The devastating effects of looting in Syria

In Tartous, Mr Marwan Hassan, Director of the Antiquities of the city mentions
the confiscation of more than 1300 objects (Classical and Islamic period)
in an attempt to smuggle artefacts out of the country.

This category encompasses illegal excavations as well as antique thefts, and more generally summarises any harm done to cultural heritage for commerce purposes. Following ‘Adel Safar’s letter, some governmental forces seem to have moved parts of the Der’a, Alpe, Quneitra, Hama, and Homs museum collections either to Damascus and/or to some other unknown locations. In this situation, the risk represented by the limited nature of the documentation and inventories of these collections is already considerable.

  • The most famous case since the beginning of the unrest is the case of the Hama museum where, possibly among other artefacts, a golden Aramaic statuette was stolen. Interpol published a call for vigilance and it has featured on the most wanted list since December 2011.
  • Still in the Hama area, it has been reported that the Shaïzar citadel has also been looted.
  • At the Crac des Chevaliers, Bassam Jamous, General Director of the DGAM talks about armed groups penetrating the castle and starting illegal excavations. The same kind of illegal activities have also been witnessed in the provinces of Der’a,Hama and Homs.
  • PAS also addresses the possible pillaging of some pieces in the museum o fHoms.
  • In Tartous, Mr Marwan Hassan, Director of the Antiquities of the city mentions the confiscation of more than 1300 objects (Classical and Islamic period) in an attempt to smuggle artefacts out of the country. (See video above)
  • At Tell Hamukar in the Khabur Basin, some individuals witnessed what seemed to be an illegal excavation and episodes of looting. There is even a report of a house being built on the Tell (PAS). Instances might also have been witnessed at Tell Ashari, Tell Afis, Khan Shiekhoun, and Tell Acharneh.
  • At the site of Afamya, in the city ofHama, some mosaics have been stolen.
  • At Palmyra, in addition to the presence of tanks in the area, there has been some evidence of looting and destruction in the Diocletian camp, and around the Bel temple.
  • At Apamée, one mosaic has disappeared as well as the chapiteau of the Decumanus column in the centre of the city.
  • Finally, one needs to keep in mind the danger generated by the absence of authority and the unrest in areas surrounding several regional museums, including Ma’aret el-Nu’man, Ebla-Tell Mardikh, Qal’at Jabar, and Deir ez-Zor.

—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.