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The Syrian Mosaic Pavement Documentation Training Programme

A collaborative training programme was conducted from 2004 to 2008 with the objective of fully documenting all the ancient mosaics in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR). The participating institutions were the Centre for Archaeological Research of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Damascus and the European Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments (EKBMM), with the full co-operation of the Syrian Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and the collaboration of the Hellenic Society for Near Eastern Studies (HSNES). The programme was funded by EKBMM with additional support coming from the above-mentioned institutions.

The two main aims of the programme were to establish a new working database in order to fully document as many mosaics (primarily, though not exclusively, pavements) in Syria using modern methods, and to conduct a training course for Syrians who would actually carry-out this process. The result was a corpus of all mosaics in Syria in a digital format, openly available to anyone interested for future study.

The programme was initiated and directed by Dr Konstantinos Politis (HSNES) and Dr Amr Al-Azm (Damascus University) with eight Syrian student trainees. Special lectures were also given by Mr Vicken Abajian (DGAM) on database management, Professor Demetrius Karadimas (HSNES) on the Greek language, Dr Stefania Chlouveraki (HSNES) on mosaic conservation and Dr Ma’amoun Abdelkarim (Damascus University) on Classical and Byzantine archaeology. An additional necessary objective was to modify the database to correspond with international standards (used by EKBMM) and make it more ‘user-friendly’. This was facilitated by Dr Georgios A. Papaioannou (HSNES).

By the end of 2008, a total of 365 mosaic pavements located in fourteen museums across Syria were documented as part of the Syrian Mosaic Documentation Training Programme.

In March 2009 upon completion of this extension, the director of EKBMM, Dr Anastasia Tourta attended a ceremony at Damascus University hosted by its President, Dr Wael Mualla officially recognising the efforts of the trainees and thanking the sponsoring institutions. In attendance was also Dr Bassam Jamous, Director General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria.

The results of the project were presented by Dr Konstantinos Politis during the 11th Conference of the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics held in Meknes, Morocco from 24-27 October 2011.

The Syrian Mosaic Pavement Documentation team at Mara’at Nama’an.

The mosaic pavements being measured, photographed and recorded on datasheets (photo: K. D. Politis).

Information from record sheets being entered into the database (photo: K. D. Politis).