National Museum of Damascus
Front view of the museum
|Location||Shukri al-Quwatli Street, Damascus, Syria|
|Collection size||Over 300,000|
|Director||Mahmoud Hammoud (Head of the General Directorate for Antiquities and Museums)|
The National Museum of Damascus (Arabic: المتحف الوطني بدمشق) is a museum in the heart of Damascus, Syria. As the country's national museum as well as its largest, this museum covers the entire range of Syrian history over a span of over 11 millennia, and displays various important artifacts, relics and major finds most notably from Mari, Ebla and Ugarit, three of Syria's most important ancient archaeological sites. Established in 1919, during King Faisal's Arab Kingdom of Syria, the museum is the oldest cultural heritage institution in Syria.
Among the museum's highlights are, arguably, the Dura-Europos synagogue, a reconstructed synagogue dated to 245 AD which was moved piece by piece to Damascus in the 1930s and is noted for its vibrant and well preserved wall paintings and frescoes, also textiles from central Palmyra, and statues of the Greek goddess of victory from the south. The museum houses over 5000 cuneiform tablets, among them is the first alphabet in history, written down on a clay tablet, the Ugaritic alphabet. The museum is further adorned by 2nd-century murals, elaborate tombs, and the recently restored Lion of al-Lat, which originally stood guard at the National Museum of Palmyra but was whisked away to Damascus for safeguarding.
The museum closed its doors in 2012 after the Syrian Civil War engulfed Damascus and threatened its rich cultural artifacts. The museum authorities quickly unloaded more than 300,000 artifacts and hid them in secret locations to safeguard Syria's cultural heritage from destruction and looting. After 6 years, the museum reopened 4 of the museum's 5 wings on October 29, 2018.
The then-small museum was founded in 1919 under the supervision of the Syrian Ministry of Education at Madrasseh al Adiliyeh. Although the museum's collection was rather small, most of it was kept at Madrasseh al-Adiliyeh until the collection was moved to its current location. The current building was built in 1936, except for the facade, the Umayyad palace of Qasr al-Heer al-Gharbi, which was removed from its location in the Syrian desert and placed in front of the new museum building in Damascus. A building located next to Al-Takiyya al-Sulaymaniya was chosen for the establishment of the National Museum of Damascus.
The discovery of Qasr Al-Heer Al-Gharbi added new attention to the Islamic period, so the Directors of Antiquities decided to incorporate the palace into the museum. The front façade of the palace was transported to Damascus before being carefully reconstructed as the National Museum's main entrance. The process took several years and the official opening was celebrated in 1950. New halls and wings were added to the museum as its collection grew. In 1953, a three-storey wing was added to display more exhibits of the Islamic period, as well as contemporary Syrian art.
A new lecture hall and a library were added in 1963. The lecture hall was furnished as a 19th-century Ottoman-era Damascene reception hall, lavishly decorated and ornamented as most Damascene houses were. Later additions took place in 1974 to house exhibits from the Paleolithic period. The most recent addition took place in 2004, when the temporary exhibition wing was reworked to display Neolithic antiquities.
The facade of the museum is built from the front of an Islamic palace, which was transferred and restored as the museum's main entrance. The Museum's unique findings are: Restorations of the Dura Europos Synagogue from the 3rd century AD; The hypogeum of Yarhai from Palmyra, dating to 108 AD; And the façade and frescoes of Qasr Al-Heer Al-Gharbi, which dates back to the 8th century and lies 80 km south of Palmyra. Many other important historical artifacts can be found in various wings; such as the world's first alphabet from Ugarit and many Roman era mosaics. The exhibits are organised into 5 wings:
Remains and skeletons from different Stone-Age periods, most notably the neolithic period, as well as objects and finds discovered in the basin of the Orontes River, the Euphrates and Tell Ramad in southwestern Syria.
Many Exhibits from ancient sites such as Ebla, Mari, Ugarit and Tell Halaf. The most important of these is an Ugaritan tablet, on which is the world's first Alphabet. Other findings include tablets and amulets from Ugari, Ebla and Mari, and sculptures from Tell Halaf.
Greek and Roman/Byzantine (classical) Age
This wing contains many classical Syrian artifacts. The displays include sculptures, marble and stone sarcophagi, mosaics, jewelry and coinage from the Seleucid, Roman and Byzantine periods. The findings are from sites such as Palmyra, Dura Europos, Mount Druze, and more, and most notably include many beautiful Byzantine era manuscripts and jewelry, and stone work, silk and cotton textiles from Palmyra preserved by the desert sands.
Among the most important exhibits from the classical era include the 3rd century underground Palmyrene tomb, the Hypogeum of Yarhai, considered one of the best examples of Palmyrene funerary art. The hypogeum was originally found in Palmyra's Valley of the Tombs but it was later excavated and moved to the museum in 1935. The hypogeum, which dates from 108 AD, currently is found in the underground part of the museum, and can be reached after taking the stairs from room 15. There are also many pieces of Palmyrene funerary reliefs in the museum found in the Palmyra hall.
The facade of an Islamic palace has been moved and reconstructed as the museum's main entrance. Some of the contents of the palace are also located in the museum, including carvings.
It also contains many exhibits made of glass and metal, as well as coins, from different periods of Islamic History. There are also scriptures from the Umayyad era to the Ottomans.
There is also a hall containing an example of a traditional Damascene home, which was obtained from an 18th-century house in the Old City of Damascus.
There is a library adjacent to this section.
Contains contemporary works of artists from Syria, the Arab world, and other countries.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to National Museum of Damascus.|
- "Syria reopens national museum in recently-shelled Damascus after six years". The Independent. The Independent Company. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
- Darke, Diana (2010). Syria. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 110. ISBN 9781841623146.
- "Damascus National Museum". The Syrian Digital Library of Cuneiform. SDLC. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
- Beattie, Andrew; Pepper, Timothy (2001). The Rough Guide to Syria. p. 94. ISBN 9781858287188.
- "Museums for Intercultural Dialogue - Alphabet of Ugarit".
- Beattie, Andrew; Pepper, Timothy (2001). The Rough Guide to Syria. p. 91. ISBN 9781858287188.
- Katz, Brigit. "Forced to Close by Civil War, the National Museum of Damascus Re-Opens Its Doors" (Smart News). www.smithsonianmag.com. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
- "The National Museum of Damascus".
- "National Museum of Damascus - Discover Islamic Art".
- "National Museum of Damascus". www.sothebys.com. Sotheby's. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- Beattie, Andrew; Pepper, Timothy (2001). The Rough Guide to Syria. ISBN 9781858287188.