Vlog: Different stages of documenting pottery datasets from Silk Roads sites Nabatean ceramic oil-lamps from Petra (photography: Benjamin de Groot)

Vlog: Different stages of documenting pottery datasets from Silk Roads sites

In this video, MA student Alex Mohns guides you through the different labs and steps of documenting unpublished archaeological datasets from Palmyra and Petra, two important ancient Silk Roads sites.

Ancient Silk Roads

Since 2019, the Ancient Silk Roads research team, coordinated by Dr. Marike van Aerde, has been analysing and documenting two datasets from Palmyra (Syria) and Petra (Jordan). These were both crucial trade centres in the Silk Roads network, dating to roughly the early to mid 1st

millennium CE. The majority of the materials are ceramics sherd (incl. pottery and oil-lamps), and there is a small selection of glass from Palmyra. These materials have not been studied or interpreted before, and it is our aim to compile a basic reference collection of them that will be available in Open Access for scholars and the wider public alike. Seeing the recent heritage threat for Palmyra especially, we find it important to provide a clear and accessible documentation of these materials in a digital format.

This project has also provided ample opportunity for MA and PhD students of the Archaeology Faculty in Leiden to come to grips with the basics of documenting these types of datasets. This has included fabric description, sampling, technical drawing, catalogue photography, and microscope study. At present, MA student Alex Mohns is finishing his internship for this project, and he will be guiding you through the different steps in this video. PhD students Rishika Dhumal and Sam Botan also continue to work and help out with the different phases in the process, and professional photography was provided by Benjamin de Groot.

Reference collection

When the covid-19 pandemic started in March, our team had to cancel a great deal of fieldwork and travel plans. Instead, we are now trying to finish our reference collection of these Palmyra & Petra datasets. We would like to thank the board of the Archaeology Faculty for granting us safe and well-coordinated access to the materials in the laboratories over the past months, so that we did not have to abandon this project. (The microscope, loops and clippers used in the video are personally owned by the team coordinator and PhDs, and extra care was taken to maintain hygiene throughout the labs).

See for more information the website of Archaeologists Connected.


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