The extraordinary

stories of Palmyra

Digital Exhibition

Palmyra owes its global fame partly to the shocking war which has left Syria, its people and its cultural heritage in turmoil since 2011.

The archaeological site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980 and a World Heritage Endagered Site since 2013. It has been devastated and desecrated by a series of events including wilful demolition, mass executions and the barbaric murder of Khaled al-As’ad, seemingly in an attempt to annihilate the site and deny its heritage to future generations.

Tragically, in our common perception, Palmyra has become a symbol of human and material degradation. Yet it deserves far better, for its monuments, statues and epigraphy bear testament to an extraordinary history.

A narrative articulating a dialogue between radically different cultures which we can now decipher thanks to the meticulous archaeological research carried out for over a century by scholars from across the world.


One such scholar was Prof. Maria Teresa Grassi , director of the first joint Italo-Syrian archaeological mission in Palmyra whose painstaking reconstruction of the complex tapestry of evidence from the ancient caravan city has been published in the book Palmira. Storie straordinarie dell’antica metropoli d’Oriente.

That book has provided the stimulus for this digital exhibition in which Prof. Grassi guides us in her own words through some of the discoveries and the rich narratives recounting the identities and legacies of the protagonists of epic Palmyra from antiquity to the present day.

The exhibits range from photographs, painting, sculpture, architecture, archaeological-, epigraphic- and numismatic finds, to audio- and video testimonies, and multimedia resources loaned by museums, university archives and libraries in Syria and the rest of the world or provided by colleagues and collaborators of Prof. Grassi. A multi-faceted project reflecting the spirit of the ancient city itself which also aims to situate the diversity of this legacy in a contemporary context..

The exhibition is a grateful homage to the memory of this much-loved Milanese archaeologist whose activity was always characterised by scientific diligence allied to an indefatigable urge to disseminate her discoveries. The perpetuation of these twin characteristics unites the organisers of this exhibition: the Fondazione Terra Santa – publishers of the book and organisers of the Giornate di Archeologia, Storia e Arte del Vicino e Medio Oriente; and HumanLab dell’Università IULM , which has participated in the Pal.M.A.I.S. archaeological expedition of the Università degli Studi di Milano, collaborating both in linguistic and epigraphic studies and sustaining the most recent communication projects.