Polish-Lebanese Archaeological Mission to Chhîm
Type of site:
30 km southeast of Beirut, 10 km east of Jiyeh/Porphyreon
Iqlim El-Kharroub Province
– Late Bronze Age (about 1500–1150 BC)
– Iron Age (about 1150–530 BC)
– Persian period (475–330 BC)
– Hellenistic period (330–63 BC)
– early Roman period (63 BC–AD 135)
– late Roman period (AD 135–324)
– Byzantine period (AD 324–640)
– early Islamic period (AD 640–1174)
Most interesting finds:
– Hellenistic sanctuary
– Roman sanctuary from the 1st–3rd century AD
– domestic architecture from the late Roman and Byzantine periods
– four oil presses from the late Roman and Byzantine periods
– Christian basilica with floor mosaics and wall paintings (AD 498)
– mosaic depicting a lioness, as well as mosaics with geometrical decoration and depictions of other animals and plants
– mosaic with an inscription (AD 498)
History of research:
Investigated by the PCMA mission in:
Type of research:
excavations, survey of the surrounding area
Tomasz Waliszewski, Institute of Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology, University of Warsaw
– Direction Générale des Antiquités
as well as
– Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw
– Institut français du Proche-Orient
– Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth
First archaeological and conservation works at the site were conducted at the end of the 1960s and at the beginning of the 1970s. Reconstruction work – H. Kalayan (the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s)
Description of the site and research:
The site, measuring approximately 1 ha in area, lies on a hill slope at the height of about 450 m a.s.l. A village, ruins of which are clearly visible, was established there at the turn of the eras, although other remains prove that Chhîm had been visited already in the Middle Bronze Age. The settlement is exceptionally well preserved. The walls of houses, oil presses, the Roman temple and the Christian basilica rise along the narrow streets, while traces of a few necropoles are still visible in the surrounding area.
A typical house in Chhîm had one square or sometimes rectangular room, probably inhabited by one family. Stone benches ran along the walls, there was a bread oven in the corner, and often a pillar supporting the wooden construction of the flat roof made of tamped earth stood in the center. This description fits the type of a Lebanese house which was still known in the region a few dozen years ago.
The buildings of the oil presses stand out among the ruins. The excellently preserved presses inside lack only wooden elements and ropes to start functioning again after several centuries. Four such buildings have been studied to date, and the fifth is visible on the surface. Some of them show traces of being in continuous use for seven centuries. The significant number of press elements scattered around the village suggests that its inhabitants gained their wealth mostly from the production of large amounts of oil, although agriculture and animal husbandry were also important.
In the era of prosperity in the 2nd century AD, the villagers decided to erect a temple on the southern end of the settlement. A small edifice built in the Corinthian style probably matched their rising ambitions. We do not know what deity was worshiped there, but its long-standing cult ended with the arrival of Christianity. The temple was abandoned, and a church was built opposite it at the end of the 5th century.
In this 1500-year-old basilica, the most spectacular discoveries were made. Its floor was covered with magnificent colorful mosaics. Their geometrical, floral and figurative motifs — for example, the lioness in the central part of the presbytery — further attest to the wealth and taste of the community which had ordered them. A Greek inscription found in front of one of the side entrances is a silent witness to the building’s history. Presbyter Thomas, the guardian of the church, mentioned in it bishop Andrew and his auxiliary bishop (chorepiskopos) Iannos. The text, which is full of orthographic mistakes, gives also the date when the mosaics were laid. All the evidence points to AD 498.
The village stopped functioning during the 7th century.
Season by Season – “PCMA Newsletter “:
Selected news and popular publications:
Booklet: “From Byzantine Mosaics to Medieval Paintings. Fifteen years of Polish-Lebanese cooperation in archaeology and conservation 1996–2011”
Waliszewski, T. (1999). Prezbiter Tomasz buduje kościół, Archeologia Żywa, lato 1999, 11–14.
Waliszewski, T. (1999). Układanka sprzed półtora tysiąca lat, National Geographic Magazine, edycja polska, październik 1999, 158.
2016-09 Exhibition and conference: People, Places, Monuments. 20 years of Polish–Lebanese Cooperation in Archaeology and Conservation (1996–2016)
2014-09 Exhibition and conference: Forgotten Heritage. Polish Conservators in Lebanon
2015-05 Conference on Polish archaeological and conservation work in Lebanon
2013-09 Gold Cross of Merit for Dr. Mounir Atallah
2009-12 Workshop: German and Polish Archaeological Projects in Lebanon (Berlin)
See also mission’s account at Academia.edu: The Joint Expedition to Chhim and Jiyeh, Lebanon. Polish-Lebanese Mission
Burdajewicz, J. (forthcoming). Same site, different times: comparison of technique of execution of wall paintings from a Roman temple and an Early Christian basilica in Chhim, Lebanon. In P. Tomassini (ed.), La peinture murale antique : méthodes et apports d’une approche technique. Actes de la journée d’étude organisée par le Centre d’Etude des Mondes Antiques et le Centro Studi Pittura Romana Ostiense, Louvain-la-Neuve, 21 avril 2017.
Krueger, M., Wicenciak, U., Kowarska, Z., Niedzielski, P., Kozak, L., Krueger, M., Jakubowski, K., Proch, J., Mleczek, M., Waśkiewicz, A. (2018). First results of organic residue analysis on ceramic vessels (Jiyeh and Chhîm, Lebanon) by High Perfomance Liquid Chromatography with Tandem Mass Spectrometry. Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, 18(1), 209–220.
Waliszewski, T., and Wicenciak, U. (2015). Chhim, Lebanon: a Roman and Late Antique village in the Sidon hinterland. Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology & Heritage Studies, 3(4), 372–395.
Kowarska, Z. and Lenarczyk, S. (2012). Pithos-type vessels from Chhîm: preliminary assesment of the finds from 1996-2009. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 21, 643–651.
Waliszewski, T. (2012). Chhim et Jiyeh – de la prosperité au declin, Dossiers d’Archéologie, 350, 64–69.
Waliszewski, T. (2012). Chhim et les mosaïques du prêtre Thomas. In M.-A. Haldimann, A.-M. Afeiche, M. Martiniani-Reber (Eds), Fascination du Liban. Soixante siècles d’histoire de religions, d’art et d’archéologie, Catalogue de l’exposition, Genève, Musée Rath, 30 novembre 2012–31 mars 2013 (pp. 127–132). Genève: Ginevra.
Wicenciak, U. (2010). Local Roman coarse wares from Chhim (southern Lebanon). In S. Menchelli, S. Santoro, M. Pasquinucci, & G. Guiducci (Eds.), LRCW 3: Late Roman coarse wares, cooking wares and amphorae in the Mediterranean. Archaeology and archaeometry. Comparison between Western and Eastern Mediterranean II (pp. 885–890). Oxford: Archaeopress.
Waliszewski, T. and Périssé, I. (2006). Chhîm: Explorations, 2005. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 17, 411–420.
Waliszewski, T. and Périssé, I. (2005). Chhîm: Explorations, 2004. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 16, 411–418.
Waliszewski, T. (2004). Chhîm: Explorations, 2003. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 15, 303–310.
Waliszewski, T. (2003). Chhîm: Explorations, 2002. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 14, 265–275.
Waliszewski, T., and Ortali-Tarazi, R. (2002). Site archeologique de Chhim-Mariyat, In T. Waliszewski, R. Ortali-Tarazi, Village romain et byzantin à Chhim-Marjiyat. Rapport préliminaire (1996–2002). Bulletin d’Archéologie et d’Architecture Libanaise, 6, 12–14.
Waliszewski, T. (2002). Chhîm: Explorations, 2001. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 13, 243–253.
Waliszewski, T. (2001). Chhîm: Explorations, 2000. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 12, 297–306.
Waliszewski, T. (1999). Chhim: Explorations 1998. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 10, 177–185.
Tarazi. R., Waliszewski, T., Nordiguian, L. (1998). Chhim, un village byzantin au sud de Beyrouth. In Liban. L’autre rive. Catalogue de l’Exposition présentée a l’Institut du Monde Arabe du 27 octobre 1998 au 2 mai 1999 (pp. 215–216). Paris.
Waliszewski, T., Kowalski, S. P. and Witecka, A. (1998). Chhim-Jiyeh excavations 1997. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 9, 139–152.
Waliszewski, T., Nordiguian, L., Tarazi, R. (1998). Mission Archéologique a Shhîm, Newsletter of the National Museum in Beirut, spring 1998, 22–26.
Chmielewski, K., Martusewicz, J. (1997). Problematyka konserwatorska mozaiki posadzkowej bazyliki bizantynskiej w Chhim w Libanie, Ochrona Zabytków, 3, 217–223.
Nordiguian, L. (1997). Le Temple de Marjiyyat (Chhîm) à la faveur de nouvelles fouilles, Topoï, 7/2, 945-964.
Waliszewski, T. and Kowalski, S. P. (1997). Chhim-Jiyeh excavations 1996. Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean, 8, 147–156.