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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

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