Thursday 15 November 2018

Archaeologists work to repair ancient treasures destroyed by Isil

The theatre in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which fell into the hands of the Isil jihadist group until March 2017. Photo: Getty Images
The theatre in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which fell into the hands of the Isil jihadist group until March 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Josie Ensor

Syrian archaeologists have begun restoring artefacts damaged by Isil during the time the group controlled the ancient city of Palmyra.

A group of eight experts is attempting to reconstruct statues and sculptures recovered from the Unesco heritage site, with the help of specialists from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The Syrian government lost Palmyra, one of the Middle East's most spectacular archaeological sites, when it was overrun by Isil militants who took sledgehammers and explosives to the 2nd century BC Temple of Baalshamin and the famous limestone lions guarding Al-lat.

The army recaptured it in March 2016 with the help of allied Russian forces, but lost it again briefly a few months later before reclaiming it finally in March 2017.

Unesco sent assessors to Palmyra, where they discovered the city's museum had suffered considerable damage: statues and sarcophagi too large to be removed for safekeeping had been smashed and defaced, busts had been beheaded and were lying in ruin.

Russian archaeologists have since made 3D models of the destroyed temple complexes for Syrian scientists to work from. The restoration is currently being carried out in museum laboratories in Damascus.

"The work is very complicated, the terrorists have broken the sculptures into many pieces," said Maher al-Jubari, the director of the laboratory of national museums in Syria. "We collected everything in one box and marked the parts. Now my task is to glue them together."

Irish Independent

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