Damage to Syria’s heritage – 26 September 2015


Damage to Syria’s Heritage
26 September 2015

This newsletter provides a summary of the most recent reports on the damage to Syria’s heritage.  It should be stressed that much of this data cannot be verified, but it is hoped that it will assist in the documentation of the damage occurring, and help raise awareness. Heritage for Peace have released a statement concerning their stance on data recording, availbale here.

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Main Contents

New from Heritage for Peace | Updates on Damage | Updates on Looting | Intangible Heritage | Syrian Activity | Policy Changes and Updates from Syria | International Activity | News Updates


New from Heritage for Peace

Heritage for Peace attends conference in Brussels  

HFP staff attended an international conference on conflict looting in Brussels on September 15 and 16. See the press release here. European MEPs discussed how best to change legislation to combat hte illict trafficking in anqtiquities.

Updates on Damage
(Demolition at Palmyra. Photo source: DGAM)

Da’esh intentionally destroying heritage sites

  • The DGAM released photos on September 11 2015 of Da’esh putting explosives into the Temple of Bel, which can be found here.
  • On 14 September 2015, a video emerged purporting to show Da’esh destroying the Monastery of St. Elian in Syria, which can be viewed here, or from the Clarion Project here.

Damage to Palmyra

  • In a touching article, Peter Oborne, writing for Middle East Eye, interviews a solidier who witnessed the destruction at Palmyra. Read the interview here.
  • According to an activist Twitter feed, the citadel at Palmyra was hit in air raids on 21 and 24 September.  The report is unverified, and the extent of damage unknown.

Updates on Looting

Preventing sale of looted artefacts proves a challenge

  • The BBC reports Dr Mark Altaweel’s warning that black-market antiquities are showing up  in London in “Stolen Artefacts from IS-controlled Zones Surface in London” on September 18 2015 here.

First proof of ‘looting-to-order’?

  • In the face of the controversy over the existence of the art-trade phenomenon, Dr Samuel Hardy has written a freely available article arguing that ‘looting-to-order’ is really happening (September 14 2015). See here for the article.

Intangible Heritage
  • None
Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

Memorial held for Qassem Yiyha

The DGAM held a memorial at the National Museum in Damascus for Qassem Yiyha, who was killed by a mortar round on September 12 2015. For more information, see here.

Syrians work to protect their heritage from destruction

  • Jeremy Bowen for The New Statesmen writes an excellent article covering Syrian efforts to save antiquities on September 22 2015 here.
  • ABC news reports on efforts by Syrian archaeologists to safeguard artefacts from ISIS in “The Fight to Save Syria’s Antiquities from ISIS” (September 16 2015) here.
  • “All over the world, civilians are quietly doing their bit. I met Samir, a 24-year-old archaeology student and opposition activist from Damascus, who regularly crossed the border from Turkey into Syria to chart missing artefacts. He told me that the commanders of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra (an al–Qaeda affiliate) were making money by selling off the most valuable antiquities. Samir was shot dead near Aleppo three months ago by a smuggling gang that works with the Islamists.”
    In Meet the men taking up arms to protect the Middle East’s ancient treasures, in the Spectator.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria
  • None
International Activity

Conferences highlight Syrian heritage

  • A conference was held on Sofia under Norwegian auspices on September 16 2015 to address looting in Syria, reported by DGAM here.
  • UK Blue Shield have set up a list of courses, talks, and conferences on cultural heritage in conflict and natural disasters. The list can be viewed here, and is updated regularly.

Archaeologists offer tribute to Khaled al-Assad

Australian archaeologists gathered on September 19 2015 to honour Khaled al-Assad, the archaeologist who lost his life to Da’esh. For full details and discussion, see here.

3D technology to be used for modeling Palmyra

A new initiative hopes to build a 3D model of Palmyra. Pictures of Palmyra are needed: e-mail to palmyra3dmodel@outlook.com and see their Facebook page for more.

Photo documentation of Palmyra requested for possible future restoration

[From their page] “Heritage of Syria needs your help …..
We are starting a very important photo project, documenting images of Palmyra and it’s artefacts taken by individuals, tourists or private collectors.
All the images collected will be kept in a special file to be used in any future restoration project.
The best of these images collected will be used in a photo exhibition in a prominent international museum and other places.
If you have visited Palmyra in the past and have taken some photos of the ruins or you have photographed items inside Palmyra museum or
If you know of anyone who have a private collection and like to help then please send me as many images as you wish on this E mail:
The images sent should be from your own private collection or from friends , not from books or internet ( please supply with each photo your name, nationality of the owner and date of the image taken, please indicate if you like your name to be on display if your photo included in the exhibition.
Thank you very much in advance…. Admin Ibn ( Helen )
Please send all your photos to syriaheritage@gmail.com”

 ASOR posts report

The ASOR has released its latest weekly report (#51/52) via the Cultural Heritage Initiatives, which can be found here.

 Near Eastern Archaeology journal publishes special issue

The journal Near Eastern Archaeology released a special volume entitled “The Cultural Heritage Crisis in the Middle East” with articles along this theme. The special issue is available free of charge, courtesy of ASOR, here.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

Looting and destruction of Syria’s heritage in the news

  • James Cuno for the Wall Street Journal (September 21 2015) calls for UN forces and more active protection of museums in “Saving Antiquities from Islamic State.” (Subscription required).
  • The BBC has posted a video remembering Palmyra on September 15 2015, which can be found here.
  • Ynet.com’s oped on September 15 2015 argues that the destruction of heritage by IS is something “we may never recover from.”
  • The Washington Free Beacon looks at the link between Da’esh and the art trade on September 14 2015 here, interviewing Matthew Bogdanos, who led work to protect antiquities in Iraq.
  • Corine Wegner speaks to WV Public Broadcasting on her work to protect cultural heritage sites in Syria and Iraq on 14 September.
  • On September 11 2015 Apollo Magazine considers 3D recording as a means of preserving heritage here.
  • In the Architect’s Journal, Rory Olcato argues that ‘war over the destruction of ancient ruins is madness’ on September 11 2015, responding to Dan Cruickshank’s earlier article arguing the opposite.

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