Damage to Syria’s heritage – 20 May 2019


Damage to Syria’s Heritage

20 May 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

Heritage for Peace is participating in new international conferences

Heritage for Peace has participated in 2 international conferences in Stockholm

The first conference is Heritage and Migration – New Methods and Historical Contexts which will took place on May 15th and 16th at the Stockholm City Museum. To learn more about this conference go to the Delegia website.

The second conference was Endangered Cultural Heritage, which took place on May 18 at Medelhavsmuseet in Stockholm.

Heritage for Peace new projects

The first project is the Abuab (Doors) project. It is a project that aims to work on the use of cultural heritage as an instrument of social integration or Arabic-speaking refugees/immigrants. It has been proposed by the institution Mila i Fontanais of CSIC (leader of the project), Girona University and Heritage for Peace. You can read more about this project from an article by Ara published on their website here.

The second project is called Protection of Heritage at Places in Conflict through Digital Tools: the Role of Civil Society. The project is a partnership led by the Spanish National research council (CSIC-IMF) with Heritage for Peace as a partner and generous funding from the BBVA Foundation in Spain. This project aims to use digital tools for the remote support of the NGO’s and local organizations working in the protection of historical and archaeological heritage and to create databases with heritage properties in danger (details online).

Updates on Damage

New photos showing the Ain Diwar bridge at risk of collapse
Source: Antiquities and Tourism Protection Authority

New photos of the Ain Diwar Bridge 

The Antiquities and Tourism Protection Authority published new photos about the actual situation of the Ain Diwar bridge: these photos show that the bridge is facing possible collapse. You can see these photos on the ATPA website here.

New photos of damage at Apamea

New photos of the site of Apamea were published on the Facebook page of Syria Archaeology showing the state of the site currently. To see these photos you can go to Syria Archaeology’s Facebook page here.

Adiliyya Mosque, Aleppo

The Syrian Heritage Archives website published excerpts from the Rapid Damage Assessment File of the Adiliyya Mosque in Aleppo, as an example of the approach to rubble preparation. Created by the Aleppo Built Heritage Documentation Project at the Museum for Islamic Art in Berlin. Reuters News also covered existing damage to the mosque.

Damage to Serjilla

There are unverified reports of damage at Serjilla, part of the World Heritage site of Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, according to Idlib News.

Updates on Looting

Facebook shuts down groups used for looting

A BBC investigation has found that looters have been using private Facebook groups to sell stolen antiquities from Syria, including Roman mosaics. Working together with Syrian archaeologists, the BBC monitored the trafficking of stolen antiquities through the social network. You can learn more about this investigation on the BBCBusiness Insider and at the New York Times

EU adopts new rules on cultural heritage imports to reduce smuggling

The European Council recently adopted new rules to clamp down on the illicit trafficking in cultural goods, including a requirement for import licenses on artifacts more than 250 years old. The Art Newspaper has more on this story here.

Damascus Museum receives two pieces smuggled from Syria in the 1960’s

Syrian expatriate Dr. Radwan Khawatmi has presented the Damascus National Museum with two archaeological pieces that were previously smuggled to Italy in the 1960’s. You can read more on this at the Syrian Times website.

Intangible Heritage

Syrian festivals celebrating Syrian culture and heritage

The annual Childhood Festival held in Homs included dancing and folkloric expressions of heritage. To read more on the festival you can go to the Syrian Arab News Agency website here.

The 5th annual Sultan Al-Atrash Festival in Sweida features artistic and documentary exhibitions, poetry evenings and a Historical Document Expo of ancient documents. You can learn more about this on the Syrian Arab News Agency website.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

Publications on the state of Syrian sites

The Authority of Tourism and Protection of Antiquities published its annual report for 2018 and if you would like to download it you can go to their website here.

Campaigns to preserve Syrian heritage

Syrian historians are working with local civilians to protect heritage sites in Idlib by increasing security and minimizing environmental damage. TRT World has the full story on this here.

An initiative by the Authority of Tourism and Protection of Antiquities aims to document the destroyed religious places in northern Syria. The campaign was able to document many religious sites in Al Raqqa. You can go to the Facebook page for Self-Management of Northern and Eastern Syria to see photos of the sites documented by the campaign.

The “Our Heritage” campaign held by the “Peace Makers” civil society association in Lattakia highlighted Syrian heritage and the importance of heritage for national identity. You can read more about this campaign on the Syrian Times website here.

Syria features in exhibitions at Al-Baath University and in Hama

Al-Baath University recently organized an exhibition of photographs that represents the most important tourist and historical landmarks and heritage in Syria. The Syria Times has the full story here.

As part of the Hama Spring Festival, the Documentary Exhibition of Painting and Mosaics included paintings showing Hama’s environment, old neighborhoods and heritage professions in the city. If you want to read more about the exhibit go to the Syria Times article on the exhibition here.

Syrian authorities attract tourists to historic sites

Tourism Minister Mohammad Rami Radwan Martini reports that authorities have restored power supply, water supply and sewage to Palmyra, and are compiling a list of ancient places for interaction with international organizations. News.am has the full story.

MoU signed to create National Document organisation

A Memorandum of understanding was signed at the National Museum in Damascus between the DGAM and the Wadee Watina Foundation to coordinate and coordinate the preservation of the Syrian cultural and cultural identity and the preservation of the national heritage through the implementation of projects aimed at documenting oral history and cultural memory in all historical stage, and the establishment of joint programs of action aimed ultimately at the maintenance of Syrian identity and deepening national belonging.

Dr. Buthaina, Chair of the Wadee Watina Foundation, confirmed that the war that most Arab countries are facing is a war on identity, and that Nimrud, Iraq, Palmyra, Bosra and Aleppo in Syria are the best proof of this. Hence, the idea of ​​a national document organization was born to document all the events that pass through Syria.

Syria in seminars

Syrian scholar Ayman Esmander will present at the 2nd International Meeting on Language in the Ancient World: Globalization and Cultural Interactions. MENAFN has more on this meeting.

The National Center for Visual Arts, in cooperation with the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, held a dialogue seminar entitled “Syrian heritage / reality and challenges”. (More on the DGAM website).

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

International tourists visit Syrian heritage sites

A group of Spanish tourists recently visited the historic sites of Ugarit in Ra’as Shamra and the Salah Eddin Citadel in the Lattakia countryside. For more information go to the Syria Times

Syrian authorities are also working to attract Russian tourists to religious historic sites in Maaloula, Saidnaya, Aleppo and Damascus through a planned exhibition in Moscow. If you want to learn more about this go to the ETN website here.

A group of international tourists visited Palmyra and talked about their experiences, which you can read more about in the Syrian Times.

Grant call: Emergency Preparedness for Cultural Heritage Under Threat

The Prince Claus Fund and the Gerda Henkel Foundation announce an Open Call for proposals specifically aimed at Emergency Preparedness for Cultural Heritage under Threat. Welcoming applications from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. We invite cultural practitioners, institutions and local NGOs to present their ideas for measures to protect tangible cultural heritage against acute danger and irreversible loss. Full details of how to apply on their website.

New publications address protecting cultural heritage during conflict

The Antiquities Coalition published a policy brief: “How to protect outstanding cultural heritage from the ravages of war? Utilize the System of Enhanced Protection under the 1999 Second Protocol to the 1954 Hague Convention.” The Antiquities Coalition has more on this here.

For World Heritage Day, the Antiquities Coalition and the Middle East Institute hosted a panel of experts to discuss global efforts in combating cultural crimes, entitled “Combating Cultural Crimes: Where are we Now?” You can watch the panel on YouTube.

New Research: the MANTIS Project (Fiona Greenland, James Marrone, Oya Topçuoğlu & Tasha Vorderstrasse) published a paper in the International Journal of Cultural Property that offers the first attempt to quantify the market value of artifacts at the level of a site – A Site-Level Market Model of the Antiquities Trade. 
Abstract: Archaeological looting correlates with a number of problems, including the destruction of stratigraphic data and the damage and loss of artifacts. Looting is also understood to generate revenue, but systematic analysis of this issue is challenged by its opacity: how can we study the economic effects of archaeological looting when the practice is rarely directly observable? To address this problem, we estimate the market value of archaeological sites where artifacts have been previously excavated and documented, using a machine-learning approach. The first step uses 41,587 sales of objects from 33 firms to train an algorithm to predict the distribution channel, lot packaging, and estimated sale price of objects based on their observable characteristics. The second step uses the trained algorithm to estimate the value of sites in which a large number of artifacts have been legally excavated and documented. We make an out-of-sample prediction on two Syrian sites, Tell Bi’a and Dura Europos.
The article is summarised in The Conversation newspaper.

Sanctions may hamper rebuilding efforts in Aleppo

The recently-passed Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act from the U.S. House, and sanctions from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control may be hampering publicly-funded efforts to rebuild Aleppo. The Washington Post has more on this on their website here.

The first paper from the 5th Lemkin reunion, March 2019, hosted at Central European University’s Shattuck Centre on Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery, is called “Marotta City: Is this the reconstruction model that Syrians need today?” the Executive Summary and illustrative video is in Arabic and English, and the paper is in English which you can read on the Aleppo Project website.

Museum exhibitions feature Syrian heritage

UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Exhibit ‘The Millennia for today. Archeology against War: yesterday’s Urkesh in today’s Syria‘, Opens May 18th. The exhibit will show the work carried out by an international team of archaeologists under the direction of Giorgio Buccellati and Marilyn Kelly-Buccellati at Tell Mozan (ancient Urkesh), in Syria, during the last eight years of war. Thanks to a collaboration that has been going on for over thirty years, the activities on the site not only continue, but they even developed in the most recent years assuming unexpected forms. The exhibit, thus, will present the most recent advancements related to the conservation and presentation system of the Temple Terrace and the Palace of Tupkish, but it will also show the new educational activities that revolve around the archaeological site. The mission in fact has been very successful in fostering a strong sense of pride in the local communities, who have shown a strong sensitivity against vandalism. This was possible through a highly articulated program that includes an innovative school project, didactic exhibits with texts in Arabic and Kurdish, lectures in 26 villages in the area of the site, as well as organized guided tours to the site from the surrounding cities. This event will take place within the frame of the annual Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Open House, whose theme for this year will be “Technology: Ancient and Modern” (for more information see the website.) After the opening on May 18th, the exhibit will remain permanently displayed at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.

The art exhibition “Syria” of the Dutch archaeologist and artist Theo de Vetter was opened several days ago in the Dutch city of Ezing. The exhibition includes a number of archaeological missions on the Syrian island, including the Tel Hammam al-Turkmans mission on the eastern bank of the Belikh River and the Tel Raqai mission in Hasakah. These paintings depict the work of archaeological missions, their activities and the daily lives of their members, members of the community and the environment in which they worked. This exhibition reflects the artist’s love and appreciation for Syria and the importance of its national human heritage. The exhibition is scheduled to last for five months (until October 6, 2019) (See the DGAM website).

The “Age-Old Cities” exhibition at the National Museum in Riyadh uses digital technology to revive ancient sites and civilizations, including Palmyra and Aleppo. Read more on this on the Arab News website.

A new exhibition organized by the Barakat Trust and Asia House, “Departures: A Photographic Journey through the Islamic World” features images from the 19th and 20th century including heritage sites in Syria. Arab News has more on this exhibition here.

Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition, “The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East” focuses on communities of Western Asia some 2,000 years ago, including in Hatra. Hyperallergic has the full story on its website.

3D model of ancient Bel Temple niche ceiling presented to Damascus National Museum

Italian artists created a 3D model of the ceiling of the niche of the Palmyrene Bel Temple and presented the model to the Damascus National Museum.The Syria Times has a full article on this here.

Students use Minecraft to rebuild Syrian heritage sites

History Blocks and Microsoft’s Minecfrat Education Edition are helping children to build virtual versions of ancient monuments, including the Temple of Bel, the Monastery of St. Elian and the entrance to the ancient city of Aleppo. Geek Wire has more on this on their website.

Conference on Cultural Property Protection

Registration is now open for the Smithsonian National Conference on Cultural Property Protection, taking place between June 19th to 21st. For more information and registration details go to the conference website here.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • Soundcloud published a podcast with Pascal Bongard and Cori Wegener on the protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict.
  • In the wake of the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral, TRT World included the Umayyad Mosque on a list of other UNESCO World Heritage Sites damaged by disasters.
  • The Times of India published an op-ed about protecting and restoring Syrian heritage sites.
  • Middle East Eye reported in-depth here on Krak des Chevaliers, with photos and details about the castle’s current condition.
  • VOA wrote about the destruction and looting of Christian heritage from Syria
  • The Czech website Aktualny posted a video about Palmyra as the human and cultural heritage of mankind.
  • Middle East Eye published an op-ed about the heritage of the Idlib province.
  • Arab News writes about Rejuvenating cultural heritage in the wake of catastrophe, comparing Aleppo and and Notre Dame.

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
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