Saturday, 16 April 2016

Polish Mission in Palmyra

Two Polish specialists were among the first foreign experts who visited the museum in Palmyra after it was taken over from Islamic State militants  after their 10-month occupation of the town. They spent a week collecting fragments of broken sculptures from the museum grounds and preparing them for transportation to Damascus in a rescue mission they hope will help salvage most of its contents (DGAM 'Urgent mission for damage assessment in Palmyra museum' 17/04/2016).

Dr. Robert Żukowski,
Prof. Maamoun
Abdulkarim, Dr. Ahmad Deeb, Dr. Bartosz
and Olivier Bourgeois, Palmyra April 2016

In an urgent field visit to the national museum of Palmyra, a group of experts from DGAM, Dr. Bartosz Markowski who already restored Athina Al-lat statue 10 years ago, and Dr. Robert Żukowski, both from the Polish archaeological mission, who worked previously in Palmyra, gave a targeted damage assessment to the museums, its galleries and the statues smashed by the terrorist militants of ISIS. The members of this mission worked together to gather all fragments of statues, in order to help restore the statues to its potential state prior the invasion of ISIS in May 2015. In the near future, restoration works will start in the proper lab in DGAM headquarters in Damascus, under supervision of local and international experts, under the support of UNESCO and other international partners, i.e. specialized scientific organizations and institutes.

Robert is a former student of mine, and has been associated with the Palmyra project for many years. I attended a conference on Syria here in the Institute of Archaeology of Warsaw University two weeks ago  where Dr Markowski spoke of the reconstruction and then destruction of the statues. It must have been a heartbreaking trip for them both.

UPDATE 17th April

Zeina Karam, 'Grim new details of IS destruction in Syria's Palmyra museum' Asscociated Press April 16th 2016.
 The museum was trashed and some of its best-known artifacts and statues were smashed by the militants, who cut off the heads and hands of statues and demolished others before being driven out last month. Bartosz Markowski, from the Polish Archaeological Center at the University of Warsaw, told The Associated Press that most of the 200 objects which were exhibited on the ground floor of the Palmyra museum were destroyed, many of them apparently with hard tools like hammers. Many artifacts have been stolen, he added, though it was not possible to know how many. He and his colleagues were the first specialists to visit Palmyra after it was taken over by the Syrian army, and spent a week working and assessing the damage. "We collected everything we could. The fragments were spread around the whole museum among broken glass and furniture ... It is a catastrophe," he said, speaking to the AP in the garden of the National Museum in Damascus.  [...]   Markowski said the museum building has suffered structural damage due to bombs falling. "There's broken ceilings, broken walls, roofs, a lot of garbage and fragments of bricks everywhere, and among that there are fragments of sculptures," he said. He said the restoration will require a massive international effort and years to accomplish. "I think most of the objects can be restored, but they will never look as they did before," he added.  

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