Posts Tagged With: Middle Eastern Archaeology

Syria’s Ancient Remains in Ruins

“Damage to the heritage of the country is damage to the soul of its people and its identity”, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

War and journalism make for very dangerous partners but in the middle east they are often together.  Conflict gives rise to war reporting. War reporting does a great job at exposing the human life lost in a conflict but under-reports on the cultural heritage lost.  A good example of this is the ongoing crisis  in Syria in which through the media we are told of the human loss ( more than 100,000 people died) but we are not  told about the loss of  cultural heritage. Gunfire and falling bombs and  is a higher priority for reporters than archaeology. I can appreciate this but we must not forget the heritage.

Syria has a rich historical past with having had influence from people like the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. My mind boggles at the thought of so much of this history going up in flames. Syria of course is just one example of a war torn country’s lost heritage. Much heritage has been lost in places like Iraq and Afghanistan also rich in history.

Conflict in Syria taken from NPR


Beautiful Crusader Castle in Syria taken from PRI

Many Syrians are using centuries old castles as hiding places and fortresses from the enemy. The ancient cities of Aleppo and Palmyra are being  pounded constantly by  tanks. They have suffered enormous damage. Palmyra known as the Bride of the Desert was the most visited tourist site in Syria given its impressive Roman ruins and its previous state of excellent preservation. I still remember seeing it on my television screen back in early 2000 when travel show Getaway was filming a segment there.

The presenter was mesmerized by the city. Fast forward now to 2013 and im certain that presenter would be horrified at what he would  see. Apart from ancient cities, museums in Syria are being looted for their treasures. With war comes poverty and unemployment  so many Syrians are trying to sell relics to make money. Their number one goal is survival. UNSECCO is doing all it can to protect as much heritage as possible with the resources it has. Often its very difficult as its representatives risk death entering a war zone.

The Great Citadel of Aleppo taken from monuments of Syria


Palmyra taken from National Geographic

I have great admiration for Balázs Major, an archaeology professor from Hungary’s Pázmány Péter Catholic University. He  has been researching in Syria for 15 years.  He has made it a mission of his to do what he can to preserve the heritage.

Currently amongst the chaos he is exploring the site of Margat, one of the biggest medieval Knight’s  castles in the Middle East. Earlier this year Euronews journalists caught up with him to find about his work. He started excavating this castle in 2006 and is still involved in its excavation. Previously he had a team of volunteers with him, many Hungarian and Syrian students but now with the conflict he is a solo worker. He hopes that they return one day when it is safe.

Fortress of Margat taken from Time Magazine

Extra information; with videos of damage    –  UNESCO  Red alert list of 6 heritage sites in danger

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From Jericho to Jerusalem

Jericho and Jerusalem are two of the world’s oldest cites and hence are a pot of gold for archaeologists. They have yielded thousands of  finds of huge historical value. For journalists they are a pot of gold as well as these finds have been covered by them as well in numerous media like BAR magazine.

Now from 23 Oct 2013 to 6 April 2014 an important collection of artefacts from these cities dating to the Bronze (2300-1200 B.C.E)  and Iron age (1200-550 B.C. E.) is on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art  at the University of Melbourne. These artefacts were found on the excavations of archaeologist, Dame Kathleen Kenyon(1906-1978). She made headlines back in the 1950s for her work in Jericho and then in the 1960’s for her work in Jerusalem. In Britain many reporters followed her findings closely.

This exhibition showcases terracotta figurines, loom weights, spindle whorls and many pottery vessels from tombs at Jericho, excavated by Kenyon from 1952–54, and from her 1967 excavations at Jerusalem. These objects were used in daily life and are beautifully made.  These objects were given to the University of Melbourne as a teaching collection in return for the financial support for Kenyon’s excavations. Below is a short video of the exhibition ;

Over 100 remarkable ceramics (pots) are on display from the digs. The curator of this exhibition Dr Andrew Jamieson, said as well as showing important archaeological objects from these cities the exhibition tells the story of Kenyon’s contribution to Middle Eastern archaeology.

He said, “Best known for her excavations at Jericho and Jerusalem, she helped train a whole generation of archaeologists, including Australian scholar Basil Hennessey, who went on to become Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Sydney.

“Kathleen Kenyon’s work continues to resonate throughout the archaeological world. Her field methods and scientific techniques strengthened the discipline of archaeology. She is often credited with popularizing archaeology,” Dr Jamieson said.


Extra info;

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