Palmyra in the 20th Century and the Present. A Historical and Community Archaeological Study

We are pleased to announce the publication of the book “Palmyra in the 20th Century and the Present. A Historical and Community Archaeological Study” by Hasan M. Ali, published by Ege Yayinlari/Zerobooksonline.

Hassan Ali is an archaeologist from the city of Palmyra/Tadmur. He used to work at the local museum in Palmyra and accompanied international and local archaeological excavations that took place in Palmyra and its surroundings. As a Tadmuri/Palmyrenian, he grew up with and in the city of Palmyra. This changed drastically when he had to flee to Turkey in 2015 due to the ISIS invasion of Palmyra.

As part of the Stunde Null – A Future for the Time after the Crisis Initiative by the Archaeological Heritage Network (ArchHerNet) and the German Foreign Office, he was appointed as a Steward of Cultural Heritage at the Istanbul Department of the German Archaeological Institute in 2016. His own project – in the framework of the capacity building project – dealt with the loss of knowledge due to the destruction, looting, and sabotage of Palmyra’s heritage – then with a focus on sites scattered across the eastern parts of the Syrian Badia. Instead of studying reports and accounts, he reconnected with displaced community members so they could share their knowledge with him.

Photo: M. Ubben

These interviews and oral history-based approach laid the foundation of his research that led to this publication. His current research takes the initial study back to the city of Palmyra itself and contains the results of a research project funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Here Hasan Ali focused on the role of archaeology, of local traditions, and of the impact of exile for the heritage of Palmyra and its former inhabitants.

To gather and preserve as much information regarding the life in Palmyra before 2015, he interviewed people from Palmyra now living in exile, with the aim to make their narratives and memories about their hometown available for a next generation to come. His account is about people’s belonging to a place and the impact of violence in the context of memory creation. “Palmyra in the 20th Century and the Present” is about longing and loss. However, at the same time the study of Hasan Ali is a lesson on how cultural heritage can be lost, but as well be found again in unexpected places. Carrying on heritage in narratives is keeping memories and hope alive. This is what the book is about, hope for home and caretaking of heritage despite any circumstances.