Conflict and Syrian Heritage

As Congress debates whether to authorize military action in Syria in the wake of reported chemical weapons attacks, NBC’s science blog discusses the current state of looting and destruction during Syria’s ongoing Civil war:

Over thousands of years, a large mound, or tell, forms with layers of each civilization piled atop one another, said Jesse Casana, an archaeologist at the University of Arkansas and the chairman of the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Damascus Committee.

. . .

Bombing has already destroyed some of the most beautiful landmarks in the country. Last year, a 10th-century mosque in the old city of Aleppo was destroyed by bombing, and large parts of the old city, which may be one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world, were damaged as well.

But looting is a far bigger problem than direct destruction, Casana said.

Shadowy networks of antiquities smugglers outside of Syria are paying desperate locals to strip archaeological sites of artifacts.

. . .

At the same time, the civil war has drained resources for protecting archaeological sites. Though civil servants do what they can, their efforts are no match for the chaos.

Ebla has been extensively looted and post-civil war satellite imagery has revealed that Apamea, the historic Roman city, has been riddled with holes since the start of the civil war.

For more images, see Trafficking Culture’s record of the damage using Google Earth.

  1. Syria’s civil war imperils nation’s rich archaeological treasures – NBC News.com, NBC News (2013), http://www.nbcnews.com/science/syrias-civil-war-imperils-nations-rich-archaeological-treasures-8C11073587.

1 thought on “Conflict and Syrian Heritage”

  1. Even in the midst of turmoil in the Middle East, Syria in particular, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has continued to implement its Mosaikon project, designed to conserve mosaics in situ, as well as those that have been removed from sites and are in museums. Although the GCI has not been able to work in Syria because of the conflict there, Syrian conservators have been able to travel to training sessions – the latest of which recently took place in Tunisia – and returned to Syria with skills necessary to help preserve part of that country’s rich cultural heritage. Those interested in the important role of conservation of ancient sites should click on this link to learn more: http://www.getty.edu/conservation/our_projects/education/mosaikon/index.html

    Ron Hartwig

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