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Archive Archaeology: Preserving and Sharing Palmyra’s Cultural Heritage through Harald Ingholt’s Digital Archives

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, and his photographic archive is an invaluable source of information, containing documentation images and notes on objects. This rich material has been digitised, but it has not been made available to the public. The three main objectives of the project are: 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in these, to assess damages and losses of Palmyrene cultural heritage based on the primary evidence collected in the unpublished archive and the diaries, as well as to reconstruct lost and damaged contexts based on the evidence collected in the archive.

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. This will give access to lost heritage to the people of Palmyra, and help reconstruction and redisplay efforts at Palmyra.

PI: Professor Rubina Raja

Read more at the project website