Syria’s cultural heritage endangered

Facebook group Patrimoine archéologique Syrien en danger Golden Aramaic statuette stolen from the Hama museum

Several associations/organizations (see Appel à la préservation des musées syriens adressé aux institutions internationales et à la communauté internationale) have been keeping track of the damages done to the cultural heritage since the beginning of the unrest. They all emphasize the danger of underestimating the threat under which cultural heritage currently finds itself. The collective Patrimoine Syrien en Danger (PAS) comments in a letter, dated 07/07/2011 (document #9575/1) and addressed by ‘Adel Safar to each of the different ministries. Here Adel Safar mentions that the country’s heritage is at risk of looting from specialized and highly trained groups, aiming at ancient documents and antique goods. The collective suggests that this letter was using the danger of looting to legitimate some of their military actions, thus instrumentalizingSyria’s patrimony.

Actual damages can be broken down into different categories and vary in degrees of degradation. These range from the simple graffiti on a roman temple at El Dumaier to the destruction of Qalaat el Mudeeq. An extensive report found on the Global Heritage Network, provided by Emma Cunlife from Durham University on May 16th 2012, lists most of the destruction known to us. In addition to this report, most of the sources available to us come from the Facebook group Patrimoine archéologique Syrien en danger where Syrian individuals share articles and youtube videos witnessing destruction of material heritage. Only some of the videos are shared but they can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/SyrianArchaeological?feature=watch.  Some of this information has also been directly confirmed by independent sources in Syria.

—Bastien Varoutsikos, Harvard University. Research Interests: Near Eastern Prehistory, Transition, Neolithic, Obsidian, Lithic Technology, Physico-chemical analysis (xrf), GIS, Process of Diffusion and Acquisition of Technology.