Destroyed and abandoned during the war, Beirut offers unique opportunities for urban reconstructionand archaeological research. The investigation of the city's urban history and material culture will accompany and contribute to the reconstruction process.

Beirut Central District showing Souk Area sceduled for reconstruction in 1995. (Photo courtesy of SOLIDERE)

1 - 4 First excavations begun in 1993       6    Souk Tawile: 1994 urban
5     Location of archaeological center          excavation
      in the restored Ottoman military      0    New archaeological center
      hospital, today the headquarters           in restored souk under 
      of the Council for Devclopment and         Maronite Cathedral
      Reconstruction                        red  Limits of BCD works
                                            yell Limits of Souk Area

The pressing demand to rescue Beirut's heritage cannot be answered by the methods of traditional archaeology alone because they are too slow, and the results are not easily accessible to the general public. What is needed is a project for the future, an archaeology that will go hand in hand with reconstruction. One of its aims will be to locate the city's roots in the past and link them to the future.

Preserving the cultural heritage of the city enables it to cope better with the drastic changes imposed by future developments. Incorporating this memory into the reconstruction process will help maintain the character of Beirut, emphasizing continuity and raising confidence in the future. Urban archaeology can make visible and recreate recent and remote roots of the city, thus becoming a link between the old and the new, the past and the future.

Urban archaeology can explore and record the natural and human resources of the city. Understanding the mechanisms of urban formation can provide valuable insight into the city's successive phases of growth, survival, prosperity and recession.

Using the planning frame in the Souk excavations.

Unique possibilities for archaeological research present themselves in Beirut today. Hindered in the past by the density of modern occupation, archaeology is now able to use the latest technologies in urban investigation, successfully tested abroad and presently adapted and enhanced in Lebanon, to retrieve lost information from our city center.

The urban development pattern of Beirut will be relevant to that of other cities such as Sidon, Tyre and Tripoli, where recent archaeological investigation has not yet been possible.

Today's archaeological experience in Beirut can become a model for understanding other Lebanese cities, towns and villages in need of exploration.


al@mashriq                       960118/960118