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Through the civil war in Syria – on-going since 2011 – the country has been devastated, people have suffered and so has the rich cultural heritage of the country.
It has been labelled one of the most destructive humanitarian catastrophes the world has experienced since WW2.
Shortly before the war broke out, the Palmyra Portrait Project was initiated. It was supposed to collect all known funerary portraits from the city and study them within their cultural and historical context. The impact of the war in some ways changed the scope of the project and resulted into several spin-off projects, which revolved around cultural heritage, legacy data and making such data widely available both to the public and scholars – moving beyond the art historical and classical archaeological aims of the core project.
The Rumble Lecture 2023 presents the results of the Palmyra projects based at Aarhus University in Denmark. It ties together the various strands of information and data into a larger narrative about the value of classical archaeology, cultural heritage and deep knowledge about the past to our modern society. It underlines that without knowledge of the past, we cannot situate ourselves in our present.
Rubina Raja, Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark, and Director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions
Rubina Raja is professor of classical art and archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark and director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for Urban Network Evolutions. She heads a number of collective research projects focusing on the archaeology and history of Palmyra, including the Palmyra Portrait Project. Her research focusses on societal, cultural and urban developments from the Hellenistic to the Medieval periods. She has published widely on the art, architecture and religious life during these periods with a focus on the eastern Mediterranean. One of her most recent monographs is Pearl of the Desert. A history of Palmyra (OUP, 2022).
Image credit: View of tower tombs from the city centre of Palmyra. Copyright: Rubina Raja.