Credit: Rayya Haddad
Credit: Rayya Haddad

Earlier this summer I posted pictures taken by my photographer friend Rayya Haddad of the extensive ruins discovered near the Bank Audi building in downtown Beirut. But recently Rayya went back to the site and it seems to have been partially cleared. Compare the recent photos above taken to the ones below taken about two months ago, when the ruins were just unearthed:

Rayya Haddad

The arches were extensive, perhaps revealing a building or a series of rooms or small structures. (See previous post for more pictures.) The structures had reached right up to the construction walls filling in the far corner of the site:

Rayya Haddad

But when I was recently walking by the excavation–which will reportedly be the new headquarters for another bank– Bank Al Mawarid–I noticed the arched structure seemed to be gone. I took these shots when the door was briefly open:

Beirut Report

Here is a closer view of the far corner of the site:

Beirut Report

Of course it is hard to tell without having a good aerial shot, but the retaining wall columns do not seem obstructed by any ruins, which were flush up against them in previous shots.

Ruins are usually dismantled when developers want to start building or the archeologists want to go to a deeper level. If we look closely, it seems that another type of ruins have been discovered with much larger stones:

Beirut Report

The larger, bolder-like stones are usually seen in Roman structures, as opposed to the arched area in the top photos, which used smaller pieces and may have belonged to a much later Ottoman or Islamic era site.

In Rayya’s shots we can also see these big stones, which are almost the size of the yellow generator:

Rayya Haddad

So have the ruins been dismantled to reach another, ‘more important’ layer? Or are some of them buried under the sand? Were parts of the structure removed altogether?
If the deeper, big rock ruins are Roman, could they have been associated with the nearby theatre and hippodrome complex, as covered in previous posts.
Whatever the case, these questions will be hard to answer due to the strict no photos policy enforced by the government’s antiquities department. And even if the deeper ruins are judged to be more important, should the public have been able to see the site, even if only for a few days, before it was cleared to go deeper or make way for the new building?  More importantly, will any of this part of ancient Beirut remain before another bank is built here?
Thanks to these leaked original pictures, at least we can see what the mysterious arched structure looked like online if not in person.
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Habib Battah
Habib Battah is an investigative journalist and founder of the news site beirutreport.com. Battah has covered Lebanon and the Middle East for over 15 years and teaches journalism and media studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a contributor to Monocle, The Guardian, BBC World, Al Jazeera and others, a former fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. Battah's investigative work was recently recognized for outstanding local reporting by the Columbia University Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting. Battah earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Near East Studies and Journalism from New York University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. You know whats sad..its not really that they are dismantled. I mean most of the archaeological remains from rescue excavations like this one get dismantled…the sad thing really is that no one ever publishes the finds…I mean publishing should be the priority…not just an afterthought.
    I understand that the archaeologists working at these sites get overwhelmed sometimes with the tight schedules and so on. but seriously, There are many archaeologists in Lebanon that are capable in helping in the publications and doing the research work…But…you might find this surprising…or maybe not…but most of the archaeologists working in the city center area do not allow students, other than their own (usually Lebanese University students) to actually look at the stuff and work on it. This severely limits the workforce that can actually study the material and research. For example AUB students are totally disconnected from the city center excavations…and this is not cool…there’s such a rift between archaeologists from LU and the Direction General des Antiquites (DGA) on one hand, and AUB on the other to the extent that when the DGA actually needed some 22 archaeologist to hire, AUB people found out about it (by chance) too late, and no one was able to apply ! its a shame really.
    In any case…rescue excavations with no publications are equivalent to destroying sites…just with trowels and brushes…
    alright, am done.

  2. Those are excellent points and I have heard them many times before, from people at AUB and other universities. I’m keen to find out more about this. Would appreciate it if you could send me a line at habib (dot) battah @ gmail to learn more.

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