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Scattered across the vast Limestone Massif, in the northwest of Syria, between the Orontes and Afrin Rivers to the west and the Aleppo/Hama highway to the east, are more than 700 abandoned settlements of Roman and Byzantium era dating back to the 5th and 8th centuries. These so called “Dead Cities” —a name given by some early European explorers— exist in a remarkable state of preservation. Largely intact are buildings and houses, hundreds of pagan temples, churches and Christian sanctuaries, funerary monuments, bathhouses, and more.

These villages or towns were once major agricultural producers of wheat, olives, olive oil, grapes and wine. Then the climate changed. Drought and increased temperature caused the land to become unproductive. At the same time, conquest by the Arabs changed trade routes and these villages lost the majority of the business. Eventually, the villages were abandoned and the settlers headed for other cities that were flourishing under the Arabs.

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Photo credit: Shane Horan/Flickr

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© Amusing Planet, 2016.





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