“Palmyra: Breathing Life!”

Contest of the computer graphics and animation

Breathing Life into Palmyra!

“When weapons are fired, museums perish”

M.B. Piotrovsky

Palmyra is a wondrous green oasis settled between the boundless sand dunes in the Syrian desert. Two thousand years ago, it was one of the most amazing and wealthiest cities in the Middle East, famous for its majestic temples and public squares. Colonnades lined the streets, providing cool shade on hot days. The streets and squares of the city were filled with the multi-language buzz of traders and merchants, who came to sell their wares in a city located at the crossroads of caravan routes connecting East with West. The history of Palmyra includes brilliant periods of development and prosperity as well as a sudden decline, when the population disappeared, and the city was overtaken by sand.

In the 20th century, Palmyra became an archeological centre, with her streets filled this time with researchers and tourists, who all wanted to see the stunningly beautiful ancient architecture that was miraculously well-preserved! But then something horrible happened…

In the Fall of 2015, the news came out of Syria that the ancient city which had been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site had been demolished by vandals! The tragedy killed 82 year-old archeologist Khalid-al-Asaad, the director and conservator of the ancient Palmyrene monuments…

In hopes of preserving the memory of the ancient city and its history as well as the eventual restoration of its monuments, we are holding a competition entitled, “Breathing Life into Palmyra!”

The aim of the competition is to introduce children and young people to one of the best examples of ancient culture and architecture, and to interest them in history in order to cultivate a sense of responsibility for preserving cultural and architectural monuments while simultaneously promoting their creative propensities.

Competition objectives:

• Stimulate and support creativity in gifted children

• Direct the interest of younger generations toward history and the artistic heritage of different eras

• Develop a caring and respectful attitude between children and architecture and culture

• Give children practice using informational resources in their work

Competition guidelines:

Competition dates:

19th March – 30th April 2016

Submissions are accepted in the following nomination categories:

• Computer drawings and design

• Multimedia presentation (PowerPoint and others)

• Flash- and GIF- animations

• Video

Submission requirements:

• Graphic designs are accepted in the following formats: JPG, GIF, BMP

• Multimedia presentations should be no more than ten slides

• Animations and videos should be no more than one minute

You must submit an original file (.psd, .fla, .ppt, .pptx, .pdn, etc.), and your full name must be included at the bottom of your work. Each submission should be provided in electronic form in a separate folder (.rar or .zip). The name of the folder should be your surname and given name, and a text file named “annotation.txt” must be included in this folder, including your school, class, email address, and phone number, along with your full name. The file name of your submission should include your surname, first name, age, city, and the title of your work. (For example, Johnson_Charlie_ 13_ Manchester_Hermitage.bmp)

Deadline for entries:

30 April 2016

Entries should be sent by email to: pobeda@znaem.org, or at the Hermitage Volunteer Service office (tel. (812) 710-98-76).

Competition results:

The jury will decide on the competition winners by 16 May 2016.

The best entries will be exhibited in the halls of the State Hermitage Museum.

Competition themes:

1. East Meets West

This theme allows the possibility to discuss:

– Palmyra’s geographical location and particularities

– The role that the city played as one of the most important centres on the trade paths of ancient civilisations

– The variety in Palmyra’s cultural heritage, and the impressive influences many different peoples and cultures

2. Two Queens

How and why do you think the reign of Catherine the Great was often compared to that of Palmyrene Empress Zenobia? Try to find similarities and differences:

– In terms of their character

– In the particularities of their reign

– In their fate

3. Palmyra and “Palmyra of the North”

Why is St. Petersburg called “Palmyra of the North”? What do the two cities have in common? In addressing this question, you will learn many new and interesting things about how the term “Palmyra of the North” came to be. Present all known versions of the story. Which of these seems to you to be the most true and interesting?

4. The Tragic Destruction of Cultural Heritage Monuments throughout History

Unfortunately, the fate of Palmyra was not a unique occurrence, as cultural monuments often become victims of wars and conflicts. Tell about other instances of the destruction of cultural heritage monuments in different eras and countries. Why did this happen? What should be done in order to save Palmyra and other historical objects in conflict zones?

5. Palmyrene Architecture

Why are the ruins of majestic ancient buildings designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites? This very broad topic requires an attentive approach in understanding architectural treasures.

6. History of the Rediscovery of Palmyra

This topic requires the telling of the mysterious fate of the once prosperous city, which was forgotten and overtaken by sand. The dust of neglect long hid Palmyra from the living memory of humanity. A unique document outlining the Palmyrene customs tariffs is preserved at the Hermitage. This valuable discovery by S.S. Abamelek-Lazarev in 1881 brought the attention of the entire academic world to the legendary city.

7. Gods and Beliefs

Palmyra was a city where many different religions coexisted peacefully. Majestic temples were built for the most powerful of the more than 60 Palmyrene gods known today. What can you say about the gods of Palmyra – Bel, Baalshamin, Aglibol, and Malakbel? How were they honoured and worshipped? Through which poems and from which ancient cultures did they become part of the culture of Palmyra?

8. Palmyra in Art

After the rediscovery of Palmyra, a large number of artists, sculptors, cinematographers, poets, and composers were drawn to the history of the fairytale-like city and her wise and valiant regent. Numerous images of Empress Zenobia are preserved in paintings and sculpture. Describe famous twentieth- and twenty first-century works of art, films, and operas honouring Palmyra.

9. Reconstructing the Life of the Multi-National Population of Palmyra

The history of Palmyra excites not only artists, but also the historians who work to reconstruct and recreate the ancient city’s likeness. Based on the sculptures that have survived, it is possible to recreate the external appearance of Palmyra’s inhabitants. Use your fantasy to imagine how the men and women of the prosperous city looked and what they wore. After all, we know what the clothes of Persia, Syria, Rome, and Greece looked like during Palmyra’s years of prosperity (3rd century, CDE), and their influence on Palmyra’s culture is well known.

According to the documents preserved at the Hermitage which outline Palmyrene customs tariffs, it is possible to learn about the kinds of trade that took place in Palmyra, and which goods were carried along the caravan routes between East and West.

What was Palmyra’s national cuisine known for? Their dishes were most likely very similar to Greek, Persian, and Syrian cuisines, in which they used many fruits, vegetables, nuts, and Eastern spices. Palmyra was a flowering oasis in which they grew the most marvelous plants.

Try to reconstruct the lives of Palmyra’s residents and of their brilliant empress based on all of the information you are able to find. We invite you to begin with familiarizing yourself with the tale of the city-legend.

Informational readings:

Astengo, Gregorio. “The rediscovery of Palmyra and its dissemination in Philosophical Transactions,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 2016.

Astengo, Gregorio. “The rediscovery of Palmyra and its dissemination in Philosophical Transactions,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 2016.

Competition organisers:

• State Hermitage Museum Volunteer Service (www.benevole-hermitage.ru)

• Instructional Centre for Computing Technology “Academy”(www.ucvt.org)

• State Hermitage Scientific and Methodological Department “School Centre”