The destruction and shelling of sites

Syria’s ruined cities

Video captured as an Assyrian temple collapses
This category covers the damages done to Syria’s patrimony through military or civil occupation of archaeological areas, and the shelling of monuments.

Multiple religious buildings have been damaged. The mosques of Der’a, Bosra and Inkhil, and the mosque al-Tawhid have suffered severe shellings. The minarets of Qa’ab el-Ahbar (Homs) and Al-Tekkiyeh (Ariha), as well as the Khaled Ibn al-Walid mosque at Homshave been partially destroyed. In Aleppo, the PAS points out damages done to the tomb of the Sheikh Dahur al-Muhammad, and Mosque Abou Der Al-Gefary. Some Christian sites have also undergone some damages. These include the Deir Mar Mousa al-Habashi (The Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian), Our Lady of Seydanya and Mar Elias monasteries and the Umm el-Zinnar cathedral at Homs, where bullet impacts have been noticed. Even though the religious dimension of some of these destructions should not be overlooked, it is important to draw upon the fragmentation of our sources and the different reasons underlying the destruction of these monuments.

Military occupation also led to the destruction of several archaeological sites through shelling or the modification of landscapes. The monuments of Homs have been particularly damaged. In addition to the mosques previously mentioned, the dome of the hammam al-Basha, Bab Dreb, the Suq al-Hashish, and possibly other parts of the Suq have been heavily damaged. In Hamma, the el-Arba’en quarter has been partly destroyed by fire. At Tell Sheikh Hamad, an Assyrian temple collapsed as the site was transformed into a battlefield. In the same way, the sites of Apamea (and its citadel), Palmyra, Bosra, Salamyeh-Chmemis castle, Ebla-Tell Mardikh, and Tell A’zzaz were heavily damaged when trenches and tank shelters were dug. An equal situation was witnessed at the Acheulean site of Latamne. Furthermore, in northern Syria, and especially in the region of Idlib, the area of the Limestone massif and its « dead cities » has also been the centre of major destruction.  So far, damages have also been reported in the villages of Kafr Nubbel, Ain Larose, Al-Bara, and Deir Sunbel.

The civil occupation of archaeological areas has additionally led to the progressive destruction of monuments, mostly through the reuse of archaeological material in the construction of new houses, but also through active degradation. The latter is exemplified by the case of the roman temple of El Dumaier where graffiti has been found on the wall. The same issue has been witnessed at Bosra where some walls now carry traces of paint. In the province of Der’a, civil occupation of the area led to the reuse of blocs from sites such as Tell ‘Ashari, Tell Umm Hauran, Tafas, Da’al, Sahm el-Golan, and the ancient city of Matta’iya(PAS). Around Quneitra, the local government has allowed the construction of new buildings in protected patrimonial areas. This seems to also be the case at sites such as Tell’Ashara (Terka), Jabal Wastani, Sheikh Hamad, Sura and Sheikh Hassan.


—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.