City of Aleppo

Now that I am on vacation, I have more free time than originally thought and thus am presenting another ARCHAEO-Crush for December. My crush is one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is a city that we see constantly in the news these days… all for the wrong reasons. Aleppo.

CITY OF ALEPPO
Type: archaeological site (urban)
Civilisation: Ancient and modern Syria, various empires and kingdoms
Date: At least from the 3rd millennium B.C.E. to today

ARCHAEO-Crush: Strategically placed for commercial and military endeavours between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia, the city has had a long history probably going back 5,000 years and has been known under various names. Having been occupied continually, there has been very little archaeological excavations in the city proper. In the 3rd millennium, it was part of the Kingdom of Amri as well as the Akkadian and Amorite empires; it was also mentioned in cuneiform tablets from Ebla. During its long history, Aleppo was taken by the Hittites, conquered by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E. and handed over to the Seleucids after his death. Aleppo flourished during the Hellenistic period and its prosperity increases even when Syria becomes a Roman province in 64 B.C.E.  The city remained important during the Byzantine period and lived on beyond the fall of Antiquity (end of the 5th century).

During the Middle Ages, the city was conquered by the Arabs in 637 and became the capital of the Hamdanids in 944. Aleppo was besieged (but not conquered) during the Crusades and was in turn in the hands of the Fatimids, Seljuks, of Zengi, Nur ad-Din and Saladin, of the Mongols, Mamluks, and Tamerlan prior to being annexed to the Ottoman Empire in 1516 (until 1918). Aleppo was under French mandate before it declared its independence in 1944.

Bucket list status: I visited Syria in 1999 and Aleppo was on my list of cities to visit during my trip. I had studied the architecture of this city in Islamic architecture during my undergrad at Université Laval and was fascinated by the Aleppo Citadel. I just had to go see it… which I did (that is why many the photos presented here are of the Citadel).  It is fortified Medieval castle dating to 1230, featuring an imposing entrance with an impressive bridge/staircase. Unfortunately, this feature was destroyed by rebel bombardments in the summer of 2014. While in Aleppo, I had to stay at the Baron’s Hotel, where Agatha Christie wrote (in part) Murder on the Orient Express and where Lawrence of Arabia also stayed. I thoroughly enjoyed Aleppo and Syria, the fabulous archaeological sites, the historic monuments, the wonderful people and the stunning landscapes.

Additional information: The historic centre of Aleppo is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1986 (number 21). Its recent destruction is all the more devastating. It is absolutely heart-breaking to see a city and its population being massacred… Aleppo is now on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 2013.

Is archaeology a dangerous job?

Ah! A question about the dangers of archaeology.

Is archaeology a dangerous job?

Madaba5Yes and no. It depends on the country in which you work. Digging in a third world country where there is a civil war or harsh living conditions: yes, it is dangerous. Digging a First Nation site north of Toronto, barely half an hour away from your home: no, it is not. Still, like with any other job, you have to be careful and aware of your surroundings and take medical precautions to avoid illness.

Machu Picchu

My July ARCHAEO-Crush is a spectacular Inca site with which you are all familiar… but did you know that it was “discovered” on July 24, 1911 by Hiram Bingham III from Yale University.  The discovery is somewhat controversial because the local populations already knew of Machu Picchu, but it is Bingham who made this extraordinary site known to the rest of the world.

The superb Inca site perched in the mountains of Peru: Machu Picchu (photo courtesy of my Dad)

The superb Inca site perched in the mountains of Peru: Machu Picchu (photo courtesy of my Dad)

MACHU PICCHU
Type: site (historic statuary)
Civilisation: Inca (Peru)
Date: 15th century, circa 1450.
ARCHAEO-Crush: Machu Picchu is an breathtaking feat of civil engineering: the site is perched on rocky mountain cliffs at more than 2,400m of altitude. Religious centre, residential sector, citadel, agricultural zones… this rigorously planned space incorporates approximately 200 stone constructions in upper and lower towns. This massive stone architecture, assembled without mortar, is harmoniously integrated with its spectacular surroundings. After this tremendous effort, it seems rather incredible that the site was abandoned 100 years or so after its construction… but the Spaniards had disembarked and started colonizing.  Fortunately, they never did find out about the city on the old mountain…
Bucket list status: Oh! This is soooooo at the top of my list! I’m rather jealous that my parents got to visit Machu Picchu…
Additional information: Not surprisingly, Machu Picchu is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  You can read about it, it’s number 274.