Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Alexander's footsteps

Alexander's Footsteps: A Lost City in Lebanon
By IT Blog [Intelligent Traveler blog, National Geographic]
on July 6, 2010 10:30 AM | Comments (2)

After working as a reporter in Cairo, Theodore May wanted to know more about the history, culture, and people of the Middle East. So he decided to explore it, and use one of history's conquerors as his guide. For the next eight months he'll be following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, tracing the 2,000-mile path Alexander forged through the modern Middle East. Theo will be writing about his experiences for The Global Post, and you can be follow him on Twitter at @Theodore_May. He'll be contributing glimpses from his journeys here at Intelligent Travel.

The Romans left a powerful archaeological footprint on the region--as sites like Baalbek and Palmyra attest--but evidence of a Greek legacy is more uncommon.

It is appropriate, then, that ancient Umm el-Amed should be found deep in a field of overgrown thorn bushes, only several miles from the tense Lebanon-Israel border.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by Dr. Paul Newson's office at the American University of Beirut to get some historical perspective on Alexander the Great's conquest through Lebanon. Newson, who has done extensive fieldwork throughout the Middle East, currently serves as a professor of archaeology at AUB.

Not long into our conversation, Newson suggested we visit the Umm el-Amed site, a place neither of us had been.

Umm el-Amed is a Hellenistic-era Phoenician site which has produced some notable discoveries, such as the Baalshamar funerary stele (scroll down). Here's a JSTOR review of the site report in the 1960s from the Journal of Biblical Literature which gives an overview of the site. (Cross-file under Phoenician Watch.)

Mr. May's expedition should lead to some significant sites and I will try to keep an eye on it.