Tyre, situated approximately 50 miles south of Beirut, was founded by Phoenician settlers in the third millennium B.C. From its foundation, the city functioned as a critical trading hub and commercial port and, consequently, was the frequent target of military campaigns from neighboring empires in the region. Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Crusaders, and Turks all attempted to colonize the city, with varying degrees of success. For much of its early history, Tyre was split into two co-dependent centers: the principal settlement, a wealthy maritime hub, occupied a highly fortified island, while a satellite community on the mainland provided necessary water and timber. Tyrian traders founded colonies throughout the Mediterranean, reputedly venturing as far west as Cadiz, and settling areas of North Africa and Greece. The city weathered an occupation by the Mameluks in the thirteenth century and remained part of the Ottoman Empire until its dissolution following the First World War. When the modern nation of Lebanon was formed, Tyre fell within its borders.
How We Helped
The ruins of ancient Tyre remain under constant threat from regional military conflict and growing pressures of urban and industrial development. The combination of such potentially destructive forces convinced WMF of the need to participate in conservation projects at Tyre. WMF was engaged in the conservation of the remains of a fifth-century Paleochristian Basilica discovered while digging foundations for a modern building. For this project, WMF led a team of architects in efforts to protect the basilica from the effects of seepage from nearby sewage collection facilities and exposure to the elements. The team cleaned and documented the basilica site, and backfilled selected areas to protect them from further damage. Workers repointed and rejoined fissured brickwork, cleaned damaged marble, and used sandbags and geotextiles to consolidate loose or at-risk building elements on the site.
Why It Matters
Tyre, inscribed in 1979 on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean, a repository of the architectural and artistic achievements of the many civilizations that inhabited the settlement over the course of three millennia. Refuting the notion that historic preservation must come at the expense of modern growth, WMF’s conservation work at Tyre accommodated the development and needs of the modern city and protected the remains of the ancient settlement.