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Archaeologists restore ancient Palmyra artefacts in Damascus museum



Ancient Palmyra artefacts damaged by Islamic State are being restored by archaeologists working in Damascus

By Tim Collins For Mailonline

Published: 08:46 EST, 10 January 2019 | Updated: 10:21 EST, 10 January 2019

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Centuries-old statues and sculptures wrecked by jihadists are being painstakingly restored by archaeologists. 

Islamic State has twice seized control of the ancient city of Palmyra during the country's bloody civil war, an on-gong conflict that first broke out in 2011 and will go into its ninth year in March.

The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra, was damaged during the first offensive on the city in central Syria by fighters - in 2015.  

In the National Museum of Damascus, archaeologist Muntajab Youssef works on an ancient stone bust from Palmyra, one of hundreds of artefacts his team is painstakingly restoring after they were damaged by Islamic State
In the National Museum of Damascus, archaeologist Muntajab Youssef works on an ancient stone bust from Palmyra, one of hundreds of artefacts his team is painstakingly restoring after they were damaged by Islamic State

In the National Museum of Damascus, archaeologist Muntajab Youssef works on an ancient stone bust from Palmyra, one of hundreds of artefacts his team is painstakingly restoring after they were damaged by Islamic State

In the National Museum of Damascus, archaeologist Muntajab Youssef is one a team working on the ancient stone bust, one of hundreds of artefacts that were damaged by Islamic State. 

After Syrian government forces took back the city with Russian military support in March 2016, the bust, alongside other damaged ancient monuments, was taken to Damascus and archived in boxes. 

When restoration work on it began last year, Mr Youssef said it was in pieces.

'The hands and face were lost completely, also parts of the dress and there are areas that are weaker,' said Mr Youssef, who has been working on the bust for two months.

Mr Youssef is one of 12 archaeologists working on the arduous restoration job, which first began with the of moving the damaged pieces to Damascus.

Centuries-old statues and sculptures were wrecked by the jihadists when they twice seized control of the old city in central Syria during the country's war, which will go into its ninth year in March
Centuries-old statues and sculptures were wrecked by the jihadists when they twice seized control of the old city in central Syria during the country's war, which will go into its ninth year in March

Centuries-old statues and sculptures were wrecked by the jihadists when they twice seized control of the old city in central Syria during the country's war, which will go into its ninth year in March

The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra (pictured), was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015
The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra (pictured), was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015

The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra (pictured), was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015

The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra, was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015
The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra, was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015

The 1,800-year-old bust of a bejewelled and richly clothed woman, The Beauty of Palmyra, was damaged during the first offensive on the city by Islamic State fighters in 2015

How many artefacts there are in total is difficult to say, given the state they were found in. The lack of documentation for the artefacts also adds to the restoration challenge
How many artefacts there are in total is difficult to say, given the state they were found in. The lack of documentation for the artefacts also adds to the restoration challenge

How many artefacts there are in total is difficult to say, given the state they were found in. The lack of documentation for the artefacts also adds to the restoration challenge

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ANCIENT CITY OF PALMYRA?

Palmyra, situated about 130 miles (210km) northeast of Damascus, is known by Syrians as the 'Bride of the Desert'.

It was an important caravan city of the Roman Empire, linking it to India, China and Persia.

Before the outbreak of Syria's conflict in March 2011, the Unesco site was one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East drawing 105,000 visitors a year.

The whole of Palmyra, including the four cemeteries outside the walls of the ancient city, has been listed as a world heritage site by Unesco since 1980.

Global concern for Palmyra's magnificent ancient ruins spiked in September 2015, when satellite images confirmed that ISIS had demolished the famed Temple of Bel as part of its campaign to destroy pre-Islamic monuments it considers idolatrous.

Unesco described the temple as one of the best preserved and most important religious edifices of the first century in the Middle East.

Mamoun Abdulkarim, the former Head of Syrian Antiquities, said that in some cases broken artefacts were transported in empty ammunition boxes provided by the Syrian army in Palmyra.

How many artefacts there are in total is difficult to say, given the state they were found in.

The lack of documentation for the artefacts also adds to the restoration challenge.

'A big part of the documentation in the Palmyra museum, was damaged with the antiquities and computers,' archaeologist Raed Abbas said.

'A statue needs pictures ... in order to be rebuilt.' 

Palmyra, situated about 130 miles (210km) northeast of Damascus, is known by Syrians as the 'Bride of the Desert'.

Palmyra, situated about 130 miles (210km) northeast of Damascus, is known by Syrians as the 'Bride of the Desert'. This image shows the ruins before the Syrian civil war
Palmyra, situated about 130 miles (210km) northeast of Damascus, is known by Syrians as the 'Bride of the Desert'. This image shows the ruins before the Syrian civil war

Palmyra, situated about 130 miles (210km) northeast of Damascus, is known by Syrians as the 'Bride of the Desert'. This image shows the ruins before the Syrian civil war

Before the outbreak of Syria's conflict in March 2011, the Unesco site was one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East drawing 105,000 visitors a year. This image shows the ruins after the war
Before the outbreak of Syria's conflict in March 2011, the Unesco site was one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East drawing 105,000 visitors a year. This image shows the ruins after the war

Before the outbreak of Syria's conflict in March 2011, the Unesco site was one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East drawing 105,000 visitors a year. This image shows the ruins after the war

It was an important caravan city of the Roman Empire, linking it to India, China and Persia.

Before the outbreak of Syria's conflict in March 2011, the Unesco site was one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Middle East drawing 105,000 visitors a year.

The whole of Palmyra, including the four cemeteries outside the walls of the ancient city, has been listed as a world heritage site by Unesco since 1980.

Global concern for Palmyra's magnificent ancient ruins spiked in September 2015, when satellite images confirmed that ISIS had demolished the famed Temple of Bel as part of its campaign to destroy pre-Islamic monuments it considers idolatrous.

Unesco described the temple as one of the best preserved and most important religious edifices of the first century in the Middle East.

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