Monuments, landscape, and memory: The emergence of tower-tombs in Tadmor-Palmyra

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Abstract: Little is known about the emergence of the iconic tower-tombs in the first century bce in Tadmor-Palmyra, the oasis settlement on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire. Scholarship has concentrated on the grand towers erected in the first two centuries CE, yet it is the older and simpler group of towers that holds the key for
understanding their appearance. They reveal breaks with existing burial customs and a need to carve out a new memorial landscape in the desert. This article offers a new perspective on the tower-tombs, building on theoretical approaches to monumentality, landscape, and memory. In settings that were simultaneously conspicuous and distant, the towers represent monumental proclamations aimed at the residents of Tadmor-Palmyra and the people of the desert. As tombs, they kept alive the memory of some members of the community, becoming focal points for the (re)production of lineage identity. Internal developments, sedentarization, or migration made such identities vulnerable, and new avenues for competitive innovations about the shared past were sought. The tower-tombs provide the first glimpses of a new Tadmor-Palmyra.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-52
Number of pages23
JournalBulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies
Issue number1
Early online date25-Jun-2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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