In 1995-1996 – with the cooperation of the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées of Damascus and the GORS (General Organization for Remote Sensing) – the territory of Palmyra was investigated: the reading and interpretation of satellite images was integrated with surveys on the field and bibliographical and archive research. The occupational pattern that resulted is characterized, in historical times, by an higher concentration of settlements in the areas south of the city.
Investigations in the Palmyra oasis
The territory of Palmyra
In 1995 the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l’Asia started a project for the realization of an archaeological cartography of Syria. The work, which almost lasted two years (March 1995 - December 1996) was carried out in cooperation with the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées of Damascus and the GORS – General Organization for Remote Sensing.
The research foresaw, in its executive phase, the investigation of the territory of Palymira: the area was chosen on the basis of the priority list drawn up by the Syrian authorities. The territory, initially measuring 30x30 km, was centred on the city and was subsequently broadened to 60x60 km. The elaboration and reading of the satellite images Landsat TM and Spot XT allowed recognizing a dense net of human traces and ancient roads that crossed the area. The data obtained by the reading of the satellite images were verified on the field through four survey campaigns. The collected artefacts integrated the already known bibliographic and archive information. The GIS platform allowed a more careful historical analysis, highlighting the areas that needed to be further investigated: these latter were photographed with low-altitude aerial pictures taken with a thermal imaging camera, which gave very analytical results.
The overall occupational pattern thus obtained is characterized, in historical times, by an higher concentration of settlements in the areas south of the city. The northern, mountainous sectors mainly gave lithic materials of prehistoric times. In the north-eastern area, however, traces of settlements and quarries were found. Settlements in the southern area are located on low tell emerging from the steppe, and chronologically span from the prehistory down to the Islamic era.