Damage to Syria’s heritage – 4 June 2018



Damage to Syria’s Heritage

4 June 2018

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

Erbin Mosque before the conflict and after the liberation of Ghouta.  Copyright: Syrian Times.

Extensive damage to sites in Ghouta

SANA reports that many archaeological sites in Ghouta have been heavily damaged. Read the list of sites and damages on the Syria Times website here.

ASOR CHI update on Ebla

ASOR CHI published an update about damage to the Bronze Age site of Ebla, which includes a review of the state of the site before and after conflict began.

Reconstruction risks site damage in Aleppo

Reconstruction in Aleppo is finding historic remains which are under threat. Work at Bab al-Nasr (the Victory Gate) uncovered an old arch under the ground and huge stone bases form the base of the northern wall of Aleppo, which forms the northern wall of Bab al-Nasr. However, the building license may have been granted without the approval of Aleppo’s Technical Committee, highlighting problems in the reconstruction process. In addition, property owners are required to shoulder the burden of costs for dealing with historic remains on their property, which few can afford. Read more on Facebook here and here.

Additional problems with the reconstruction are highlighted here.

Updates on Looting

Looting continues in former ISIS territory

Syria Direct published an account of how antiquities smugglers source and traffic objects, and what measures the Department of Antiquities in undertaking to combat this looting. The article suggests that although ISIS are no longer a threat, the trafficking network is well established, and smugglers are now working with other groups.

New report highlights inaccuracies of looting in the media

The Committee for Cultural Policy has released a Special Report Bearing False Witness: The Media, ISIS and Antiquities. Although sometimes over-focused on art market concerns, the report also correctly highlights the many inaccuracies in media reporting of looting figures, and lack of substantive data about the trade.

Intangible Heritage

Syrians share culinary heritage in Portugal

At the Mezze restaurant in Lisbon, traditional Syrian cuisine is in high demand. Learn more at Info Migrants.

Musical heritage of Syria celebrated in Malta

Syrian musicians performed traditional songs with performers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tibet at the Malta World Music Festival at Fort St. Elma in Valletta. See the Times of Malta for more information.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

Traditional neighborhood ownership transferred to investment company

The government transferred ownership of an ancient neighborhood in the Damascus Old City to an investment company aimed at transforming properties into economically profitable projects. Learn more at Gulf News.

New Documentary about Khaled al-Assad

A new documentary tells the story of Syrian archaeologist and former head of antiquities for Palmyra, Khaled al-Assad (1932-2015). You can learn more on the SANA website.

Restoration at Maaloula 

The St. Tekla Orthodox Church in the ancient city of Ma’aloula will be fully restored within a month, the religious leader Father Elias told journalists.

ATPA carry out awareness raising activities

The Authority of Tourism and the Protection of Antiquities in Al Jazira carried out a lecture tour in three villages in Amouda (Bab El Khair – Am El Rabea – Breva) as part of its awareness raising campaign. The lecture focused on raising awareness and how to protect archaeological sites (here).

Ramadan event in Aleppo celebrates traditions

Organized by the Burka Ahla Association, the ‘Ramadan of Aleppo is more beautiful’ event in Khan al-Wazir is intended to revitalize the Old City and showcase reconstruction efforts. The event will include traditional crafts and storytelling. To learn more see the Press TV website.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

MoU signed for conservation of Aleppo

The Minister of Culture, Mr. Mohamed Al-Ahmad, chaired a meeting of the supervisory committee on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Culture, Aleppo Governorate and the Syrian Secretariat for Development with the Aga Khan International Cultural Services Foundation to establish a training project on stone restoration and maintenance in Aleppo. Read more here.

International Activity

UNESCO focus on trafficking of cultural items

There was a strong focus on Syria and other countries with critically at-risk heritage in the Sixth Session of the Subsidiary Committee of the Meeting of State Parties to the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (UNESCO, Paris, 1970). Read the full document on the UNESCO website.

In addition a major international conference was held on Circulation of cultural property and shared heritage: what new perspectives? on 1st June. A number of interviews with the participants are available via UNESCO’s FB page, for example this interview with two major museum directors.

US seeks forfeiture of illegally imported Syrian mosaics

A Californian man has been accused of smuggling a Byzantine-era mosaic out of Syria and hiring artists to restore it in order to sell it. Read more in the Daily Journal and CNN.

International museums highlight Syria

  • The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has employed Iraqi and Syrian ‘Global Guides’ to share their personal experiences and historic information with visitors to the Middle East gallery. You can learn more on the Spokesman website and the Delaware County Daily Times.
  • ‘The Syria Initiative – Museum as Mediator of Shared Heritage’ at the Museum of Islamic Art was awarded recognition by the 2018 Museums+Heritage Awards for Excellence. You can learn more here.
  • The Museum of Modern Art published “Modern Art in the Arab World: Primary Documents” which includes works from Syria such as the Manifesto of the Plastic Arts Movement, originally from 1962. Find out more from al-Fanarmedia.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • Art Graphique and Patrimoine published a video on Facebook of a 3D Model of the destruction in Aleppo.
  • Al-Monitor reviewed the ongoing Astana talks, which include coverage of heritage sites in Syria.
  • The Guardian published a piece by Diana Darke, who has visited damaged sites in Syria.  She also wrote a piece for The National here, which questioned if reconstruction of Aleppo’s Grand Mosque will obscure the history of the conflict and destruction at the site.
  • The Getty posted the audio of “Cultural Heritage in Armed Conflict Zones” with Tom Weiss.
  • Channel 4 posted a short video about the destruction at Palmyra.
  • Salon published a first person account of an American-Syrian’s connections to Syria.
  • The New Yorker published photos, by architectural photographer Peter Aaron, of Syrian monuments before damage. Although the headline is about ISIS. not all the sites were damaged by them.
  • Opposing letters published by The Guardian here argued the benefits and drawbacks of returning artifacts to their countries of origins, using Syria as one example.
  • On The Go Tours published a graphic of factors threatening world heritage sites, including six sites in Syria.
  • The National Post wrote about a Syrian writer/actor team telling the story of a family leaving Aleppo.
  • The BBC showcased the WMF’s project to Master stonemasons in Jordan are training Syrians in traditional stone carving techniques in preparation for restoration of Syria’s damaged sites.

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2018 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.

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