The archaeological mission at Mishrifeh, ancient Qatna, is a joint Syrian-Italian project, with participation by the Directorate General of the Antiquities and Museums of Syria (DGAMS) and the University of Udine. A Syrian team from DGAMS and a joint Syrian-German mission composed of DGAMS and the University of Tübingen are also active on the site.
The aim of the joint Syrian-Italian Mishrifeh mission is to understand the history, cultural relations and environment of this important central Syrian city. In particular, the purpose of the project is to:
Study the plan and functioning of the city, and the development of the site during the various periods of its history.
Understanding Qatna’s role in long-distance 3rd, 2nd and 1st millennia BC Near Eastern trade networks constitutes a further archaeological research objective.
Another field of central importance for the mission is the multidisciplinary study of Qatna’s ancient environment, its evolution, and the strategies of economic subsistence and territorial exploitation which permitted this urban site to grow to such notable dimensions.
Interaction with the scientific disciplines which contribute to the archaeological study (geoarchaeology, physical anthropology, archaeozoology, archaeobotany, palynology, geochemistry and computerized survey) is thus an important and central feature of this project, undertaken in collaboration with the Directorate General of the Antiquities and Museums of Syria.
Together with site work, the mission has for years conducted a wide-ranging and detailed programme of archaeometry and production technology analysis that concerns Mishrifeh pottery from the 3rd to 1st millennia BC.
In 2005 a geophysical prospecting study, using GPR and magnetometry, was begun in the entire lower city of Mishrifeh, which is still virtually unknown. The University of Padova and the Trieste National Institute of Experimental Oceanography and Geophysics collaborate in the work, which will continue over the next few years.
Since 2004, the joint mission has been involved in a huge development project for the creation of an archaeological area, which will protect the site and allow its appreciation by visitors, and employs innovative technology (GIS and Virtual Reality).
The restoration and conservation of the Mishrifeh Royal Palace, begun in 2003, constitutes the first important part of this new archaeological area which, gradually and in collaboration with the Syrian and Syrian-German missions, will be extended to include other buildings and excavated portions of the site.
In the context of development and tutelage of the site, emphasis is also placed upon the education of students from the Syrian universities of Damascus and Homs in the use of modern archaeological research techniques, and to the training of local personnel specialized in the conservation of these monumental complexes in mud brick and their virtual reconstruction in digital form.
Lastly, in 2006 the Syrian-Italian Mission launches a new international project involving DGAMS, Udine University, Milan University and Warsaw University, to conduct a geoarchaeological survey of the desert surface between the Orontes and Qaryatein valleys and the Palmyra Oasis. The purpose is to investigate settlement and land use in the region, which is crossed by an important caravan route from Mesopotamia, and to study the natural environment and its evolution during the Holocene epoch.
The website of the Syrian-Italian Archaeological Mission at Mishrifeh is conceived as a dynamic presentation of the results achieved by the joint mission and will be regularly up-dated by an international team of specialists.