Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Some Recent Looting at Palmyra?

I remarked that there were few visible signs of looters' pits among the ruins of the part of the ancient town of Palmyra photographed from the air straight after the liberation. This was picked up immediately by the dealers' lobbyists and metal detectorists. For the sake of accuracy therefore it should be pointed out that there is evidence of this looting elsewhere on the site From the ASOR CHI Facebook page:
DigitalGlobe Satellite Imagery released on March 30, 2016 has shown additional damage to the Valley of the Tombs, the Western Necropolis, and the Southeast Necropolis of Palmyra. This is the first new satellite imagery of Palmyra since September 2015, which was analyzed in ASOR CHI's special report "Update on the Situation in Palmyra."

A little remiss of them one would have thought (readers might remember the rude reply I received from these folk when I submitted a query about their access to satellite photos). They found some damage had occurred since they last looked. Some tower tombs and a temple had been damaged.
The Southeast Necropolis was known to have been previously damaged by illegal excavations. The DigitalGlobe satellite images show additional looting pits on the site as well as the intentional destruction of the funerary temple S103. [...]  ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives will provide further information in our forthcoming special report on Palmyra, to be published in the next few days, as well as in Weekly Report 87–88, which covers March 30 - April 12, 2016.
Here are the holes:
 September 2, 2015 - Southeast Necropolis before. Note the berms and embankments in place around the necropolis.

March 30, 2016 - Here, only a few portions of the exterior walls of S103 are still visible. The potential illegal excavation areas are outlined with dotted lines.

Having said that, it is less than clear that this is 'official' ISIL-sponsored activity. These holes are in the area most distant from the town itself, but there are hamlets just a bit down the road from here.

Meanwhile a three-day conference starts in Warsaw today initiating the Polish collaboration with Syrian and Iraqi forces in dealing with the aftermath. 


elcunliffe said...

Neither confirming nor denying whether ISIS have looted the site, UNOSAT suggested that looting was ongoing before ISIS even got there:
so it has definitely been occurring, and given that research from Dartmouth demonstrates that 42% of looted sites in ISIS-controlled areas show severe looting, it is foolish to simply claim there is a 'lack of looting evidence'

Paul Barford said...

No, you did not read what I wrote. It is not "foolish" - in the recent visual sources we have to date, this site looks quite different to other examples of sites looted in Syria since 2011 - most of which as both I and Sam Hardy have shown many months ago (despite claims of the propagandists to the contrary) were not done while they were in the hands of ISIL. I think we need to move away from facile generalisations to look at what evidence we have and what it tells us and if that does not fit John Kerry's narrative - tough luck for him.

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