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Settlement and Landscape Development in the Homs Region, Syria

A research project of the Department of Archaeology.


This multidisciplinary field project was undertaken in co-operation with the Syrian Directorate of Antiquities and Museums 1999-2010. The study area in the Orontes Valley was chosen to assess the impact of key cultural and environmental developments in adjacent, but contrasting, landscapes. With the co-operation of Dr. Danny Donoghue (Geography) the project was able to pioneer archaeological prospection through satellite imagery. The project is directed by Dr. Graham Philip and Dr. Michel al-Maqdissi (DGAM, Damascus) and has been supported by the Council for British Research in the Levant, The British Academy and Durham University.

There is a striking contrast between the nature of human activity in the marl and the basaltic landscapes which lie on the east and west sides of the Orontes River, respectively. While the former is a typical middle eastern landscape of tells, and includes a number of sites in the 5-10 ha size range, including Tell Nebi Mend (ancient Kadesh), the latter contains only a few small tell sites (< 1 ha in size), alongside several dozen upland enclosures (mostly of 4th -3rd millennium BC date) which we connect with livestock raising, and tens of thousands of stone cairns, many of which appear to have contained central chambers suggesting use as burial monuments. The two regions are also characterized by marked differences in ceramic forms and technology.

Current Research

The project is now being prepared for publication. Team members currently working on material include Dr Stephen Bourke (Sydney), Dr Matt Whincop (Queensland) and Dr Stephen McPhillips (Copenhagen), and Dr Anne Pirie. A major overview article will appear in a Special Issue of the journal Syria in 2014.

Doctorates arising from the project:

Dr Andy Shaw (2009) The Palaeolithic Settlement History of Syria as contained in the Terrace Deposits of Major River Systems
Dr Jennie Bradbury (2011) Landscapes of Burial? The Homs Basalts, Syria in the 4th-3rd Millennia BC.

Late Roman through Islamic period village of Dar as-Salaam, showing fortified tell, mounds of rubble marking the location of collapsed stone structures, and birqa a pool for the collection of rainwater in the foreground.

Published Results

Journal Article

  • Philip, G, Bradbury, J & Jabbur, F (2011). The Archaeology of the Homs Basalt, Syria: the main site types. Studia Orontica 9: 38-55.
  • Philip, G & Bradbury, J (2010). Pre-classical activity in the basalt landscape of the Homs region, Syria: the implications for the development of “sub-optimal” zones in the Levant during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age. Levant 42(2): 136-169.
  • Newson, P., Abdulkarim, M., McPhillips, S., Mills, P., Reynolds, P. & Philip, G. (2009). Landscape study of Dar es-Salaam and the basalt region north west of Homs, Syria. Report on work undertaken during 2005-2007. Berytus 51-52: 1-35.
  • Galiatsatos, N., Donoghue, D.N.M. & Philip, G. (2007). High resolution elevation data derived from stereoscopic CORONA imagery with minimal ground control: an apporach using IKONOS and SRTM data. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing 9: 1093-1106.
  • Beck, A., Philip, G., Abdulkarim, M. & Donoghue, D. (2007). Evaluation of Corona and Ikonos high resolution satellite imagery for archaeological prospection in western Syria. Antiquity 81(311): 161-175.

Conference Proceeding

  • Philip, G. (2008). Natural and cultural aspects of the development of the marl landscape east of Lake Qatina during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Urban and Natural Landscapes of an Ancient Syrian Capital. Proceedings of the International Conference held in Udine, 9-11 December 2004, Udine, Forum Editrice.


From the Department of Archaeology

From other departments