Mystery of Lost Roman City Solved: Ancients Greened the Desert?
How did the monumental city of Palmyra survive the Syrian Desert? New finds suggest the ancients engineered a sort of green revolution.
Once a required stop on caravan routes that brought Asian goods west to eager Romans, Palmyra (map) has "always been conceived as an oasis in the middle of the desert, but it's never been quite clear what it was living from," said Michal Gawlikowski, the retired head of the University of Warsaw's Polish Mission at Palmyra.
And what an oasis: Among the ruins are grand avenues lined with columns, triumphal arches, and the remains of an ancient market where traders once haggled over silk, silver, spices, and dyes from India and China. (Download Palmyra wallpaper.)
To find out what made it all possible, archaeologist Jørgen Christian Meyer began a four-year survey of the 40 square miles