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Reconstituting historical stratigraphy: Ugarit’s Temple of Dagan

Tarek Teba (Department of Architecture, Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Dimitris Theodossopoulos (The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Article publication date: 23 September 2019

Issue publication date: 23 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to test critical conservation approaches through conceptual architectural interventions that integrate the evolution of a significant urban building, the Temple of Dagan in Ugarit, the capital of an important Bronze Age civilisation in Syria, with the pre-existing phases of the site and offer a paradigm for the presentation of the city’s evolution. This reflection aims to investigate how far the remaining fabric can frame the original architectural experience of the place allowing the visitors of the ruins to contextualise the architectural development of the temple.


A detailed reading of archaeological reports and the French mission’s architectural interpretation as well as in situ surveys and architectural and urban analyses were carried out to inform this conservation reflection, which primarily explores the potential of critical conservation approaches for key architectural interventions. The main vehicle is a virtual reconstruction approach to probe the proposed critical conservation principles and their success in highlighting the stratigraphy of a site.


The work shows that critical conservation approaches can make a distinct contribution to the understanding of the ruins; in particular, the virtual approach can handle effectively the presentation of the intangible experience of the temple (original processional routes) and its archaeological stratigraphy.

Research limitations/implications

The poor condition of the temple, being exposed for more than 80 years after excavation, have limited further architectural analysis as some evidence is confusing to read in situ. The pre-conservation analysis, therefore, was based more on the archaeological mission’s work, which is comprehensive.

Social implications

The reconstitution of the temple’s architectural layers in a coherent narrative will have educational value as it will highlight the development of architectural perception and techniques during the Bronze Age. Debate on the application of such tools by managers of the site may enhance the visitors’ appreciation of the ruins. The digital output itself constitutes an engaging material that enhances the public understanding of the site and its rich stratigraphy.


The study is the first attempt to constitute an architectural experience out of the confusing ruins integrating the archaeological evidence in the frame of contemporary conservation and architectural design. As one of the predominant urban artefacts in Ugarit, the Temple of Dagan witnessed at least a millennium of the city’s history and thus the conservation strategy of its intense development and stratification reflects the whole city.



Teba, T. and Theodossopoulos, D. (2019), "Reconstituting historical stratigraphy: Ugarit’s Temple of Dagan", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 468-485.



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