News and activities

Palmyrena closing conference

(Participants at the Palmyrena closing conference in front of the Danish Institute, Athens. Photo: Sunil Gupta)

The Palmyrena project closing conference took place at the Norwegian and Danish institutes in Athens Dec. 1-3. 28 scholars from eight countries met in order to discuss topics ranging from Palmyrene trade over infrastructure to politics religion, identity, urbanism, environment, prehistory, osteoarchaeology and historiography. The program can be viewed here (69 kb PDF). Proceedings will be published in due time. The conference is the last official activity of the project, but work with publications will continue.

Guest researcher: Leonardo GregorattiLeonardo Gregoratti

From May to September 2012, Dr. Leonardo Gregoratt has joined the Palmyrena project as guest researcher. Dr. Gregoratti is post doctoral fellow at the University of Udine, Italy. In 2010 he has been DAAD fellow at the University of Kiel, Germany in order to work on the publication of his PhD thesis : Between Rome and Ctesiphon, Royal authority and peripheral powers along the trade routes of the Parthian kingdom. Most of his work concerns the Roman Near East, Palmyra, the long distance Trade and the Parthian Kingdom.

Call for papers

The joint Syrian-Norwegian Palmyrena project cordially invites you to participate in our concluding conference in Athens, Greece, 1-3. December 2012. This conference will focus upon the prehistoric and historic periods of Palmyra and the Palmyrene in a regional context, but also approach its role on an interregional and even global scale.

We hope that you will contribute to our 2012 conference with a presentation along the lines of these main topics. Adoptions within the disciplines of archaeology, history, epigraphy and art history, as well as broad interdisciplinary approaches focusing on the Palmyrene are very welcome, and intended to provide a foundation for scholarly debate on related issues.

If you wish to participate, please send a confirmatory email to Torbjørn Schou as soon as possible. Preliminary date for the submittal of abstracts is 01.08.2012. We would also ask you to please forward this invitation to any other researcher working with relevant aspects of Palmyra and the Palmyrene that you may know of.


Workshop: From Late Antiquity to Early Islam in the Near East

In cooperation with the research group for Ancient history, culture and religion, the Palmyrena project hosts the workshop "From late antiquity to early Islam in the Near East" on May 15th 2012. Speakers include Ine Jacobs, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Kristoffer Damgaard, University of Copenhagen Copenhagen and Denis Genequand, Service Cantonal d'Archéologie, Geneva, CH, & Council for British Research in the Levant. Program can be found here (external link).


Guest researcher
Starting February first 2012, Kristina Josephson Hesse, University of Uppsala, joins the Palmyrena project as a guest researcher for threee months. Hesse wrote her dissertation on Contacts and Trade at Late Bronze Age Hazor: Aspects of Intercultural Relationships and Identity in the Eastern Mediterranean. In Uppsala she works on the project Migration Networks in Archaeological Explanatory Models of Cultural Dispersion: The Distribution of Kura-Araxes/Khirbet Kerak Pottery as a Case Study. Hesse took part in our fieldwork in 2009 and2011 and will work on the publication of our Bronze Age materialwith Nils Anfinset og Torbjørn Schou.


Workshop at the Norwegian Institute in Athens

On December 1st-2nd 2011, researchers from Poland, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, France, Denemark and Norway gathered at the Norwegian Institute in Athens to discuss "The Archaeology and History of Palmyrene trade". Papers focused on the position of Palmyra in regional and interregional networks, with a chronological span from the late Neolithic to Ottoman times, but with emphasis on the Roman period. Full program can be found here (88 kb PDF).


Large water reservoir in the southeastern part of Jebel Merah. In the background tells, covering buildings. (Photo J.C. Meyer )
Fieldwork 2011

The third season of field survey between Palmyra and Isriyeh took place April 12th - May 2nd 2011. Main objectives were to finish the registration of Bronze Age cairns in Jebel Chaar and Jebel Merah, and of villages and estates in Jebel Merah. The prehistoric team documented about 250 cairns, 5 lithic sites, a kite and took OSL-samples for a more precise dating of the cairns. The historic team documented 21 villages or estates, with small dams and a large cistern. This season also gave a longer Palmyrene and a short Saphaitic inscription. Please find preliminary report under publications.

Palmyrena exhibition at the University of Bergen Library Jan. 20th - March 20th. 2011

In cooperation with the University of Bergen Library. The Palmyrena project hosts an exhibition at the Social Sciences and Arts library. The exhibition presents results of the first two years of the project and features two Palmyrene portrait busts from the Ustinow collection, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. The exhibition opens at Jan. 20th, 12 noon.

Posters can be viewed here (2 mb PDF), and the exhibition leaflet in Norwegian can be downloaded here (1,5 mb PDF).

Above right: The funerary bust of Iarhai, son of Hanina (180-200 CE). Photo courtesy of Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, ⓒ.
Guest lecture and research seminar

On November 1st–4t. Dr. Thomas Brüggemann of the SFB Differenz und Integration and the Seminar für Klassische Altertumswissenschaften, University of Halle-Wittenberg, visited the Palmyrena Project and the research group Ancient history, culture and religion (external link). Dr. Brüggemann gave the lecture The Organization of Kingship in the Seleucid Empire (3rd/2nd Cent. BC) and the research paper Benefaction as Power: The Seleucid King and the Generation of Urban Loyalty.

Conference panel: City, hinterland and caravan trade in the pre-Islamic Near East.

At the Eighth Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies: Middle Eastern Connectivities in Bergen 24–26 September 2010, the Palmyrena project hosted the session City, hinterland and connectivity in the pre-Islamic Near East. The session included preliminary results from the Palmyrena project as well as invited speakers providing alternative and comparative perspectives on problems raised by the project. Details can be found at the conference web-site (external link).

Joint Syrian–Norwegian workshop in Palmyra

Under the patronage of the Minister of Culture, Dr Riyad Naasan Agha and supported by Dr B. Jamous and Dr M. al-Maqdissi of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, Syrian Arab Republic, Palmyra Museum and Director Waleed al-Asa’ad hosted a joint Syrian-Norwegian workshop in the Arabian Culture Centre in Palmyra May 9th–10th 2010. Public lectures on the archaeology and history of Palmyra were delivered by speakers from the Palmyra Museum, from the Palmyrena project and from other foreign archaeological missions in Palmyra. The workshop was covered by Syrian national media. Full program can be found here (212 kb PDF).

Palmyrena session at the Eighth Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies

On occasion of the Eighth Nordic Conference on Middle Eastern Studies: Middle Eastern Connectivities in Bergen 24-26 September 2010, the Palmyrena project will host the session City, hinterland and connectivity in the pre-Islamic Near East.

Cities have always served as nodes of interaction. Cities are seats of rulers, centres of commerce and redistribution and points of interaction with dispersed hinterlands, distant rulers and far-off places. This panel focuses on the dual roles of the city with regard to local agricultural / pastoral hinterlands and regional political and commercial networks in the pre-Islamic period. Although the panel origins in the Palmyrena project, we particularly welcomes comparative and diachronic perspectives.

We would be delighted to see you in Bergen. Please contact Eivind Heldaas Seland for any queries regarding the panel or visit the conference web-site for information about the conference and registration.

Workshop and guest lectures

On November 30th 2009, professor Graham Philip of the University of Durham visits Bergen and gives the lectures "Settlement change in the Upper Orontes Valley: an overview" and "The Homs region: its place in wider socio-economic landscapes". The full program of the mini-workshop can be found here (68 kb PDF).

Palmyrena at ASOR annual meeting

November 18th-21st 2009, the American Schools of Oriental Research held their annual meeting in New Orleans. Nils Anfinset presented the paper "The First Two Seasons of Survey Palmyra-Issariah, the Joint Syrian-Norwegian
Survey" in the landscape archaeology session. Eivind Heldaas Seland participated in the session "Order and Conflict: Roundtables on the Agency Role of Empires in the Levant" with the paper "Principal-agent relations and trade between empires: the case of Palmyra". Program can be found here (external link).


New PhD-student on Palmyrena

Torbjørn Preus Schou will focus on the role of Palmyrena in the economic circuits of the region in a long-term perspective. Starting in Bronze Age in the second half of the third millennium and continuing into the Iron Age in early first millennium, he will in his Ph.D. dissertation investigate how events and develoments in the regions surrounding Palmyrena affected communication and trade through the Syrian desert, and conversely which role Palmyrena played in the network of communication. Related to this aspect is the rise of Palmyra itself. How did its position in the network affect its function in the system in this early period? Torbjørn will study these elements within a framework of world-systems theory, mainly on an archaeological empirical basis.

In the field, May 2009Abdelbasit Kanawi of the Palmyra Museum (right) and Nils Anfinset in the field, May 2009. Photo: Kristina Josefson Hesse ⓒ

Fieldwork 2009

The second season of field survey between Palmyra and Isriyeh took place April 20th - May 17th 2009. Main objectives were possible Roman / Palmyrean waystations or defense installations detected by remote sensing and reconnaissance. Registered sites included two forts, two villages, a villa and several farmsteads. Please find preliminary report under publications. Photos of the team in the field can be viewed here (external link)

Participants at the Nordheimsund WorkshopParticipants at the Nordheimsund Workshop, March 2009. Photo: Gullög Nordquist ⓒ


Workshop in Nordheimsund March 17th - 19th 2009

The launching of Palmyrena: City, Hinterland and Caravan Trade was celebrated with a workshop on March 17th - 19th 2009. The workshop took place in beautiful surroundings in Nordheimsund, south of Bergen, and gathered guests from Italy and project partners from Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway to present and discuss recent fieldwork north and west of Palmyra and cross-cultural trade in the ancient period. Program and list of participants can be found here: (40K PDF)

Planned future activities


Spring 2011: Fieldwork

Fall 2011: Workshop in Syria (topic pending)

Spring 2012: Conference


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