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The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, SyriaAn Archaeological Visualization$
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Simon James

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198743569

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198743569.001.0001

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Project Context Rediscovery and Exploration

Project Context Rediscovery and Exploration

(p.26) 2 Project Context Rediscovery and Exploration
The Roman Military Base at Dura-Europos, Syria

Simon James

Oxford University Press

The ruined city known locally as Salhiyeh was virtually unknown to western scholarship until the twentieth century (Sarre and Herzfeld 1920, 386–95; Kaizer 2017, 64), but its ancient identity remained unknown until the aftermath of the World War I when collapse of the Ottoman empire saw Britain and France divide up much of the Middle East between them (Velud 1988; Barr 2011). As we saw, during operations against Arabs resisting the new western occupation, British-commanded Indian troops bivouacking at the site dug defensive positions and accidentally revealed wall paintings. These were seen and published by visiting American archaeologist James Henry Breasted (Breasted 1922; 1924), who first identified the ruins as those of the historically attested but unlocated ‘Dura . . . called Europos by the Greeks’ (Isidore of Charax, Parthian Stations, 1). The site thereafter fell inside the newly imposed borders of French-controlled Syria (Velud 1988). More substantial excavations were conducted and published with exemplary speed by Franz Cumont in 1922–3 (Cumont 1926), paving the way for the great Yale University/French Academy expedition overseen by Mikhail Rostovtzeff. This ran over ten seasons: (Dates from the Preliminary Reports, and Hopkins 1979, xxii–xxiv, except ninth and tenth seasons from information in Yale archives provided by Megan Doyon and Richard A. Grossmann.) With a Roman military presence attested from the outset, further traces were encountered throughout the city’s exploration, with the heart of the military base area being identified and excavated in the fifth season, and the great ‘Palace of the dux ripae’ in the ninth. While masterminded by Rostovtzeff, and more nominally Cumont, these giants actually only briefly visited the excavations on a couple of occasions. The dig was conducted under a series of field directors: Maurice Pillet, Clark Hopkins, and finally Frank Brown. These led a small team of American and European architects, artists, and archaeologists, mostly male (although women occupied prominent places on the team, including Yale graduate student Margaret Crosby and most notably Hopkins’s wife Susan); they were mostly young and inexperienced (including Hopkins and Brown).

Keywords:   French Academy, Pseudo-Hyginus, Tower, altars, castrametation rules, dating, epigraphic dating, inscriptions, radiocarbon dating

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