In June, a car bomb exploded near the ancient citadel of Damascus, sending thick black smoke over one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Photo: EPA
Global Heritage Network (GHN) has posted a new report by Emma Cunliffe, author of the widely-cited “Damage to the Soul: Syria’s Cultural Heritage in Conflict” report, on the updated condition of Syria’s endangered cultural heritage. The update summarizes the current state of Syria’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all of which Cunliffe relates have been damaged by shelling, fires, and/or looting.
Syria’s two largest cities, both among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, have suffered damage. In Aleppo, fires have ravaged the 12th-century Umayyad Mosque and part of the medieval souk, while shelling has damaged the ancient citadel and entire areas of the historic Old City. In Damascus, a car bomb exploded outside the walls of the citadel, and numerous reports and photos show shelled mosques and holy shrines, damaged historic houses, and fighting and fires amongst ancient buildings.
Bombing and shelling have destroyed parts of Aleppo’s Old City. Photo: Unknown
At Palmyra, Cunliffe describes a scene where “tanks rumble up the Roman roads, gunfire from the ancient Arab citadel pockmarks the earlier ruins,” and looting plagues the temples and tombs. Videos linked in the report show the impact of shelling on walls at Crak des Chevaliers, one of the best preserved examples of Arab/Western fortifications from the Crusades (11-13th centuries), where looting has taken place inside, as well as apparent damage to the ancient mosque.
Cunliffe’s report includes more than 20 links to online videos, photos and reports documenting the damage. At Bosra, once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia, videos and photos show extensive shelling damage to some of the historic houses, while reports suggest similar shelling damage to the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, including its most famous monument, the Basilica of St Simeon’s.
A Facebook photo gallery shows shelling damage to the fortifications of Crak des Chevaliers. Photo: Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger.
With ground access in Syria extremely limited for both media and antiquities experts, Cunliffe, a former GHF Preservation Fellow and PhD candidate at the UK’s Durham University, has become a leading voice in efforts to track and assess the damage. Her 51-page report “Damage to the Soul: Syria’s Cultural Heritage in Conflict”, published by GHN in May 2012, became a popular source for outlets reporting on the destruction, including National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal.
Click here to read Emma Cunliffe’s “No World Heritage Site Safe in Syria” on GHN