Damage to Syria’s heritage – 31 August 2014




Damage to Syria’s Heritage

31 August 2014

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.

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Main Contents

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


New from Heritage for Peace
Heritage for Peace welcomes new volunteers

Our new volunteers are taking over the newsletter, so Heritage for Peace would like to offer a HUGE thank you to all of them.

Updates on Damage
(Photo: Remains of Hammam Yalbogha. Photo copyright: Aleppo Archaeology)

Continuing Damage to Aleppo

  • Aleppo Archaeology has shared a photo of damage outside the citadel here. Photos of the area before are also available here and here.
  • Aleppo Archaeology has shared a photo of damage to Hammam Yalbogha here.
  • Aleppo Archaeology has shared a photo by Aleppo Lens of damage to Ottoman-era Khan Al-Salhyia/ Khan Al-Salhia here.
  • A photo of damage to al Khandak Street was shared by Eyes on Heritage here.
  • Aleppo Archaeology have shared a photo highlighting the buildings which have been destroyed outside the Aleppo citadel, here.
  • Syrian Revolution 2011 has shared a photo by AMC of severe damage to Al-Zahir Market (Al-Ajaj Market) Bab al Hadid, Old Aleppo after being targeted by bomb here. A before and after photo was shared by Eyes on Heritage here.
  • Eyes on Heritage shared a photo of damage to Souq Zahrawi here.
  • The Association to Protect Syrian Archaeology shared a video of Banqousa Mosque, Bab Al-Hadid district here.
Additional historic buildings damaged

  • Damage to the Qalb Luza / Qalb Lozeh / Qalbloze Church in the ‘Dead Cities’.  The DGAM issued an update on 19 August 2014 on damage to the church at Qalb Luza in the limestone massif in northern Syria, following a visit by officials from Idlib. The villages of this region are a Unesco World Heritage Site, and the church itself is famous amongst the repertoire of ecclesiastical monuments in Syria, celebrated for its state of preservation and the exquisite quality of its architectural decoration. Photos of the damage can be seen on the DGAM website here.
  • According to a notice on the DGAM website on 16 August 2014,  the Zain al Abdeen Palace in Inkhil, north of Daraa, has been damaged by mortar strikes. The eastern side of the building was also damaged by vandalism. Photographs of the site before the damage and a brief report in English can be viewed on the DGAM website here.
  • Palmyra – Heavy weapons positioned near the citadel and along the road (ca 2 km) traced in the archaeological area. A video of damage by the Association to Protect Syrian Archaeology is available here. They have also updated their website with photos.
  • The Association to Protect Syrian Archaeology shared a photo of Sufi Meqam al-Nebi-Daoud shrine being bulldozed here.
  • According to a recent article in Al-Monitor “The recent repeated rebel shelling of the Syriac Catholic Church, a large and iconic building in the heart of the old Christian community at Azizeh, is seen by many as a clear message by the rebels, revealing their true intent toward their community.” Read the full article, Aleppo’s Christians in Syrian Crossfire. here.
  • The above article also shared a photo of damage to Armenian St Kevork Church (alt.  Church of St George).

Updates on Looting
(Photo: Recovered mosaic. Photo copyright: DGAM)

DGAM Recovers Looted Artefacts

  • The DGAM has recovered ten stolen artefacts, mostly Ayubbid-era ceramics, in the Idlib region. Read the note with images, Ten Stolen Artifacts in Idlib, in English here and Arabic here.
  • The DGAM have also recovered a stolen bust from Palmyra from 2nd century AD from Tomb H, southeast necropolis.

    Read article, Concerned Authorities Confiscated stolen Bust in Palmyra in English here and Arabic here.

New Reports of Looting 

  • The DGAM reports looting of “ancient stones” at Zain al Abdeen Palace (update on damage above) here.
  • A report of illicit diggings at Deir Turmanin (480 AD) in the form of photos and a video was shared by Association to Protect Syrian Heritage here.
  • A report of looting by ISIS at Tell Hamidiyah, Hasseke, was shared by the Association to Protect Syrian Archaeology on their webpage, here.
Article on the looting situation in Syria 

James Harkin, writing for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, discusses Syria’s looting situation. “Most of the merchandise, he told me, came from Apamea—an archaeological site further down the Orontes river in the Syrian province of Hama. Prices began at $100, for which the punter could have a Roman-era coin, and went as high as $100,000 for statues and rare manuscripts.  […] Amer’s new business, I discovered, was a lean, multinational enterprise. Small teams armed with metal detectors or brushes began by spreading out and searching an area. Some were skilled in archaeological excavation before the revolt, others had learned on the job. Another group of specialists was charged with certifying the authenticity of anything found, after which the objects were passed to polishers who’d get them ready to be sold. Then they were passed to the smugglers who moved them into Turkey. Only then would they make it to Amer. Just a few days previously, he boasted, he’d sold 18 coins just minutes after crossing the Syrian border […]” Read the entire article, Stealing Syria’s Past, here.

Intangible Heritage
  • None
Reports and Updates from the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums
DGAM involvement at the 35th RIMINI Meeting in Italy

The 35th RIMNI Meeting in Italy included sessions on Syria with a number of notable speakers. The Director General of the DGAM had the opportunity to discuss the risks of their work in protecting Syrian cultural heritage as the crisis continues, and provided an overview of their activity. Other speakers included discoverer of Ebla, Professor Paolo Matthiae, who emphasized more action is needed to preserve Syria’s heritage. Read the summary here.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria
  • None
International Activity
(Photo copyright: Digital Globe, use by ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative)

ASOR Syrian Heritage Initiative launches

American Schools of Oriental Research, after a recent grant, has launched the Syrian Heritage Initiative. Monitoring and verifying damage in Syria has begun, giving extremely detailed reports within the context of the conflict. It is recommended reading for anyone following the damage of heritage in any detail. The weekly reports are available here.

UK adopts resolution prohibiting the import of Antiquities from Syria 

The British government has decided to prohibit Syrian antiquities from entering Britain, in an attempt to curb the illicit trade (see the article from the Pulitzer Centre, below). The ban came into force on August 8.

More details and links to the official document can be found on the SAFE website, here.

Culture minister briefs French delegation on efforts to preserve Syrian heritage 

Minister of Culture Lubana Mshaweh met with a delegation from the French Society for Oriental Christians on efforts to preserve heritage sites. He also voiced society’s desire to rebuild St. George’s Church in Maaloula. Posted from Syrian Arab News Agency here.

International Conference in Rimni, Italy includes spotlight on Syria

The annual meeting in Rimini, in Italy (see above, or DGAM report here) held sessions on Syrian heritage. Participants include Giorgio Buccellati, Professor Emeritus of Ancient Near East and History at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), USA; Ziad Hilal, Coordinator of the Educational Service of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Homs, Syria; Paolo Matthiae, Archaeologist and Professor Emeritus of Archaeology and Art History of the Ancient Near East at the Sapienza University, Rome. The introductory address is posted online: ‘Archaeology in Syria nowadays: a project for peace’ led by Roberto Fontolan. The duration of the video is 1 hour 25 minutes.

News Updates

(Not covered in other sections)

Reports and more information on the damage to Syria’s heritage

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