Islamic State militants have locked Palmyra’s museum and placed guards outside its doors, days after seizing the ancient city, Iraqi officials say.
Antiquities director Maamoun Abdulkarim said they had destroyed some modern plaster statues and also raised their flag on the ancient castle overlooking the Roman ruins.
Most of the museum’s antiquities had been transferred to Damascus, he said.
Dr David Roberts of King’s College, London has thoughts on the destruction of ancient sites and their treasures.
In Syria alone, the Great Mosque and the Citadel in Aleppo, the castle of every child’s imagination at Crac des Chevaliers, and the ancient city of Bosra have been damaged or destroyed.
Arguably Syria’s most impressive and arresting site, the sprawling ruins at Palmyra (Tadmur to Syrians), is now under Islamic State control and many fear the worst.
Having visited Palmyra and these other sites while studying Arabic at Damascus University back in 2007, I am far from alone in feeling that something truly terrible is happening.
That these symbols from a bygone era might be destroyed by modern-day barbarian forces when they have survived for hundreds or even thousands of years seems somehow deeply offensive and wrong.
He also talks about the fact that stones are not people and it may seem grotesque to pay attention to stones when so many people are being killed or enslaved or otherwise damaged. He suggests reasons why the stones matter anyway.
Some reasons in addition to the ones he mentions – they’re our common heritage, they are a way of introducing us to each other. They’re a sign of human creativity and sense of beauty or wonder or adventure or many other things beyond survival or a full stomach. They could well outlast us.