Compte rendu par Rocco Palermo, University of Naples Federico II
Nombre de mots : 1571 mots
Publié en ligne le 2014-09-23
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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The excavations carried out in the 20th and 21st century at Dura Europos highlighted a series of historical dynamics that somehow shaped our conception of the ancient world. From the cultural interactions to the understanding of the Roman military presence on the limes the data from Dura-Europos appreciably affected our knowledge of the Hellenistic, Parthian and Roman Near East.
Works on the site stopped unfortunately and abruptly in 2010, but researches and studies by the members of the MFSED (Mission Archèologique Franco-Syrienne d’Europos-Doura) produced this valuable and very interesting book which encompasses the history and the archaeology of the site with a unique multidisciplinary and scientific approach.
The book is divided into three sections: Archéologie, Matériels and Études. The first section is about the stratigraphy and the architectural analysis of old and recent excavations: from the Bel sanctuary to the Temple of Zeus Megistos to the works on the Military Quarter and the new investigations on the Lysias’ residence.
The First chapter by Pierre Leriche, director of the expedition, sums up all the recent works (including the re-examination of older excavation areas, the restoration of some zones of the city and new soundings). Major new works focused along and on the defensive walls where the French expedition initially was supposed to operate. The results confirmed that the original layout of the defensive system should be chronologically dated to the Hellenistic period and not to the Parthian. In addition some researches also focused on the older excavations, focused mostly on the religious buildings as well as in the so-called “military quarter” which occupies the northern sectors of the city.
A series of field walking surveys were also carried out in the area outside the western walls, close to the arch of Trajan and the necropolis where some tombs and tumuli dated to the Hellenistic period were discovered.
An important part of the French works on the site also regarded the restoration and the historical preservation of the numerous buildings of the city. The façade of the Palace of the Strategòs was restored as was the Christian House, the Palmyra Gate, the Odeion and the Temple of Artemis. Furthermore the creation of the small but considerably valuable museum on the site contributed to a significant improvement of the site itself from a touristic point of view (the museum unfortunately, is alleged to have been partly robbed and looted during the terrible events that have struck Syria since 2011).
The first contribution by G. Coqueugniot presents the results of an extraordinary discovery: a small but remarkable shrine dedicated to the cult of Bel not that far from the Palmyrene Gate along the central road of Dura. The excavation highlighted three different phases: from house to temple and then to arsenal, just before the conquest of the city in 256 AD by the Sasanians. The excavation revealed that the shrine was adorned with four columns in the corners and possibly decorated with paintings. A small cultic relief was also discovered. The next contribution by S. Downey discusses the results of the re-examination and the excavation of the Temple of Zeus Megistos. The old interpretation of the temple as divided in three iwan and its original chronology to the Hellenistic period is rejected by S. Downey in favour of a more cautious interpretation about the architectural features a later chronology that should probably be searched for in the period between the 1st cent. BC and the 1st cent. AD.
S. de Pontbriand’s paper focuses on the Lysias’ residence which occupies an entire block at Dura. Although firstly excavated by the Yale expedition the results were never published and the enormous work carried out by de Pontbriand should be considered as fundamental for the understanding of the aristocratic life at Dura. The residence, which has almost sixty rooms, is articulated in five major areas: storage, kitchen, residence, animals and rooms for the guards. An accurate chronology is still due but as de Pontbriand states the comparisons with similar structures at Jebel Khalid, Palmyra, Apamea and even Gaza should make clear some chronological and typological aspects.
Two more contributions close the section devoted to the architectural and stratigraphic analysis: a second paper by G. Coqueugniot about the re-discovery and the re-examination of the chreophylakeion where the parchments regarding the contracts for the land and other activities in the city were stored and the very interesting contribution multi-authored (James, Baird and Strutt) about the results carried out by the magnetometry survey in the Roman Military Quarter within the city walls. The most interesting result is the discovery of a possible previously unknown shrine or cultic complex and a small residential sector.
The second part of the book mainly concerns the materials. These are broadly listed and include pottery, clay figurines, moulds, stuccos, graffiti and paintings. Among the presented articles (all of them very interesting and of a high scientific value) three of them seem to me worth reviewing in more detail here.
C. Allag’s article about a series of recently discovered graffiti discusses some representations found on walls and fragments. Particularly interesting are those depicting the supposed water (?) mill, the hunting scenes and a supposed Parthian cavalryman.
P. Leriche’s second personal contribution in the volume concerns the restoration and the preservation of the Dura-Europos paintings in the National Archaeological Museum in Damascus.
F. Alabe, eventually, analyses a series of Hellenistic sherds recovered during the excavation of the filing of a Hellenistic quarry at the corner between the block C5 and B6 whose works were carried out by the MFSED between 2000 and 2002. The ceramic repertoire found shows once more the mixed character of Dura, yet in the Hellenistic period. Western imports (a lamp from Ephesos, Eastern Sigillata A sherds) along with local wares and imitations of western types.
The third and last section of the book includes a group of contributions, which are much more focused on general perspectives, specific historical analysis and theoretical approaches. From the study on the role of Aphlad, which is labelled as a badly known god in Dura, often connected with the cult of Azzanathkona (M.E. Duchâteau) to the interesting analysis of the desecration of the cultic buildings (G. Coqueugniot), temples and shrines at Dura at the moment of the Sasanian siege which shed a new light on the internal social dynamics of the city. Some of these shrines, in addition, were completely hidden under the embankments of the internal city walls. Cult reliefs and religious paintings were also preserved, hidden behind mud-brick walls.
Other contributions concern the discussion about the role of the houses and the connection object-house (courtyard) at Dura (J. Baird), the historical analysis of the Parthian imperial policy at the moment they took Dura (J. Gaslain) and a short but interesting paper about the cartographic representations of the site through time (S. de Pontbriand).
The book in its entirety is very enjoyable, easy to read and with a meticulous, accurate and coherent scientific approach. The presented studies are often inter-connected showing the importance of the general context in the understanding of such complex historical and archaeological dynamics.
The pictures, maps, drawings and plans themselves make the purchase of the book worthwhile and make the reading lighter. Abstracts in English (or French in some cases) and, overall, in Arabic represent a further good point in the whole structure of the volume.
Eventually the totality of the articles included in the volume may represent a good starting point (but also an additional element) for a complete understanding of such an important although complicated site as Dura-Europos.
Table des matières
1. « Europos-Doura. Quinze années de travaux de la Mission franco-syrienne (1986-2001) par Pierre Leriche 11
2. « Un sanctuaire au dieu Bêl le long de la rue principale d’Europos-Doura (îlot M5) par Gaëlle Coqueugniot 47
3. « Temple of Zeus Megistos: Brief Report on Excavations, 1992-2002 » par Susan B. Downey 65
4. « La résidence de Lysias à Europos-Doura. Une première approche » par Ségolène de Pontbriand 77
5. « Le chreophylakeion et l’agora d’Europos-Doura : bilan des recherches, 2004-2008 » par Gaëlle Coqueugniot 93
6. « Magnetometry survey of Dura’s Roman Military Base and Vicinity » par Simon James, Jennifer Baird et Kristian Strutt 111
7. « Le moule à statuette du secteur des maisons romaines à Europos-Doura » par François Queyrel 117
8. « Graffiti et corniches à Europos-Doura » par Claudine Allag 123
9. « Les peintures d’Europos-Doura au musée national de Damas » par Pierre Leriche 143
10. « Peinture d’Europos hellénistique : la carrière de la rue principale (notule signalétique) » par Françoise Alabe 157
11. « Vaisselle d’Europos hellénistique : la carrière en contrebas de la rue principale et son comblement » par Françoise Alabe 161
12. « Le système de tubuli des bains romains de l’îlot C3 à Europos-Doura » par José Boniteau 185
13. « Europos-Doura. Analyse des restes humains » par Luc Buchet 191
14. « Aphlad, dieu singulier et méconnu à Europos-Doura » par Marie-Emmanuelle Duchateau 201
15. « Des espaces sacrés dans la tourmente : les lieux de culte d’Europos-Doura durant le siège sassanide de la ville (milieu du IIIe siècle de notre ère) » par Gaëlle Coqueugniot 215
16. « L’habitat d’époque romaine à Europos-Doura : replacer les objets en contexte » par Jennifer Baird 231
17. « La cartographie d’Europos-Doura » par Ségolène de Pontbriand 241
18. « Quelques remarques sur la politique impériale des Parthes Arsacides et la prise d’Europos-Doura » par Jérôme Gaslain 255
Éditeurs : Lorenz E. Baumer, Université de Genève ; Pascal Griener, Université de Neuchâtel ; François Queyrel, École pratique des Hautes Études, Paris ; Roland Recht, Collège de France, Paris