These images of Palmyra were taken in the summer of 1962. The tourist infrastructure was less developed at this time and the images also show evidence of intrusive levels of renovation that had mellowed or been replaced by the later half of the C20th. For details relating to each image separately in this item please refer to the inventory appended to this collection.
The Umayyad Mosque of Damascus is the earliest Islamic monument still extant after the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. As with the Dome of the Rock, the Mosque boasts a large volume of mosaic decoration of the highest quality that is believed to have been carried out by Byzantine artisans given the similarities of the technique and motifs with high-quality Byzantine commissions of the same era. The most notable difference is that there is a complete absence of figural imagery in the Islamic monuments. In the case of the Umayyad Mosque the decoration is particularly intriguing as it depicts a range of landscapes both urban and pastoral, all entirely without living creatures. This has led many commentators to argue that it represents a vision of paradise, with others arguing instead for an idealised representation of Damascus. Whether or not these interpretations are correct, the mosaicists appear familiar with Roman architecture, with porticoed late Roman villas appearing prominently in the decoration, meaning that the mosaics demonstrate a continuity with earlier artistic forms rather than a definitive break with the past. In many ways the decorative scheme is far more conservative than that of the Dome of the Rock, which predates is by over twenty years.
This image shows one of the famous noria, or wooden water wheels of Hama. Although they were once numerous along the Orontes River, few survive to the present day and they are believed to date back to at least the C13th. However, since the wood is replaced with new insertions as it wears away or rots, it is debateable how much ancient wood still remains in these wheels. They are particularly prized for their distinctive 'song' made by the creaking of the wood as the wheel turns.
These images of Qal'at Seman, the famous shrine of St. Symeon Stylites the Elder on Jebel Seman are valuable because they are taken midway between the French restoration of the site in the 1930s and the way the site looked in the late 1990s when the majority of the rest of the photographs in this archive were taken. They show the complex to be well maintained, with less visitors (local or foreign) than were customary by the pre war years.
This image shows that in 1962 there was still a clear distance between Qalb Lozeh and Qirq Bizeh. By the late 1990s only two or three fields and a road separated the two ancient settlements.
Qalb Lozeh is, as mentioned elsewhere, an exceptionally well-preserved C5th church on Jebel Barisha and is probably the best known monument in the region after Qal'at Sem'an. These images show that in 1962 there was already a modern village around the church, but that it was not as large as the settlement had become by the early C21st century. The photographs can be compared with those from the 1990s to show that in the 1960s there were no restrictions on entry and the building was open to all. In this case there appears to have been no deterioration of the site pre the Syrian Civil War since the 1960s.