ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume II-5/W3
12 Aug 2015
 | 12 Aug 2015

Remote sensing, landscape and archaeology tracing ancient tracks and roads between Palmyra and the Euphrates in Syria

M. Silver, M. Törmä, K. Silver, J. Okkonen, and M. Nuñez

Keywords: Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, Remote Sensing, Surveying, Mapping, Syria, Palmyra, Jebel Bishri

Abstract. The present paper concentrates on the use of remote sensing by satellite imagery for detecting ancient tracks and roads in the area between Palmyra and the Euphrates in Syria. The Syrian desert was traversed by caravans already in the Bronze Age, and during the Greco-Roman period the traffic increased with the Silk Road and trade as well as with military missions annexing the areas into empires. SYGIS - the Finnish archaeological survey and mapping project traced, recorded and documented ancient sites and roads in the region of Jebel Bishri in Central Syria in 2000-2010 before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. Captured data of ancient roads and bridge points bring new light to the study of ancient communication framework in the area. Archaeological research carried out by the project on the ground confirmed the authenticity of many road alignments, new military and water harvesting sites as well as civilian settlements, showing that the desert-steppe area was actively used and developed probably from the second century AD. The studies further demonstrated that the area between Palmyra and the Euphrates was militarily more organised already in the second and third centuries AD than earlier believed. Chronologically, the start of this coincided with the “golden age” of the Palmyrene caravans in the second century AD. Topography and landscape were integral parts of the construction of graves/tumuli as sign-posts guiding in the desert, as well as roads and all kinds of settlements whether military or civilian.