the feature, podcaster Calum Henderson from the PastCast has interviewed Rubina Raja about her research on Palmyra. In the podcast’s episode #2, we hear much more about the lifes of the ancient Palmyrenes, their family-focused society, their commemoration of the dead, and how to use portraits for figuring out population numbers. Also early archaeology in Palmyra is explored in the podcast episode, as are the challenges of working with cultural-heritage objects from this archaeological site.

The PastCast is the podcast of the website The Past, which brings together stories from different magazines on history, archaeology, ancient art and heritage.


Current World Archaeology feature

Mortensen, E. & Raja, R. (2022). “Facing the Palmyrenes: Exploring Life and Death in a Desert City”, Current World Archaeology 111, 16-24.



The PastCast podcast episode

“Episode #2 – Facing the Palmyrenes: Exploring Life and Death in a Desert City, the PastCast, 19 January 2022.



Research projects on Palmyra

Palmyra Portrait Project (2012–2020). Funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.

Archive Archeology: Preserving and Sharing Palmyra’s Cultural Heritage through Harald Ingholt’s Digital Archives (2020– ). Funded by the ALIPH Foundation.

Circular economy and urban sustainability in Antiquity (2020– ). Funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and the Augustinus Foundation.