Lecture to discuss evidence of chemical warfare in ancient times

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Dr. Simon James of the University of Leicester will give the annual Archaeological Institute of America lecture on Tuesday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 102 of the Hanson Hall of Science (726 35th St.) at Augustana. This event is free and open to the public.

The lecture, titled “Blood in the Dust, Death in the Dark: Combat and Chemical Warfare at Roman Dura-Europos Syria,” attempts to uncover the forgotten secrets of a ferocious battle between the Romans and Sasanians. It is a tale told entirely through archaeology, for the siege in which perished the city of Dura-Europos, “Pompeii of the East,” is unknown to history.

The Franco-American excavations of the 1920s and 1930s and new work from 1986-2011 have revealed the course of the Sasanian attacks and the efforts of the Roman defenders. Siege ramps and mines are still there to be seen, along with weaponry and the bones of the slain. Careful reappraisal of the evidence preserved in the old excavation archives suggests that an early form of chemical warfare was among the horrors unleashed at Dura—the earliest archaeological record of it.

Dr. James, who received his doctorate from the University College London, is a professor in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester. He is a member of the University of Leicester-based team conducting research on the impact of Diasporas on the making of Britain. He coordinates the school’s involvement in excavations near Caerwent as part of the British Army’s Operation Nightingale, which provides archaeological fieldwork opportunities to help injured soldiers in their recovery. In addition to his academic research and teaching, Dr. James writes books for non-specialist audiences and creates his own illustrations.

The lecture is sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America, Western Illinois Society. To learn more about the lecture, go to

For more information, please contact Keri Rursch, director of public relations, at or (309) 794-7721.