Damage to Syria’s heritage – 04 February 2019



Damage to Syria’s Heritage

04 February 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


New from Heritage for Peace

  • None

Updates on Damage

Photo of damage to archaeological site of Tell Zidan
Source: ATPA.

Photos of damage to archaeological site of Tell Zidan

The Association for Tourism and the Protection of Antiquities (ATPA) published photos allegedly showing damage to Tell Zidan archaeological site. You can see the pictures on Desteya-Shuwaran’s website.

Damage in Aleppo

Aleppo Archaeology shared Abboudy Bsata’s Facebook video of damage to the souq of Aleppo.

Positive report of historic buildings in Syria

Salah Maraashi Photography published photos on Facebook of the Baron Hotel in Aleppo and others, floor by floor, showing the damage is not as extensive as feared. You can see the updates on Facebook, along with numerous other updates of the extent of damage in Aleppo.

Writing about the reopening of the National Museum in Damascus, Apollo Magazine reports that many historic structures in Syria are not as badly damaged as widely believed.

Updates on Looting

The discovery of two looted objects from Palmyra

The Syrian army discovered two looted objects from Palmyra. View the video on the FB page of Syria Insider (Spanish).

Authorities seize smuggled antiquity at Syria-Iraq border

SANA reports that authorities seized a Roman-era archaeological picture prepared for smuggling via the Syrian-Iraqi border. Read more about this on the Syria Times website.

Illegal excavation and looting at Al-Banat Palace

ATPA have released photographs showing the existence of several excavations near the Palace Al-Banat in Raqqa, as well as tunnels under the palace that were used by ISIS. Read more on the ATPA website.

Report about missing Ajami wooden panels from Bayt Ghazala (Aleppo)

The Aleppo Built Heritage Documentation Project, a co-project of the Syrian Heritage Archive Project, reports that the rich decorated wooden interior paneling of the house Bayt Ghazala in Aleoppo has been almost entirely lost. Read more on the Das Wissenschaftsportal der erda Henkel Stifung website.

British Museum Task Force to combat illicit trafficking

Artnet reported that the British Museum is initiating a task force to combat international antiquities smuggling. Although it will initially focus on Egypt, it may set a precedent for work elsewhere.

Intangible Heritage

Revitalization of traditional soap making in Aleppo

The traditional olive soap craft is recovering in Aleppo as soap makers and traders resume business. To learn more about this visit Xinhua.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

The transport of contents of the mission house of Sabi Abiad

ATPA transported the contents of the house of the Dutch Mission of Sabi Abiad to a safe place. Some of the equipment and exploration equipment were stolen earlier when the area was under the control of the Islamic State, according to the mission guard. You can read more on this on Desteya-Shunwaran.

Cultural festivals showcase Syrian work

A cultural festival in Aleppo held by the Arab Writers Union included the participation of over sixty writers and poets. You can read more about this event on SANA.

“Moussem Cities: Damascus starts in Beirut,” a multi-disciplinary cultural event held at Station Beirut on Jan. 14-15, showcased musicians, actors and performance artists from Syria. You can learn more on Al Monitor.

Restoration of historic sites continues


  • Xinhua wrote about restoration in areas of Aleppo including the 14th century Souk al-Saqatiyya.
  • SANA reports that restoration of the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo has commenced and posted photos showing the progress. Read more and see the pictures on SANA.
  • Al-Monitor wrote about the reconstruction of the Raqqa Museum by the Roya (vision) Organization, a civil society and Raqqa’s Civil Council.
  • A booklet published by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) documents damage and reconstruction of Christian sites in Syria. The booklet is summarised in the Armenian Mirror Spectator website. They have also published a report detailing their planned restoration work for Syrians and their churches, available on their website.
  • The Asia Times wrote about the reopening of cultural tourist sites in Syria: in January, the gates of the “Cave of Blood” were opened to tourists in Mount Qasioun, overlooking Damascus. “It still needs plenty of work to return to its former self,” Fahham admitted. “There is still no electricity, and it’s difficult to reach because of checkpoints. We can only take photos inside the shrine, and not of the city.”

In addition, Syrian architect Hussam Wali writes that local charities were vital for preserving community during the conflict, and they should now lead reconstruction efforts. Read more on the Global Reconstruction Review website.

Urkesh Beyond Urkesh project

“Urkesh beyond Urkesh” is a project by the Urkesh excavation team in partnership with the local people of Urkesh. Although the excavation was interrupted by the conflict, the team has stayed in touch with the local people, supporting them as much as possible. The website details their work in awareness-raising, local artisan crafts, and the planned development of Urkesh as am ecological park. Learn more about the Urkesh project on their website, including an introductory video.

DGAM workshop for Aleppo reconstruction

The DGAM National Strategy Workshop for the Reconstruction of the Old City of Aleppo was held  23 and 24 January 2019. It discussed the draft strategy for the reconstruction of the old city of Aleppo, examples of projects and projects implemented, and the future vision of the city. More information is available on the DGAM website, along with a brief report and photos.

Aleppo Archaeology Facebook page also shared updates by Mhd Kheireddin Alrifai of the workshop, which covered (via Google Translate):
Attendees: Ministry of Culture / DGAM in cooperation with the Aga Khan Organization, representatives of the province of Aleppo, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a number of national and international experts.
In the context of this workshop, the work and projects carried out by the actors were presented, and visits were made to work at the Umayyad Mosque and the PenthouseThe DGAM presented some of the insights and ideas to be contained in the requested strategy. It stressed the need to include representatives of the association of engineers and civil society in Aleppo in the reconstruction; and the need for a Special Fund for financing the reconstruction and rehabilitation, including the granting of loans to the population to renovate their homes and to secure their return requirements.

Syria signs MoU with Palace Museum

The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works reported here on last year’s Taihe Forum on Protecting the World’s Ancient Civilizations at the Palace Museum in Beijing. The article reports that Mahmoud Hamoud general director of Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Palace Museum to cooperate in sharing information concerning research and security.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

New projects for cultural heritage of Syrians in Jordan, Iraq and Turkey

The EU Trust Fund adopted projects worth 122 million Euro to support access to education and basic health care for displaced Syrians in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, including projects to support livelihoods through cultural heritage development. you can learn more about this on Relief Web.

Russian Interpol bureau can help Syria recover stolen cultural heritage

The director at the Russian National Central Bureau at Interpol says that the bureau can help Syrian authorities locate cultural heritage items smuggled out of the country. You can read more on the Urdu Point.

German research team incorporates local Syrian community in preservation

The Jordan Times reports on an education program to teach archaeological science to Jordanian and Syrian schoolchildren. 

Aliph organization Call for Grants

Aliph, a Geneva-based global fund to protect cultural heritage in war zones, spearheaded by France and the United Arab Emirates, is starting work in countries such as Iraq, Mali, Afghanistan and Libya, and is hoping to work in Syria as soon as possible. They have now launched their Call for Projects: you can apply for grants and find out more on their website.

Syrian antiquities feature in musuems

A special exhibition in the Museum of Islamic Art invites visitors with objects, films and photos and interactive screens on a virtual journey of discovery through the cultural landscape of Syria and provides insights into the work of the Syrian Heritage Archive. The exhibition takes place from February 28th and May 26th at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. You can see the Facebook event here.

“Dura-Europos, Syria: Loss and Recovery from Antiquity to Modernity” is a digital project that draws on Yale’s collection of artifacts from the ancient city of Dura-Europos to allow people to explore an important archaeological and cultural site made inaccessible by conflict. The project is a partnership between the council, faculty in the Department of History of Art and Computer Science, and curators and conservators at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale’s West Campus. Learn more about this here.

A new Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem exhibit of rescued artifacts includes antiquities from Syria. Read more on this on the Jerusalem Post website.

A digital exhibit at the Institut du Monde Arabe highlights endangered heritage sites, including Aleppo and Palmyra, using graphics from ICONEM. Read more on this exhibit on Arab News.

“Syria Lost: Sandra Elms and Tony Kearney” at the Murray Bridge Regional Gallery features photographs of Syrian antiquities and archaeological sites. To learn more, visit the Adelaide Review website.

Latvian musician raises awareness of heritage damage in Syria

A Latvian violinist is raising awareness of the damage by armed conflict by playing in the heart of Syrian War zones as part of a cross-disciplinary cultural diplomacy program that combines both classical music and heritage conservation. View the video of the performance on YouTube.

Italian film documents damage inflicted to Palmyra

Italian director Marco Botoka has started making a documentary film about the historical landmarks and ancient civilizations in Syria, focusing on Palmyra and damage to the site. Read more on this at SANA.

Foreign delegations meet with DGAM

Two foreign delegations met with the DGAM to discuss Syrian heritage. The DGAM report that both a French Parliamentary delegation and an Italian delegation met with them. Talks were held on the status of the Syrian cultural heritage and the destruction of the Syrian archaeological sites as a result of the attacks by the terrorist gangs since the beginning of the war, and the positions of French archaeological research centers and missions who operated in Syria.

Call for papers on human geography, culture and cultural property protection

Cranfield Defence and Security, along with the UK MOD’s Defense Geographic Centre and the UK’s Specialist Group Military Intelligence will be holding this symposium: “Using Technology to Protect Lives and Develop Cultural Understanding.” You can read more on this on the Cranfield website.

ASOR Plenary Address on CPP

The 2018 Plenary Address for the ASOR Annual Meeting was given by Helen Sader, Professor of Archaeology, American University of Beirut. Titled “Between Looters, Collectors, and Warlords: Does Archaeology Stand a Chance?”, you can watch the video on YouTube.

Request for Dead City photos

The Syrian Heritage Archive posted on Facebook asking for photos from the Dead Cities in high resolution. To help please contact info@syrian-heritage.org.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • Hyperallergic writes that the international rush to restore cultural monuments in Iraq and Syria has papered over the failure to rebuild houses, infrastructure, and peoples lives, excluding local voices and needs.
  • The Aleppo Project published an article about historic Janbolad (Junblatt) Palace in Aleppo. to see the photos and learn more about this go to the Aleppo Project website.
  • In the newest edition (January, 2019) of the Museums Journal, Syrian Heritage Archive team member Issam Hajjar talks to Mariette Heinrich about preserving and remembering in times of war. You can learn more on the Syrian Heritage Archive Facebook page here.
  • The Times reported on the UK and WMF training displaced Syrians in traditional stonemasonry and monument restoration.
  • New Statesman wrote about how deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in Syria had caused international outrage and sparked talks, seminars, workshops and conferences on how to protect heritage at the time of war. What is often overlooked is the mass destruction of everyday buildings.
  • Reuters reported here on restoration of hundreds of antiquities from Palmyra now happening in the National Museum of Damascus.
  • Forbes wrote about funding for conflict, using antiquities trafficking and Syria as examples.
  • The Syrian Solidarity Campaign Facebook page posted photos for the #10YearChallenge on Facebook.
  • Artisans in Damascus are preserving the traditional handicraft of wooden mosaics. If you want to learn more about this, go to SANA.
  • The Art Newspaper reports on the new Aliph fund.

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2019 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.

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