Is History Funding the War?
By admin January 10, 2017

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Artifacts and antiquities are slowly disappearing as the ongoing war continues in the Middle East. The destruction and obliteration of areas leave the world stunned as to wondering what will happen to critical archaeological and historical sites. Some of the world’s most ancient artifacts lie in the Middle Eastern area. Technological advancements such as social media have led to conflict and globalization. Indeed, how ironic that technology is portrayed as being a cultural destruction to some, when drones, a “high-tech tool”, is used by archaeologists themselves to help preserve and document these cultural sites before their demolition. Not only are these areas being physically demolished, but looting has become a popular activity to in-turn trade the valuable items in for weapons, believed to feed and fund the war.

Francesco Prosperetti recently stated, on the loss of artifacts, that this is a “global message on the importance of cultural heritage and its value as part of national identity, on the need to protect it, preserve it, restore it and in some cases rebuild it.” Moreover, after the Islamic State bulldozed the Northwest Palace in Nimrud, Iraq, the Colosseum in Rome contains the few artifacts that still remain. Archaeologists are trying their best to use the technological advancements of drones to capture every detail of these sites to later be able to 3D scan artifacts in hopes of recreating what once was. Replicating these sites brings up the issue of needing to note how looters have also altered these sites.

In an appeal in 2012, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, pleaded for protection and preservation of the Syrian archeological and historic sites. UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes six Syrian sites to protect, namely Damascus, Aleppo, Palmyra, Bosra, the Crac des Chevaliers and Saladin’s Castle, and the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria. Unfortunately, today, all have been damaged to one degree or another. This does not mention the many sites in different areas of the Middle East that have already been damaged and/or destroyed.

Looting has become a popular way of funding the war, not through monetary means, but through weapon exchange for historical relics. For looters, war is good for them. They are able to buy or steal artifacts and antiquities cheap and then in-turn sell the weapons to the rebels at a higher cost. Furthermore, the Free Syrian Army battling against the Syrian President Bashar Assad, will begin funding an organization to dig up these artifacts and antiquities to in-turn give the rebels the weapons they need. The international black market has become a problem for those making a career out of trading the priceless artifacts for weapons.  

The preservation of these archeologicaland historic sites are indeed needing to be preserved in the culture of the Middle East and the ancestors that lie in these historical sites. The responsibility of keeping the preservation lies both on the military personnel conducting the destruction to the smugglers and the looters taking what isn’t theirs and handing it off to the rebels. As stated in a Time article, “criminal activity thrives in chaos, and the theft of antiquities for a rapacious international black market is no exception.” Indeed, the continuation of using drones to document these archaeological and historical sites will continue, however there is a greater issue at hand with the possible funding of war through the looting of artifacts and antiquities.   


Read More:

Damaged by War, Syria’s Cultural Sites Rise Anew in France

Syria’s Looted Past: How Ancient Artifacts Are Being Traded for Guns

A tale of two Syrias, told by drones

Looters Are Selling Artifacts to Fund War in Syria

Drones: Archaeology’s Newest Tool to Combat Looting

Conflict threatens Syria’s archaeological heritage 

Archaeological Victims of ISIS Rise Again, as Replicas in Rome

Thanks for sharing !

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