Resilience and vulnerability in the Syrian Desert in the first millennium CE: The case of the oasis city Tadmor (Palmyra)

New publication by Rubina Raja and Eivind Heldaas Seland.

Raja, R.and Seland, E. H. (2023). Resilience and Vulnerability in the Syrian Desert in the First Millennium CE: The Case of the Oasis City Tadmor (Palmyra)”. Acta Ad Archaeologiam Et Artivm Historiam Pertinentia 34, 63-78.


Urban resilience in past societies is challenging to measure given the nature of our data, which for the most part gives insight into past processes only through their archeological and historical outcomes. We therefore suggest to approach the issue in conjunction with vulnerability, which was only too familiar to ancient societies, and out-comes, which represent suitable proxies of whether societies were capable of dealing with their vulnerabilities, i.e. if they were resilient. The city of Tadmor (Palmyra), situated in a marginal desert landscape on the border between large empires, constitutes a pertinent test case with a clear set of vulnerabilities and a record of historical and archaeological outcomes spanning the best part of a millennium. Using urban development as our measure of urban resilience, we discuss the case of Palmyra in relation to its geopolitical situation, climate change and sub-sistence, funerary tradition and long-distance trade, arguing that resilience and vulnerability play out on different scales and on various levels.