Full text: New perspectives to save cultural heritage

M. Ldnnqvist, PhD a M. Torma, MSci b 
a Project Leader, Institute for Cultural Research, Department of Archaeology, 
POB 59, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland - minna.lonnqvist@helsinki.fi 
b Research Scientist, Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 
Helsinki University of Technology, Otakaari 1, 02150 Espoo, Finland 
- markus.torma@hut.fi; website of the project: www.helsinki .fi/hum/arla/svgis 
KEY WORDS: Syria, archaeology, GIS, 
photogrammetry, surveying, mapping, environment, nomadism 
Surveying and mapping the archaeologically unexplored mountain of Jebel Bishri in Central Syria is the 
first step for protecting and preserving ancient remains in the area. The mountainous region covers over 
one million hectares of desert-steppe and steppe type environment between Palmyra and the Euphrates 
River. Finland with its growing modem information technology has initiated the study of the area with 
remote sensing methods from the air and space and with digital documentation techniques on the 
ground. In many ways the area is culturally and environmentally an important mosaic. Culturally it is 
defined by the Euphrates River, the Silk Road and the Roman Eastern Frontier (the so-called Limes). 
Environmentally it is a border zone between desert and sown; between nomads and village 
agriculturalists who have been affecting the area for millennia in the changing situations of world 
powers. The aim of the Finnish SYGIS (the Syrian GIS) project is to produce GIS-based maps, expand 
the awareness of the location and types of the remains and support the traditional ways of life in the 
area. The mapping will help the Syrian authorities to protect the remains from looting and preserve them 
in the future constmction works in the area. 
Surveying and mapping the archaeologically 
unexplored area of Jebel Bishri (the Bishri 
Mountain) in Central Syria is the first step for 
protecting and preserving ancient remains in the 
area. The SYGIS project, the archaeological GIS 
(Geographic Information Systems) mapping of the 
Jebel Bishri area, was initiated by Finnish 
archaeologists and remote sensing specialists in 
1999. During the respective year the project was 
accepted to NASA's world monitoring program 
through German Aerospace Center (DLR). Beside 
the funding received from the Academy of Finland 
and the Nordic Research Academy (NorFA) 
Nokia Co. has sponsored the project. The 
awareness of the locations of the remains will help 
the Syrian Antiquities Department to prevent 
looting (cf. Abdulrahman 2001) in the area and to 
take the sites into account in the future protection 
and preservation plans. The need for national 
archaeological inventory, i.e., an archaeological 
information system (cf. Leech 1999), in Syria is 
emphasized through this project initiated by the 
Finnish know-how in information technology. 
The area of Jebel Bishri is situated between 
Palmyra and the Euphrates River (34-36° N

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