Thursday, March 31, 2016

Damage to Syrian Antiquities is Extensive

Although the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra is still mostly intact, minus a few important structures like the Temple of Bel, Severus' Arch of Triumph and the Temple of Baalshamin, the recapture of Palmyra by the Syrian army has revealed extensive destruction of priceless antiquities housed in the city's museum [photo]. A Syrian TV crew entered the museum on Sunday and found the floor covered in pieces of statutes destroyed by the militants. Some of the damage may have been caused by an artillery shell, probably from government forces, but a statue of Athena was found decapitated, most likely the result of deliberate disfigurement.  Twenty other statutes were found intact but vandalized.  A famous lion statute from the second century thought to have been destroyed was damaged, but it can be restored according to conservationists. Before the city fell to ISIS ten months ago, archaeologists and officials were able to remove some 400 statutes and hundreds of artifacts for safe-keeping.

The level of destruction and vandalism inside the museum is said to be extensive. One official surveying the destruction called it a "10 out of 10". ISIS follows a severe interpretation of Islam that allows it to declare the preservation of ancient images and statutes 'idolatrous', but it has also profited from trading captured artifacts in the global black market. The hard work of cataloguing the remains and restoration can now begin. But one person who had spent years studying the ancient city and its contents will not be able to help. Khaled al-Assad, the archaeological site's director was beheaded by ISIS for refusing to reveal the location of some rescued treasures