Among the Wounded in Syria’s War: Ancient History

tags: Syria




PARIS — For the French archaeologists Pierre Leriche, 73, and Jean-Claude Margueron, nearly 80, who both spent decades uncovering Syria’s rich past, it is almost too painful to look at its grim present.

The civil war there has long made work impossible in the ancient cities, houses and temples where they once toiled peacefully to understand long-ago civilizations. Now in Paris, an increasing number of reports are arriving that document the extent of the damage to one of the world’s most important historical records, including physical destruction from the fighting, rampant pillaging of archaeological sites, and looting from museums and other collections.

The portrait emerging from scholars, the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and experts in Syria is of a country in the process of obliterating its cultural history.

“The situation now is absolutely terrible there,” said Mr. Leriche, a professor of archaeology at the École Normale Supérieure, one of France’s most prestigious universities, who worked for more than 25 years at a site on the Euphrates River. Noting reports of illegal excavation at about 350 places in that one site where he worked, he said: “They come with jackhammers. That means everything is destroyed.”...




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