1851 – Two Photos of Syrian Archaeological Manuscript Plans by von Bissing

Ancient Syria Archaeology
Qalb Loze Basilica
Roman Funerary Towers – Valley of the Tombs
Photographed Plans
circa 1851
The Ancient Tomb Monuments Illustrated Here
Were Razed by Isis in 2015

[Syria, 1851] – The Basilica of Qalb Loze and a Tower Tomb in Palymra. Two photographs taken circa 1910 by Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing, showing the manuscript plans made by the Count De Vogüé in 1851. Each photograph is captioned in manuscript in German, by Bissing, and mounted on its own watermarked linen paper. 8vo. Two leafs, each measuring approximately 22 x 28 cm. Photographs measure approximately 12 x 8,5 cm. Very good condition. Suitable for framing. Rare photographs depicting early archaeological works in Syria, one monument no longer standing.

The two sites pictured in the diagrams are:
1)   An ancient funerary tower erected in Palmyra in the 1st or 2nd century
2)   The 5th century basilica at Qalb Lozeh

French archaeologist and diplomat Count Charles-Jean-Melchior De Vogüé, left his political post to focus on archaeology and history in Syria and Palestine, examining these two sites in 1851. The UN agency singles out the tower tombs as the “oldest and most distinctive” of Palmyra’s funerary monuments, being “tall multi-storey sandstone buildings belonging to the richest families.” Both of these monumental sites are significant, and both have suffered in recent times by extremist campaigns, the most important of which has been completely decimated.

In August 2015, ISIS destroyed the three ancient tower shaped tombs in Palmyra, all which dated back to the first and second centuries. The Jamblique, Elhbel and Kithot tombs, situated in Syria’s “Valley of Tombs”, were built in AD83, AD103 and AD44 respectively. In a systematic effort to obliterate the ruins of the ancient city, the group previously destroyed the Temple of Baal Shamin and the Temple of Bel, the latter being one of the most notable religious structures in the Middle East to survive from the ancient world. The vandals has also beheaded the keeper of Palmyra’s antiquities, Khaled al-Assad, and tied his body to a pole in the city.

The village of Qalb Loze had been a safe haven for Druze defectors from the Syrian Army during the ongoing Syrian civil war (March 2011-present day), providing clinics for wounded rebels and shelter for local refugees fleeing the violence in their towns and villages.Recently, however, on 10 June 2015, 20 Druze were massacred at the basilica by parts the Nusra Front affiliated with the Islamic State. The Druze inhabitants of Qalb Loze have refrained from participating in the fighting between opposition rebels and government forces, although relations between the residents and the Sunni Muslim majority in the area are strong, and most oppose the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Qalb Loze (Qalb Lawzah or Qalb Lozeh, which means “Heart of the Almond”) is a Druze village in northwestern Syria, in the Idlib Governorate. It is situated some 35 kilometres west of Aleppo, and near the border with Turkey, in the A’la Mountain. The village is well-noted for its 5th-century church and other Byzantine-era ruins. The church at Qalb Lozeh dates back to the 460s AD and is one of the region’s best-preserved churches of this era. The church is the first known in Syria with the wide basilica, where the columns that in traditional Byzantine church architecture separate the aisles from the nave have been replaced with low piers and soaring arches that create the feeling of expanded space. It is strikingly similar in architectural style and craftsmanship to the large pre-Islamic Syrian churches in Turmanin, El Anderin, Ruweha, and Kerratin, which may have been built by the same workshops or guilds.

Explorer and archaeologist Gertrude Bell described the church as “…the beginning of a new chapter in the architecture of the world. The fine and simple beauty of Romanesque was born in North Syria.” The site was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2011.


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