Syria’s year-long revolt has exposed to looting and destruction the country’s archaeological treasures, including the ancient city of Palmyra and the Greco-Roman ruins of Apamea, experts warn.
Most vulnerable are strife-torn areas that have fallen outside the full control of the regime where looters have already targeted museums, excavation sites and monuments, they say.
“In the past three to four months there has been a lot of looting,” said Hiba al-Sakhel, director of museums in Syria.
“In Apamea, we have a video showing looters removing mosaics with drills,” she said. “And in Palmyra there is a lot of looting and clandestine digging.”
Sakhel said other historical sites across the country have fallen prey to looters who are taking advantage of the violence that has swept the country for more than a year to pilfer antiquities.
She said although the practice has been ongoing for years, the pace has increased as a result of the unrest, which has left many sites unprotected and inaccessible.
“Syria has not been fully searched by archaeologists so wherever you dig you make a find,” Sakhel said. “I believe those doing the looting are locals drawn by profit and who care little about the importance of the country’s heritage.”