The Paradox of Palmyra: An Ancient anomalopolis in the Desert
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonJournal of Urban Archaeology (JUA). 2022, 5, 177-189. 10.1484/J.JUA.5.129848
Palmyra, the UNESCO world heritage site that tragically made headlines following ISIS’s destruction of several of its key monuments in 2015, was once a thriving city in the heart of the Syrian Desert. Settled from Neolithic through modern times, the documented urban history of the site spans a millennium, from the late centuries bc until the late first millennium ad. Palmyra has often been cast as ‘the bride of the desert’, and the apparent paradox of a sizeable city 150-200 km from major areas of cultivation has spurred considerable scholarly interest. In this article, we discuss the roles of climate change, geopolitical changes, and nomad-settled interaction in the urban biography of Palmyra, drawing on published palaeoclimatological evidence and general evidence offered by urban development, epigraphy (inscriptions), and settlement size.