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Medieval Era Archaeological Sites

Crusader Era Sites in Greater Syria

Damascus / al-Sham / Dimashq

We were fortunate to visit the Citadel of Damascus on July 30, 2000 with Ahmir Tarajey during his excavation and restoration by the archaeologists and architects from the National Museum in Damascus. The new excavations did not uncover evidence for Roman or Byzantine fortifications beneath the existing walls. The stratigraphy inside the citadel is Ottoman/Mamluk/Ayyubid/Seljuk/Byzantine/Bedrock. No Umayyad material was discovered, to date. No archaeological evidence for an earlier Roman or Byzantine fortification. The small amount of Byzantine pottery and architectural features seem to reflect normal domestical occupation.

The earliest towers were circular and built by the Seljuks. The Ayyubid architects enlarged the citadel and utilized square towers that are still visible today.



1076 Seljuk capture Damascus

1078 Atsiz began the construction of the citadel

1078 Tutsh assassinates Atsiz. He build Dar Ridwan (residence of paradise) inside the citadel

1096 Siege by ruler of Aleppo and ruler of Saruj

1097 to 1129 Crusader attacks

1129 Qubbat al-Ward (the dome of roses) built as part of the royal residence inside the citadel. These are built by Taj al-Muluk Buri.

1132 to 1135 Shams al-Muluk Isma'il builds two new gates and the Dar al-Massarah (residence of happiness)

1150 Nur al-Din sieges citadel and leaves when Crusaders approach

1154 Mujir al-Din, the Seljuk ruler, surrenders to Nur al-Din

1174 to 1193 Saladin strengthens citadel

1179 Crusader captured at Marj 'Uyun taken to citadel

1196 to 1218 Al Adil governs Damascus and strengthens citadel

1199 al-Afdal, ruler of Aleppo besieges Damascus

1203 Al adil begins construction of his citadel

1209 Al-Adil's inscription on east face of tower 7

1214 Al-Adil's inscripton on Tower 8

1216 Outer defenses finished

1260 Destroyed by First Mongol invasion in March under Kitbugha

1260 Mamluk Sultan Qutuz defeats Kitbugha

1260 al-Malik al-Zahir Baybars becomes new Sultan

1260 Baybar's inscription on curtain wall between towers 7 and 8

1261 Baybar's inscription on south face of tower 11

1260 to 1277 Rebuilt by Mamluk Sultan Baybars

1282 Qaqun's inscription on tower 11

1400 Destroyed by Tamerlane

1985 Discontinued as a military prison and restoration begun


Domed Audience chamber in northeast quarter of citadel

Syrian Dept. of Antiquities excavation units with loci tags inside Domed Chamber

Long Hall running East-West that leads to Domed audience chamber

Domed Audience chamber

Occulus with Arabic inscription

Metal studs and covering to East Gate Door

Archiectural detail of a knot near East gate

Architectural detail of a rosette near East gate

Inscription mentioning Al-Adil

Ceramic grenade from inside the citadel

Mamluk inscription on curtain wall

Modern Statue of Saladin in front of Citadel

Another view of Saladin statue

Professor Michael Fuller, Amira Fuller and Citadel Archaeologists

Damascus Citadel Tower 9

Damascus Citadel Tower

Damascus Citadel Tower 8 built by Al-Adil

Detail of inscription on Damascus Citadel Tower 8

Oculo from exterior of Damascus Tower 8

Damascus Citadel Tower

David Hanlon fine art photography of a tower cut by a modern street


GPS information for Damascus Citadel

1. Point just outside of the Domed Audience Hall

North 033o 30.710' and East 036o 18.178'

Approximate elevation of 2385 ft.


2. Excavation area in Southeast quarter of citadel; Salibi's excavation

North 33o 30.695' and East 036o 18.159'

Approximate elevation of 2386 ft.


3. Stairs on northwest side of Tower 5, south wall

North 33o 30.655' and East 035o 18.173'

Approximate elevation of 2284 ft.


4. Top of Tower 5 in the south wall

North 33o 30.683' and East 036o 18.169'

Approximate elevation of 2341 ft.


5. Seljuk Tower behind Ayyubid walls along west wall

North 33o 30.692' and East 036o 18.060'

Approximate elevation of 2255 ft.


6. NE corner of Tower 1 (northeast corner of citadel) at ground level

North 33o 30.765' and East 036o 18.195'

Approximate elevation of 2188 ft.


6. SW corner of Tower 8 (southwest corner of citadel) at ground level

North 33o 30.669' and East 036o 18.032'

Approximate elevation of 2242 ft.


7. NW corner of Tower 8 at ground level

North 33o 30.669' and East 036o 18.032'

Approximate elevation of 2244 ft.


8. Gate entrance in west wall

North 33o 30.687' and East 036o 18.044'

Approximate elevation of 2253 ft.


9. SW corner of Tower 9 (northwest corner of citadel) at ground level

North 33o 30.686' and East 036o 18.047'

Approximate elevation of 2254 ft.


10. NW corner of Tower 9 at ground level

North 33o 30.729' and East 036o 18.039'

Approximate elevation of 2257 ft.


11. NE corner of Tower 9 at ground level

North 33o 30.729' and East 036o 18.039'

Approximate elevation of 2257 ft.