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Architecture and Asceticism: Cultural Interaction between Syria and Georgia in Late Antiquity is a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council.

The aim of the project is to explore the Georgian belief that monasticism was brought to the country by the "Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers" in the sixth century. As there is no textual evidence still extant from this early period, the project is evaluating the surviving material culture in both countries in order to identify any common movements in architecture and art, as well as to study the ecclesiastical history of both countries in order to pinpoint similarities in liturgy, pilgrimage or any other area of historical ritual practice. It is hoped that data from further afield will be contributed in the future, but the parameters of the current project (which will run until November 2017) encompass the modern countries of Georgia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 has meant that no new field work can be undertaken for this project in that country, but this has been largely overcome by making use of a large archive of site images taken by the principal investigator in Syria from 1997 until 2010. Therefore this resource also incorporates material from earlier research, including data from two archaeological excavations. We are aware that the ongoing looting and destruction of Syrian archaeological sites places a moral duty on academics to make available their unpublished material to the wider research community in order to create a common resource for those seeking to safeguard Syrian Cultural Heritage. This web resource is intended as a contribution to this process.

One of the biggest challenges facing a website like this is how to make the site as easy to navigate as possible. Everybody has different ideas about how to arrange material or how to search for results – some people prefer literary prompts, others like visual messages and others yet may prefer using geographical data to pinpoint what they are searching for.

Accordingly this site has been designed to allow for a variety of search techniques in the hope of making it as accessible as possible to native English speakers and non-native speakers alike. In the bar along the top of the screen you will see various options. Of the list presented above Collections, Map, Tags and Types all offer alternate ways of searching the project database.

Collections are groups of inter-related items that have been linked together by the team member who uploaded them. This may mean that a collection of artefacts from one or several museums, a group of monuments that have a reason to be listed together or simply comprise of a number of buildings in the same city. However the collections have been uploaded according to subjective criteria based on personal preference and this is why other methods of quantification have been included.

The map shows all items geo-tagged to their location. On default setting this includes all items uploaded to the site, but if the user clicks on the drop-down menu it is possible to filter the sites under various parameters – to look at sites linked to pilgrimage or defensive purposes for example. When a geo-tag is clicked on a summary of the data for that entry is visible and the user has the option of clicking through to the information available on that location.

Tags refers to the tag cloud as each item uploaded to the site is tagged and the cloud indicates by the size of each tag how many times that particular word has been used. Clicking on a word will take the user through to a list of items that have been given that particular tag and this enables researchers to easily scan the list for a specific word or concept.

Types is a list of the different forms of information available using lists such as mosaic, painting, excavation, texts, etc. In this way a user can click on the type of entry that they are interested in and be taken to a list of all the items that fall into that category.

Finally, it is self-explanatory, but the section marked articles leads site users through to a series of online articles covering issues relating to the project. These include academic articles outlining the history, art history and archaeology of subjects related to this research as well as information on related areas. The related resources cover subjects as diverse as the damage sustained by Syrian monuments during the current civil war and reports on community engagement and education initiatives carried out with the National Museum of Georgia.

Much of this information is being made available to the public for the first time. We have endeavoured to publish as many papers written by team members as possible, but where prevented by copyright restrictions from including articles and monographs we have added links to the websites where there are abstracts and purchase details of these items.

Please look at the Contact Us section if you have any comments or suggestions for the improvement of this resource. This site is still evolving and we hope that it will ultimately become a valuable repository for the Late Antique and Early Medieval material culture of the Levant, Asia Minor and Caucasus regions.

Reproduction of a censer from the Monastery of Mar Musa al-Habashi in Syria that is now in the British Museum.