Tomb of the Three Brothers

Completed Project
Palmyra, Syria


Palmyra began as a caravan city along the international trade routes between Rome, Persia, India, and China during the first century, and grew to a position of power among the cities of antiquity. The city was invaded and occupied by the Romans during the fourth century. Among the remains of Palmyra, the Tomb of the Three Brothers contains funerary paintings of the highest significance, incorporating iconography of Parthian and Greco-Roman origins.

The painted decorations of the ground floor include representations of Achilles in Skyros in a back niche, and pillars decorated with winged Victories bringing crowns. The vault has a central medallion with the scene of the kidnapping of Ganimedes, surrounded by a geometric pattern. These paintings were threatened by exposure to natural light, unmitigated public access, and prior attempts and conservation. Little documentation or survey work had been done at the site.

How We Helped

Through the Robert W. Wilson Challenge, WMF was able to aid in the creation of a comprehensive and multidisciplinary program for recording and monitoring the structure and its decorations. The site was treated as a pilot project to address the stabilization and conservation of the tomb and consolidation of the mural paintings. Photographic documentation of the entire tomb was taken. Presented to the public by means of interpretive panels at the on-site museum, the project served as a teaching tool and model for other monuments at the Palmyra site.

Why It Matters

The Tomb of the Three Brothers is of the utmost importance in the study of ancient art of the Near East. The iconography of the painted decorations represents the blending of cultures after Roman occupation in the fourth century. Not only is the tomb the most famous monument in the Palmyra necropolis, but it is the only tomb at the site in which the interior paintings survive.

Last updated: October 2015.

Join us in safeguarding significant places.