Extent of damage to ancient sites clear as ISIS forces are driven out

In Iraqi, Syria and Libya, ISIS has systematically destroyed more than 30 major historic churches, mosques and tombs – some of which date as far back as the seventh century. Muslim monuments damaged have included some Sunni as well as Shia ones. Ancient Assyrian sites, especially large pagan statues, have also been targeted by ISIS. In Palmyra, once the capital of an empire, a symbol of resistance to Imperial Rome and, for many centuries an icon of international trade and prosperity and UNESCO World Heritage site, two major temples appear to have been completely destroyed.

Destruction to the temple of Bel (by Independent)
Destruction to the temple of Bel (by Independent)

The temple of Bel and Baalshamin appear to have been completely destroyed as aerial photographs suggest that the main temple building of Bel has been totally erased. The monumental stone blocks of the great Roman triumphal arch, toppled by ISIS, appear to be intact – and it may well be possible for conservators  to eventually re-erect it. The ancient city’s spectacular Roman theatre has not been destroyed – probably because Isis used it for public executions. Various other structures – including several ruined temples also appear not to have been targeted by the organisation.

Destruction of the Triumph's Arch (by Independent)
Destruction of the Triumph’s Arch (by Independent)

Amr al-Azm, a former Syrian antiquities official, said the world was already aware of the damage to the archaeological site, but was only now seeing the destruction wrought inside the Palmyra museum. Further archaeological, conservation and restoration works are scheduled for the site.

Destruction within the museum building (by Independent)
Destruction within the museum building (by Independent)
Destroyed interior of the museum (by Deutsche Welle)
Destroyed interior of the museum (by Deutsche Welle)

Syria’s antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdulkarim, stated that eighty percent of ruins in the city of Palmyra are ‘”in good shape,” despite the damage inflicted by ISIS jihadists. ISIS forces also killed scores of people, including the city’s 82-year-old director of antiquities, Riad al-Asaad.

Aerial photographs reveal the extent of the damage after IS had blown up the Temple of Bel between 2015 and 2016 (by Deutsche Welle)
Aerial photographs reveal the extent of the damage after IS had blown up the Temple of Bel between 2015 and 2016 (by Deutsche Welle)

(after Independent & Deutsche Welle)

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