Archaeological Mission to the Qadisha Valley

USEK Archaeological Museum

Scientific Director
Grace Homsy-Gottwalles, Chief Curator of USEK Archaeological Museum

Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Hungary

Holy Spirit University of Kaslik

The Valley of Qadisha is located in Northern Lebanon, at the foot of Mount Al Makmel, west of the Cedars Forest. The valley constitutes one of the world’s most ancient and important sites of Christian monastic and hermetic life. It embraces a significant number of rupestral and built monasteries and hermitages, decorated with frescos going back to the beginning of the Christian era. Maronites, Jacobites, Melchites, Nestorians, Armenians and even Ethiopians found refuge in these rocky cliffs.

The heart of our project, Wadi Houlat, is located on the northern flank of the Qadisha Valley and comprises many monuments, which provide it with scenic richness and cultual value within an exceptional natural environment. The beauty of the scenery and its significant heritage make it an important touristic asset.

Wadi Houlat includes the monastic complexes of Deir El Salib, Mar Antonios and Mar Semaan, as well as the isolated chapels of Mar Bahnam and Mar Shmouni.

The Qadisha Valley has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1998. (Link to UNESCO’s website)

The showcase and conservation of Wadi Houlat sites in Hadshit constitute our main objective. This project aims, first of all, to safeguard all the cultural, cultual and natural values of this part of the valley, as well as the valorization of its heritage.
First Campaign (August 2012)
From 12 to 23 August 2012, the Archaeological Museum of USEK, in collaboration with the Pázmány Péter Catholic University (Hungary), conducted an archaeological mission in the Deir El Salib site (Hadshit) in Qadisha Valley, and also in Mar Bahnam, Mar Shmouni and Sayedet El Der.

Archeologists, architects, anthropologists and Lebanese, Hungarian and English restorers actively collaborated in this mission.

The main purpose of this first campaign was to evaluate the damages done to the sites, and find solutions regarding their preservation, in particular the mural paintings of Deir El Salib, Mar Bahnam, Sayedet El Der and Mar Shmouni.

An architectural study and a virtual visit in 3D were undertaken for Deir El Salib, Mar Bahnam and Mar Shmouni, whereas only Deir El Salib has undergone a photogrammetric documentation, an evaluation of the mural paintings’ condition and consolidation works.

Three spot checks were conducted in Deir El Salib (north apse, south apse and north wall of the chapel), whose main purpose was the collection of mural paintings fragments, particularly in the two apses. It was also important to understand the different phases of the chapel construction, define its scope, and also find out about the land use and its link with the walls (structure, coatings, pictorial layer, etc.)

The study of ceramics, the dendrochronological laboratorial analysis of the wooden beam samples extracted from the chapel, as well as the extension of spot checks, in future campaigns, will provide a clearer image of the history of this unique site.

Grace Homsy-Gottwalles, Scientific Director, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon.
Balázs Major, Archeologist, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Hungary.
Ilona Győrfi, Engineer, Documentation Office of Historic and Archaeological Heritage, ART’V Ltd, Hungary.
József Vajda, Engineer, Documentation Office of Historic and Archaeological Heritage, ART’V Ltd, Hungary.
Tamás Borosházi, Architect, Vinodom Architectural Service Ltd, Hungary.
András Grynaeus (A.G.), Archeologist, Hungarian Dendrochronological Laboratory, Hungary.
Eszter Harsányi (E.H.), Restorer, Hungarian University of Fine Arts and Restoration, Hungary.
Eva Galambos, Photographer, Hungarian University of Fine Arts and Restoration, Hungary.
Hannah Buckingham, Archeologist, Cardiff University, United Kingdom.
Toni Eid, Archeologist, Lebanon.
Nada Elias, Anthropologist, University of Bordeaux 1, France.
Kerstin Khalife, Restorer, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon.
Georges Doumet, Archeologist, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon.
Elie Elias, Intendant, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon.
Romanus Baysari, Worker, Municipality of Hadshit, Lebanon.
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