Monday, 16 December 2013

Antiquities in Syria

Remains of a ziggurat in Syria (Mari c. 2000 BC)
I recently came across an article talking about the looting of antiquities in Syria. While this may seem like a minor issue compared to the scale of suffering that the conflict in causing in the region, it is still a serious issue.

Syria has been both the heartland and the cross roads of empires for thousands of years and contains priceless artefacts and historical sites. The cities of Mari and Ebla were already ancient by the time of Hammurabi, the famous Babylonian lawgiver. The city of Ugarit was one of the most powerful of the Bronze Age. Damascus has been one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in the world. Antioch was the main capital of the Seleucid Dynasty of Alexander's successors and was where the word "Christian" was coined. After its time as a wealthy Roman and Byzantine province Syria briefly served as the capital of the Islamic Caliphate before seeing the Seljuk, Crusader and Mamluk kingdoms until its ultimate incorporation into the Ottoman Empire until 1918.

The tells, cities, fortifications and castles of all these ancient cultures remain in Syria and, more importantly, the buried records, both written and archaeological, are crucial to the history of mankind. The looting that is occurring due to the conflict puts all of this at risk. Even if an artefact is not destroyed, the un-scientific removal of the piece from its context destroys the context of the artefact and forever diminishes its worth to history (Indiana Jones is a terrible archaeologist).

A piece of pottery will never have the value of a human life, but the wanton destruction.of knowledge hurts us all nevertheless. I thought that it was worth raising awareness of this.

No comments:

Post a Comment