Damage to Syria’s Heritage – 30 August 2019

Damage to Syria’s Heritage

30 August 2019

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, available 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

Stories

New from Heritage for Peace

H4P participating in congress on Museum, War and Postwar, Heritage Protection in Armed Conflict

Heritage for Peace and CSIC-IMF will participate in October in an International congress in Madrid organized by the Prado Museo about Museums, War and Postwar Heritage Protection in Armed Conflicts. Learn more about this conference on the Prado Museo website.

Isber Sabrine (Heritage for Peace, CSIC-IMF) and Juan José Ibañez (CSIC-IMF) will give a presentation on The protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts: what have we learned in recent years?

Updates on Damage

  • None

Updates on Looting

Aerial photographs showing disturbances of Tell Ajaja

Looting of sites in the North and East of Syria

Information and site photos at the following archaeological sites (Sheikh Hamad, Ajaja, and Malihat Al Zaroo in the north and east of Syria). You can see all the photographic evidence on the AC Syria website here.

Hama Antiquities Directorate saves hundreds of Syrian artifacts

The DGAM and The Syria Times write that the Hama Antiquities Directorate has unveiled a box containing some 300 artifacts, including statues, statues heads, jewelry, pottery vessels and glassware. They were hidden when the city of Apamea was no longer under government control: the head of the Hama Antiquities Department, Mr. Abdul Qader Farzat, directed two staff members of the Apamea Museum to place the antiquities in an iron box and bury them underground. They have no been recovered.

DGAM meets Syrian UN Representative

According to the DGAM websiteDirector General of Antiquities and Museums, Dr. Mahmoud Hammoud met with Dr. Bashar Jaafari, Syrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations. They pledged cooperation to protect Syria’s heritage, and Dr. Jaafari returned some smuggled antiquities.

Article on smuggling as victimization of Syria

A new article (in Arabic) about the looting and illegal excavation from Syria by Ristem Abdo in Alhwar journal gives a better understanding about how ISIS was involved in illicit traffic and illegal excavations  in Syria. You can read the article on the Facebook group for Journal of Dialogue.

Intangible Heritage

Tourism festival celebrates with cultural activities

The Syria Times reports that the city of Sydnaya, known for its cultural sites, recently held the Second Sydnaya Tourism Festival, which included social and cultural artistic activities presented by a number of Syrian and Lebanese artists.

Lecture on folklore singing poetry

The Syria Times also reported that the Arab Cultural Center in Abou Rumaneh recently held a lecture by musical researcher Waddah Rajab Basha on Mawwal, popular folklore singing poetry, in the Levant and Arab World.

Aleppian Soap-making revives

The Atlas Obscura wrote about the soap-making traditions in Aleppo, where soapmakers are renovating their workshops and reviving production.

Artists inspired by Syria
  • Arab News writes about artist Shaima Shamsi, who uses traditional Syrian textiles and embroidery techniques to create wearable art.
  • The Syria Times reports that artist Ali Hmaisheh is reviving the heritage craft of handloom weaving, a traditional Syrian craft stretching back thousands of years, with an exhibition at Hishoon Art gallery in Lattakia.
  • The “SIMAT Syrians for Heritage” Facebook page published an invitation for a lecture on traditional Syrian textiles by PhD candidate Estibaliz Sienra. 9 August 2019, Nachbarschaftsheim Schöneberg e. V., Holsteinische Straße 30 (2nd floor), 12161 Berlin. To learn more about this lecture go to the Facebook page here.
  • In May 2019, Theo de Feyter traveled in Syria by invitation of DGAM. He visited heritage sites, in particular, Krak de Chevalier, Qalaat Sheizar, and Palmyra). His drawings and paintings were published in several newspapers and magazines in The Netherlands and Belgium (all in Dutch), and are visible on his website (in English).
  • The March 2017 gallery, when he visited Damascus and Aleppo, is available here.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

Statuses of houses of worship and shrines

In 2019, the Culture Authority in northern and eastern Syria, in cooperation and coordination with the cultural committees and religious affairs offices, began documenting houses of worship, shrines and religious shrines. Read the report (in Arabic) on their website here.

Restoration updates

The Star Tribune reported that al-Saqatiyah Market in Aleppo is slowly recovering.

The Directorate of Antiquities in Al Raqqa has begun the restoration of the damaged parts in the southern area of the ancient wall of Al-Raqqa. The wall of Al-Raqqa suffered extensive damage and destruction as a result of the war. You can read more about this on AC Syria website.

Syrian Art Treasures (Facebook group) shared a video report by BBC Arabic about the destruction and reconstruction of the house of Al-Mutanabi in Aleppo. (Al mutanapi was an important poet from the Abbasid period).

Directorate of Antiquities receives a 3D documentation model of Palmyra

The Syria Times reports that the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums has received a three-dimensional model of Palmyra from the Institute of History of St. Petersburg, Russia.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

Building control system under discussion at Bosra

According to the DGAM website, the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums met with Bosra city council to discuss the draft of the building control system in the archaeological city with the residents of Bosra, a UNESCO World Heritage site that suffered from illegal building during the conflict.

International Activity

Russia will sign cooperation agreement to restore Palmyra and Damascus Museums

Citing the Director of the Russian Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky, TASS reports that Russia will sign a cooperation agreement in November with Syria following talks with Head of the DGAM Mahmoud Hammoud. The agreement will include participation in the restoration of the Palmyra museum, as well as reopening the Damascus museum.

Training on post-conflict recovery of cultural heritage

The Department of Building Archaeology and Built Heritage Conservation at the Technical University Berlin launched the “Training Course on Post-Conflict Recovery of Cultural Heritage” in Amman and Beirut. The first part of the course was conducted within the framework of the “Zero Hour” project in July 2019.

This training course oscillates between the practice and the theory behind the profession of conservation of architectural heritage monuments. During the courses, students learn the different methods of building survey, building archaeology, restoration and site management.

The students applied the theoretical and practical lessons on the case study of Al-Nuaijis Mausoleum in Amman (AD 2nd Century) and the Hadath Train Station (end of the 19th Century AD) near Beirut.

This program is directed towards capacity building and involves Syrians and refugees in particular, yet includes young professionals from Jordan and Lebanon. The trainings aim to offer the students a chance to participate in the process of post-conflict recovery of the cultural heritage. This program is conducted in cooperation with the German Jordanian University in Amman and the Lebanese University in Beirut. It also benefits from the support of the Orient Institute in Beirut and the MMAG in Amman. The German Federal Foreign Office generously funds the trainings. For more information on the training on the Universities website here.

The Jordan Times reports that Jordanian and Syrian youth have gathered in Petra to undertake a UNESCO training in Heritage Conservation under the guidance of conservator Franco Sciorilli.

Israeli architecture student maps reconstruction in Aleppo

Haaretz reports that architecture student Chen Shimoni is using Facebook and the UN to connect with Aleppo residents and map reconstruction in Aleppo.

International tourists visit Palmyra

The Syria Times reports that tourists from Europe and Australia continue to visit Palmyra.

London museum exhibition on cultural destruction during conflict

Apollo Magazine reported on a three-part exhibition titled “Culture Under Attack” currently at the Imperial War Museum in London (until 5 January 2020). The exhibition tells the story of the targeting of culture in modern times, including cultural heritage dstruction in Syria and Iraq, and honours the memory of the Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • The LA Review of Books examined the politics of reconstruction in Syria, including historic monuments in Aleppo such as the Umayyad Mosque.
  • The Conversation published an article by professor of anthropology Lubna Omar, a former Near Eastern archaeologist working in Syria, who discusses how the conflict has displaced Syrian archaeologists and resulted in looting and damage to museums and heritage sites 
  • The Syria Times published an article on Syrian archaeologist Khaled Al-Asa’ad, who held the position of head of antiquities at the ancient city of Palmyra.
  • Haaretz wrote about the history and current condition of Arwad, a Syrian island off the coast and site of traditional boatmaking crafts. Before the conflict, boatmakers used to sell their wooden vessels along the Mediterranean coast down to Lebanon and up to Turkey.
  • The Syria Times reported on the history of mosaics in Syria.
  • The McGil International Review published an op-ed on “The Future of Antiquity Theft and Recovery.”
  • Eva zu Beck published a YouTube video of her trip to Syria as a tourist.
  • The Syria Times reported on traditional Damascene coppersmith and brass crafts at Nahasin Souq (Coppersmith Market), with a photo report and details on how conflict has hurt the traditional brass craft market.
  • ArchDaily wrote about the Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo: from Historic Islamic Monument to War Battlefield

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