Monday, 22 September 2014

Syrian Archaeology, ‘Scale of the Scandal’.

"After more than three years of civil war,
we have reached a point that can be classed
as catastrophic as regards the current state of Syrian 
 archaeological heritage".

This is a pretty depressing article: Michel Al-Maqdissi, 'Syrian Archaeology, ‘Scale of the Scandal’...',ASOR blog.
The Syrian crisis has recently become noticeably more serious, and has turned into one of the most alarming situations in the Near East since the end of the Iraq War. The consequences to archaeology will be seen in the short and long term. In the short term, damage is occurring due to the increasing number of thefts of antiquities, illegal excavations, paralysed and wrecked museums and a halt to fieldwork. In the long term it will be affected by the massive exodus of trained archaeologists at the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées (DGAM) and at the Musée National. Their absence will generate dramatic problems when archaeology in Syria returns to normal.
He suggests that foreign observers are not always aware of the constraints under which the DGAM is operating, in particular its inability to act on the ground in order to assess the damage that has already been done.
The organization’s archaeologists receive no support, and have to be satisfied with diverse sources of information in order to write their reports. Second, the absence of guards at the archaeological sites exposes them to vandalism and trafficking of antiquities, carried out by quasi-organised bands, formed by both by poor individuals and professionals who systematically export the objects outside the country. It should be made clear that certain groups are linked to international centres in Europe, the United States, even Arab countries and Israel. In this way, Syria has become an important source of increasing illegal trade, about which indirect information is beginning to amount. This matter is completely out of the control of the archaeological authorities and the DGAM does even not possess the means to access the lists of the collections that are hidden in the country or in foreign deposits. It should be added that, as often occurs in this type of situation, the traffickers keep well ahead of the responsible institutions.

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