1800-year old Roman site in Lebanon still survives after centuries of looting and warfare

Image credit: Ruth Young

Ransacked historical ruins are not unfortunately not rare in the realm of archaeology. But what is rare pertains to a site still maintaining its ‘value’ after years of looting and dilapidation. Well, that is exactly the case with a Roman temple and adjacent settlement up in the Lebanese mountains of the Bekaa Valley. The little village known as Hosn Niha has been inhabited since Roman times till the later medieval period, with its founding date being some time in 200 AD. However, by early 20th century, archaeologists were already frustrated by the site’s despoiled nature due to centuries of plundering. The state of dilapidation was even more exacerbated during the Lebanese Civil War (1975 to 1990), with military operations and planned ransacking (often done by bulldozer-mounted looters).

In spite of such baleful occurrences, historians decided to have a last go at the site – and to their surprise, the researchers recently found a substantial area of the site still boasting of surviving structures and historical objects worthy of further analysis. One among such extant evidences relate to the discovery of pottery pieces that were speckled all over the site because of the previous traversing of ‘treasure-hunting’ bulldozers. The finding of the pottery fragments incited the archaeologists to further pursue their project. As a result, they opted for an accurate process known as differential GPS that precisely mapped the layout of the historical site based on the findings. The ‘virtual’ arrangement was based on extant parameters like door thresholds, columns and even walls of the surviving structure.

Photo credit: Paul Newson

Photo credit: Paul Newson

From this layout assessment, the researchers figured out that a densely populated core made up the hub of the Roman settlement, while loosely arranged courtyard-comprising habitats dotted the outer edges of this central village. The entire Hosn Niha settlement additionally flaunted 10 m (or 33 ft) high walls that protected the hub of the aforementioned Roman temple. This habitation trend continued on through the Eastern Roman period (after 330 AD) till the Islamic period in the 7th century. But after this epoch, the population seems to have decreased considerably – a factor which still baffles the historians involved.

Anyhow, a few local elements of the Greco-Roman population of the ancient times did perhaps linger on, as is evident from some advanced glazed pottery fragments that date from later medieval times of 14th century. But more interesting is the probable economy of the Hosn Niha settlement – which might have depended heavily on growing grapes and producing wine. This high-return commercial activity surely explains the populace’s capacity to construct big temples. Furthermore, the archaeologists have also studied various types of tombs from the area, ranging from individual stone-made sarcophagus to collective rock-cut catacombs.

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Photo credit: Ruth Young

Photo credit: Ruth Young

Via: Eurasia Review 

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1800-year old Roman site in Lebanon still survives after centuries of looting and warfare

Ransacked historical ruins are not unfortunately not rare in the realm of archaeology. But what is rare pertains to a site still maintaining its ‘value’ after years of looting and dilapidation. Well, that is exactly the case with a Roman temple and adjacent settlement up in the Lebanese mountains of the Bekaa Valley. The little village known as Hosn Niha has been inhabited since Roman times till the later medieval period, with its founding date being some time in 200 AD. However, by early 20th century, archaeologists were already frustrated by the site’s despoiled nature due to centuries of plundering. The state of dilapidation was even more exacerbated during the Lebanese Civil War (1975 to 1990), with military operations and planned ransacking (often done by bulldozer-mounted looters).

In spite of such baleful occurrences, historians decided to have a last go at the site – and to their surprise, the researchers recently found a substantial area of the site still boasting of surviving structures and historical objects worthy of further analysis. One among such extant evidences relate to the discovery of pottery pieces that were speckled all over the site because of the previous traversing of ‘treasure-hunting’ bulldozers. The finding of the pottery fragments incited the archaeologists to further pursue their project. As a result, they opted for an accurate process known as differential GPS that precisely mapped the layout of the historical site based on the findings. The ‘virtual’ arrangement was based on extant parameters like door thresholds, columns and even walls of the surviving structure.

Photo credit: Paul Newson

Photo credit: Paul Newson

From this layout assessment, the researchers figured out that a densely populated core made up the hub of the Roman settlement, while loosely arranged courtyard-comprising habitats dotted the outer edges of this central village. The entire Hosn Niha settlement additionally flaunted 10 m (or 33 ft) high walls that protected the hub of the aforementioned Roman temple. This habitation trend continued on through the Eastern Roman period (after 330 AD) till the Islamic period in the 7th century. But after this epoch, the population seems to have decreased considerably – a factor which still baffles the historians involved.

Anyhow, a few local elements of the Greco-Roman population of the ancient times did perhaps linger on, as is evident from some advanced glazed pottery fragments that date from later medieval times of 14th century. But more interesting is the probable economy of the Hosn Niha settlement – which might have depended heavily on growing grapes and producing wine. This high-return commercial activity surely explains the populace’s capacity to construct big temples. Furthermore, the archaeologists have also studied various types of tombs from the area, ranging from individual stone-made sarcophagus to collective rock-cut catacombs.

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Image credit: Copyright Antiquity Trust

Photo credit: Ruth Young

Photo credit: Ruth Young

Via: Eurasia Review 

  Subscribe to HEXAPOLIS

To join over 1,100 of our dedicated subscribers, simply provide your email address: