Studia Palmyreńskie — 10.1997

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THE WESTERN AQUEDUCT
IN PALMYRA

by Marek Baranski

The oasis of Palmyra was basically supplied with water by the famous Efca spring. How-
ever, the continual growth of the city caused an increased demand and in order to
satisfy it several aqueducts bringing water from the mountains nearby were constructed.
The most important and currently the best known is the Western Aqueduct, also called Abu
el-Fawares. It carried water from a well under the hill of Rueisat, 12 km to the west of the
city.

For many travellers the remains of the aqueduct were the first structure they noted while
approaching the town. The earliest reference is the description of the underground channel
given by T. Lanoy and A. Goodyear (Lanoy, Goodyear 1695: 133). Presumably Pococke's
description concerns this part of the aqueduct as well (Pococke 1745: 136). Later, R. Wood
and J. Dawkins mentioned in their account of the ruins the aqueduct running along the
northern slope of the Valley of Tombs and gave more details on the underground channel
with some drawings (Wood, Dawkins 1753: 35). Later travellers also referred to the water
conduit, noting that besides the Efca spring it was an important source of water for the oasis
(Tourtechot 1735: 341; Addison 1838: 312). A. Musil who visited Palmyra in 1912 recalled in
his account that the aqueduct had been repaired and fresh water was running in it (Musil
1928: 136). G. Carle in his study on water supply in Palmyra described for the first time, al-
though briefly, the course of the conduit from the spring to the city, illustrating it with a
schematic plan (Carle 1923: plan). A more detailed plan, though only of the section running
in the Valley of Tombs, was presented by A. von Gerkan (von Gerkan 1935: Fig. 1) and J.
Starcky (Starcky 1941: plan), but the best to date was made by C. Wulzinger (Wiegand 1932:
Taf. 25), though no description is given. Wulzinger's plan suggests that the western aque-
duct continued as an underground qanat running through the southern part of the Camp of
Diocletian. This idea was presumably based on the plan of Cassas (Cassas 1798: pi. 26),
where the aqueduct is marked as a straight line leading diagonally from the Camp of Dio-
cletian to the Great Tetrapylon in the town centre. When discussing old plans and descrip-
tions, it is worth to mention a plan published in the second half of the XIXth century (Joanne
& Isambert 1861/1873, see PL I). However sketchy, it is interesting in marking the aqueduct
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