Ancient Lebanon reveals its treasures: ‘Sidon Best of 15 Years’ exhibition
The early lifestyle of people in ancient Sidon has been revived and brought back to life by a team of archaeologists showing to its full extent the richness of Lebanese heritage, culture and history.’
The Sidon British Museum excavation team has been working for the last 15 years on the site of the old American College of Sidon, in close collaboration with the Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA), Ministry of Culture Lebanon (Fig.1).The site revealed a stratigraphic continuity of a city from the end of the 4th millennium B.C. through the medieval period (Doumet-Serhal 2009 & 2012).
A most attractively designed and highly informative exhibition (Gubel 2014) covering the results of 15 years of excavations of the site was organized by Claude Doumet-Serhal in Saida, southern Lebanon. Entitled “Sidon Best of 15 years” the Sidon British Museum excavation team displayed more than 40 artefacts (Fig.2 & 3). The event was held in the premises of the Directorate General of Antiquities, Saida office, between September 3rd and December 3rd 2013, under the patronage of the DGA, the Lebanese British Friends of the National Museum and was funded by the Philippe Jabre Association.
The exhibition was structured around two main themes: Sidonian cult and ritual and Sidon maritime trade through more than forty centuries. The artefacts on display covered 5 millennia of the history of Lebanon and included:
-pottery, figurines and animal bones from the settlement of the Early Bronze Age (Fig.4);
-grave goods of jewels, jugs and bronze weapons from the Middle Bronze age burials (Fig.4 & 5);
-imported pottery and incense burners from the Late Bronze Age temple;
-Phoenician inscriptions and musical instrument (sistrum) from the Iron Age buildings.
-Aphrodite sculpture and Roman figurines;
-Crusaders and Abbasid coins and weapons.
The display of these newly discovered artefacts followed a timeline based on the chronology of the College site, with several highlights on each period stretching from 4000 B.C. to 1258 A.D. The detailed illustrations of the excavated layers and the archaeological objects transformed the headquarters of the DGA in Saida into a time machine; the spectator is whisked away on a unique journey back in time and through the history of Lebanon. The captions of the display cases written in English and Arabic offered an instructive explanation about the objects, their function and period. In addition, a documentary film about the excavation, including interviews with specialists of archaeology was shown. Upon reservation, special tours with explicit commentaries and a visit of the archaeological site including the office of Sidon excavation team was possible.
Despite the critical situation in Lebanon, visitors of different ages and occupations were drawn to the exhibition because it offered for the first time an opportunity to admire archaeological artefacts of Sidon and interact with archaeologists who discovered and studied the objects and to acknowledge the history and cultural heritage of Lebanon. School children visited the exhibition regularly and learned about how their ancestors lived. The young generations were fascinated and delightfully curious about their ancient past (Fig.6). A history, most of them are denied because we as Lebanese are not able to agree on our past or even our future. Alongside the exhibition a drawing competition entitled “Our ancestors are just like us” was organized by the international paper mills ‘Fabriano’ in collaboration with the Lebanese schools in order to encourage the children and also their parents to be more conscious about their cultural heritage.
A special catalogue was published at the occasion of the exhibition edited by Claude Doumet-Serhal. This publication is an elaborated document that exposes studies and ongoing research of the Sidon College site (Claude Doumet – Serhal, Sidon. 15 Years of Excavations).
‘Sidon. 15 Years of Excavations’ exhibition offers a glimpse of the future Museum of Sidon that is under construction overlooking the site. This museum will house more than 1400 artefacts found at the Sidon College site and is considered to be the first regional museum in Lebanon to incorporate an archaeological site.
Special thanks to all the archaeologists, especially Claude Doumet-Serhal and Enas Saleh, who worked very hard, under political turmoil, to persevere and promote Lebanese heritage and make it freely accessible to everyone. Credit must also go to the visitors for their enthusiasm and for making this exhibition a successful event. Finally thanks to the Myriam Ziyade and all the DGA Saida team, the journalists who covered the event, and the sponsors (Jabre Association).
. Facebook’s page of the exhibition: https://www.facebook.com/SidonBestOf15Years
Doumet-Serhal C. 2012. Sidon’s Guardian Spirits, in : “And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn…” A Tribute to Dr. John Curtis on his 65th birthday, Archaeology and History in the Lebanon 34-35, 1-6.
Doumet-Serhal C. 2009. Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Season of Excavation (2008-2010) at Sidon, BAAL 13, 7-69.
Gubel E. 2014. Book review of “Sidon. 15 Years of Excavations”. Claude Doumet-Serhal, On the occasion of the exhibition Sidon “The Best of 15 Years, 3 September – 3 November 2013, Sidon, Beirut, AKKADICA 134 (2).
Jwana Chahoud est Post-doctorante
Archéozoologue, spécialiste du Proche et Moyen-Orient et de la Méditerranée orientale
UMR 5133-Archéorient, MSH Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée, Lyon.