Every war takes its toll on the surrounding area, inflicting not just loss of life but damage to the economy and infrastructure — and in a country like Syria, monuments that have stood for millennia can be counted among the casualties. Archaeologists, seeing the devastation spreading as the three-year civil war continues, are banding together to save what they can of the country's rich and extensive history — like real life "Monuments Men" (and women).
"There are a number of Syrians who regularly risk their lives to protect their cultural heritage," Brian Daniels, of the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Cultural Heritage Center, said in a press release. The center, along with organizations like the Smithsonian Institution, the International Council on Monuments and Sites and Syria's own Heritage for Peace, are working to provide locals with the tools and knowledge they need to save artifacts, buildings, art and other precious items from destruction or theft. Looting is rampant and shelling indiscriminate, destroying monasteries and temples as well as buildings like old marketplaces that saw daily use. With luck (and training) the volunteers may be able to prevent a few of these from being destroyed.
- Why extreme Islamists are intent on destroying cultural artifacts
- How Terrorists Tap a Black Market Fueled by Stolen Antiquities
- Archaeologists Discover Lost Cities in Cold War Spy Imagery