Reconstituting historical stratigraphy: Ugarit’s Temple of Dagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The paper tests 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 civilization 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.

Design/methodology/approach: 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.
Findings: 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 the new architectural analysis as some in situ evidence is confusing to read. 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.

Originality/value: The study is the first attempt to constitute an architectural experience of the confusing ruins using the archaeological evidence of the temple by means of contemporary conservation and architectural approaches. 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)468-485
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2019


  • Ugarit
  • critical conversation
  • archaeological site
  • architectural intervention
  • digital preservation


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