Resting in what is now Syria, the ancient dirt of Palmyra has intrigued historians for centuries. The site dates as far back as the Neolithic period (10,200-4500 BC), but is noted for its time spent as a bustling sprawl in the Roman Empire.
Before archaeology and the science of preservation, there were antiquaries who devoted themselves to the study of ancient times. Often, antiquaries made a living and gained praise from information and items found from historically significant sites, like Palmyra.
However, not always were antiquaries intentions honorable. Curiosities from all over the world brought top dollar for their mysterious aesthetics and soon, the antiquity trade was flooded with artifacts from ancient Egypt, China and more.
Today’s political climate is much more dangerous to sites like Palmyra than antiquarians ever were. The site has sustained significant damage as recently as this year, following the occupation by the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), an Arabic Salafi jihadist militant group.
Antiquarian work is more important than ever as, in this instance, illustrations depicting the structure in the mid 19th century are still circulating and being studied. Watch as Head of Books, Maps + Manuscripts, Benjamin Truesdale, explains the importance of antiquarianism with examples from a recent sale. From its arguably archaeological exploitative beginnings, to its crucial involvement today in preserving some of the world’s greatest treasures.