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The ancient site of Palmyra, parts of which have now been destroyed by Daesh vandals Reuters/Mohamed Aza

Lancaster University has asked us if we’d reblog this article by Professor Natasa Lackovic. Here are the first three paragraphs of Professor Lackovic’s article; the rest can be found here.

“Details are still emerging of the scale of destruction  on the heritage site of Palmyra in Syria. Now work is beginning by archaeologists at Oxford and Harvard, determined to create a digital record of the ancient sites that remain. They are planning to get thousands of 3D cameras into Syria and Iraq that can be used by people on the ground to take 3D images of the countries’ cultural heritage.

“This work is part of a growing trend to create heritage archives that can be used to support young people learning about world cultures. Online photo banks of heritage artefacts are growing. In the UK, there are quite a few heritage–based visual resources that can be used in the classroom, such as  The British Museum’s project “teaching history with 100 objects” and the Wessex Archaeology collection.

“Recently, special attention has been placed on 3D heritage visualisations, especially in the emerging area of 3D printing for education. The start-up project Museofabber  aims to 3D-print museum collections and use them in the classrooms, inviting teachers to send in requests for objects to be printed. Other 3D printing initiatives include 3D miniatures made by the Virtual Curation Laboratory and 3D printed bones at the University of Western Florida.”

 
 
The 1st century Temple of Bel at Palmyra before its destruction by Daesh
Image credit Bernard Gagnon. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
The United Nations says a satellite image has confirmed that the Temple of Bel, the main temple in the ancient city of Palmyra in northern Syria, has been destroyed by Daesh.
 
More here.
   
 
 
The Temple of Baal-Shamin in Palmyra, Syria
Image credit Bernard Gagnon. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
The ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the Unesco-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, has been destroyed. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the country’s antiquities chief, has said that the, “Daesh placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin … and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple.”
 
More here.
 
 
The Temple of Baal-Shamin (circa 1900) by Theodor Wiegand (Berlin 1932)
 
 
 
Archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad, 82, was interrogated by so-called ‘Islamic State’ thugs for a month before he was beheaded yesterday in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra
He’s shown here, in 2002, in front of a rare first century sarcophagus from Palmyra depicting two priests
Image credit Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
 
Kareem Shaheen in Beirut and Ian Black in London Report for The Guardian
 
The brutal murder of Khaled al-Asaad, 82, is the latest atrocity perpetrated by the jihadi group, which has captured a third of Syria and neighbouring Iraq and declared a “caliphate” on the territory it controls. It has also highlighted Isis’s habit of looting and selling antiquities to fund its activities – as well as destroying them.
 
More here. See also our earlier feature on Palmyra here.
 

The Temple of Bel at the Palmyra World Heritage Site in Syria
Image credit Bassem Jarkas. Source Wikimedia Commons
 
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today expressed deep concern over fighting near the Syrian archaeological site of Palmyra that is endangering the nearby population and posing an imminent threat to the iconic ruins, calling out to all parties “to make every effort to prevent its destruction.”
 
“The site has already suffered four years of conflict, it suffered from looting and represents an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people and for the world,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said.
 
“I appeal to all parties to protect Palmyra and make every effort to prevent its destruction.”
 
According to several sources, armed extremist groups raided the city of Tadmur, home to the archaeological site of Palmyra. Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, it is considered one of the most important cultural sites in the Middle East.
 
An oasis in the Syrian desert, northeast of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.
 
More here. See also the article in yesterday’s Guardian here.
 
Should the International Community stand by and let the destruction of this World Heritage Site take place. The Heritage Trust appeals to people everywhere to voice their concerns and to stop this tragedy from happening.
    
  
Before and after images of the Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo. Photographs: Alamy, Corbis
 
Martin Chulov , writing in The Guardian on Sunday, 26 January 2014, presents a depressing picture (in before and after photographs) of the destruction of Syria’s architectural heritage –
 
The war in Syria has claimed more than 130,000 lives and, as these images reveal, it is also laying waste to its historic buildings and Unesco-listed sites.
 
They were sleepy tree-lined boulevards where people lived and worked, time-worn markets where they came to trade and exquisitely detailed mosques where, throughout the ages, they prayed. All now stand in ruins, ravaged by a war that is not only killing generations of Syrians but also eradicating all around them, including sites that have stood since the dawn of civilisation. Across Syria, where a seemingly unstoppable war is about to enter a third year, a heritage built over 5,000 years or more is being steadily buried under rubble.
 
Full article here.
  
 
Heritage for Peace is now online. This NGO is based in Girona, Spain and is an –
 
…international group of heritage workers who believe that cultural heritage is a common ground for dialogue and a tool to build peace. Founded in February 2013, Heritage for Peace’s mission is to support heritage workers as they work to protect their collections, monuments and archaeological sites during armed conflict.
 
Currently our efforts are focused on Syria, where the ongoing conflict has damaged numerous sites including World Heritage sites, threatened museums and libraries, and led to an epidemic of looting and illegal trade in artifacts. Yet, in our experience we also learned that many contending parties consider Syria’s heritage crucial for the country’s present and future. Heritage for Peace is impartial in the conflict; our programs are focused on supporting heritage professionals to deal with the unique challenges of protecting monuments, sites, museums and libraries during armed conflict, and on educating all military forces on their obligation to protect Syria’s precious cultural heritage under international law.
 
For more on Heritage for Peace visit their website here.
  
 
 
The World Monuments Fund reports that –
 
As families around the world gather to celebrate holidays, Syrians are experiencing not only an ongoing humanitarian tragedy, but the devastation of their irreplaceable cultural heritage. To demonstrate our support, WMF listed the cultural heritage of Syria on the 2014 World Monuments Watch and invited friends to sign our petition on Change.org.
 
Wars and revolutions. Earthquakes. Floods. Whether natural or man-made, disasters cannot be predicted or foreseen. But once they occur, WMF is prepared to respond quickly and decisively to assess damage, undertake emergency conservation, and develop plans for recovery. We will continue to support our colleagues in Syria and will offer our assistance on the ground when the conflict ends.
 
Petition and details here.

 
 
The ancient city of Aleppo in Syria. Photo credit: UNESCO/Ron Van Oers
 
While the world agonises at the sight of human suffering in Syria, UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, appealed yesterday to, “…all parties involved in the Syrian conflict to safeguard the country’s cultural heritage and take all possible measures to avoid further destruction.” The UN News Centre reports that –
 
UNESCO is determined to use its expertise and its networks to help the Syrian people preserve their exceptional cultural heritage,” said the agency’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, after a meeting of experts held at the UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris seeking action to prevent further losses and repair damage where and when it will be possible.
 
“Protecting heritage is inseparable from protecting populations, because heritage enshrines a people’s values and identities,” Ms. Bokova said. “We have heard today of the serious damage that has already been inflicted on Syria’s heritage. The destruction of sites such as the historic souk in Aleppo has made headlines around the world, clearly reflecting the concern and distress of people everywhere.”
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
 
Photographed before conflicts began, the mile-long remnants of the colonnade of the Roman city of Apamea in Syria. The site was reportedly shelled and occupied recently by Syrian government tanks.
Image credit Christian Sahner
 
David Arnold, writing for the Voice of America yesterday, reports that –
 
The civil war in Syria has resulted in the deaths of more than 90,000 people and forced an estimaed three million to flee their homes. Now, experts fear the fighting also is destroying cultural artefacts and archaeological sites on an unprecedented scale. With limited access because of the fighting, archaeologists and experts on Syrian culture try to monitor thousands of important sites representing five to six thousand years of civilization.
 
Just this past week, Irina Bokova, the UNESCO director-general, noted that the destruction had been especially devastating in and around the northern city of Aleppo. “After the damages on the Citadel and the burning of the souks, and previous damage to the Great Mosque last October, it has been reported that considerable destruction has taken place at the Mosque on Thursday 28 February,” Bokova said, adding that it had turned “this place of peace and study, one of the most beautiful mosques of all Islamic culture, into a devastated battlefield, notably its museum and library of manuscripts.”
 
Full story here. See also our earlier feature here.
 
 
 
 
The badly damaged outer gate of Aleppo’s Citadel after government opponents try to blast their way into the ancient fortress. Aleppo, Syria. Image credit Nelofer Pazira
 
Writing in Time World on 12 September, Aryn Baker reports that –
 
Abu Khaled knows the worth of things. As a small-time smuggler living along the porous border between Syria and Lebanon, he has dabbled in antiquities as much as the cigarettes, stolen goods and weapons that make up the bulk of his trade. So when a smuggler from Syria brought him a small, alabaster statue of a seated man a few weeks ago, he figured that the carving, most likely looted from one of Syria’s two dozen heritage museums or one of its hundreds of archaeological sites, could be worth a couple thousand dollars in Lebanon’s antiquities black market. So he called his contacts in Beirut. But instead of asking for cash, he asked for something even more valuable: weapons.
 

“War is good for us,” he says of the community of smugglers that regularly transit the nearby border. “We buy antiquities cheap, and then sell weapons expensively.” That business, he says, is about to get better. Fighters allied with the Free Syrian Army units battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad have told him that they are developing an association of diggers dedicated to finding antiquities in order to fund the revolution. “The rebels need weapons, and antiquities are an easy way to buy them,” says Abu Khaled, who goes by his nickname in order to protect his identity.

More here.

 

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