An online archive documenting destruction of ancient sites

The crowd-sharing system called Arches, utilising satellite imagery, photographs, technical data and eyewitness descriptions documents damage and destruction of monuments by the so-called Islamic State and due to fights near the Syrian city of Aleppo. The system is being used by the American Schools of Oriental Research to monitor historic sites in Syria and northern Iraq, providing weekly updates and an online inventory of thousands of heritage sites. It is online, freely available and it’s open source.

Soldiers look over damage at the historical Bel Temple in Palmyra (by Voice of America)
Soldiers look over damage at the historical Bel Temple in Palmyra (by Voice of America)

Islamic State militants have destroyed religious monuments that the group considers un-Islamic, and among those killed in the occupied regions was a Syrian archeologist who had been caring for the site for 40 years. IS has also looted and sold antiquities to finance its operations.

Arches Related Resources graph, revealing existing relationships and newly discovered connections between resources (by Voice of America)
Arches Related Resources graph, revealing existing relationships and newly discovered connections between resources (by Voice of America)

The American Schools’ Cultural Heritage Initiatives documented damage or destruction at hundreds of sites, and is developing protocols for post-war preservation. The online system Arches has other applications outside the Near East. It has been used create an inventory of Bronze Age sites in central Europe. Conservation involves both preservation of historic sites and artefacts and protection of knowledge. The online tool is available for free to cultural agencies to help with the effort. The application was recently used to create an inventory of cultural sites in the Philippines, unknown to the system’s developers, who say they are pleased to see its expanding applications.

(after Voice of America)

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