Under Threat: Archaeological Heritage in Syria

The destruction of heritage in Syria is reported in the international media. Sources were and are increasingly social media: Tweets, photos or videos make eyewitness reports available worldwide. This is a Storify of the news of August 2012.

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  1. The Crusader fortress of the 12th to 13th centuries Crac des Chevaliers, the Roman city of Apamea, the ancient city of Palmyra, the fortress of Qala'at al-Mudiq, countless other places and now Aleppo: For months the world is confronted with news alerting us to the unique sites of Syria that are in danger. Some of the sites are misused as bases for military activities making them a target for military attack.
    Even experts don't know exactly which archaeological sites are destroyed, under threat or maybe safe - for the moment. Videos, tweets and other information shared via social media platforms are a major source that may be also used for propaganda, however.
  2. Stefan Weber, director of Berlin's Museum of Islamic Art, gives an introduction into Syria's impressive past, the destructions and the danger of looting in this ARTE video (in German) of August 7th.:
  3. "The destruction of Iraq's heritage in the anarchic aftermath of the Anglo-American invasion of 2003 ... may now be repeated in Syria" warns Robert Fisk in the "Indepent" of August 5th. Fisk quotes Joanne Farchakh, the Lebanese archaeologist who also investigated the destruction and plundering of Iraq's historical treasures after 2003: "Antique dealers are telling me that the markets of Jordan and Turkey are flooded with artifacts from Syria."
  4. Aleppo

  5. Fighting in Aleppo threatens its heritage that has been inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 1986. At risk are - according to the New York Times of August 15th: The medieval Citadel that is currently serving as strategic military point; the Temple of the Storm God; remains of Bronze Age friezes and Roman fortresses; the walled Old City; its 12th-century Great Mosque; thousands of medieval courtyard houses; Arab souks and 17th-century stone madrasas; an Ottoman palace and hammams.
  6. This video showing the citadel of Aleppo dates from 13 August 2012:
  7. Foreign-backed armed groups targeting Syrian history
  8. Damage at the gate of Citadel in Aleppo (August 22nd):
  9. Are the parts of the city where fighting has been taking place the same as the World Heritage areas? Yes, according to Emma Cunliffe, who has been documenting the damage in Syria. She emphasizes in an interview with ABC news on September 3rd the role of the citadel: "From the news reports coming out of the country, both sides seem to feel that if they can hold the Citadel, it symbolises holding Aleppo, in many ways."
  10. Looting in Syria

  11. Illegal excavations as well as antique thefts in Syria are summarized there:
  12. Karl-Heinz Kind of Interpol says in this news article of August 24th that looting in Syria is definitely happening, but is not expected to reach the scale of the damage of Iraq in 2003.
  13. Years of archaeological research under threat

  14. Protecting Syria's cultural heritage

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