TELL MARDIKH, Syria — Ali Shibleh crawled through a two-foot-high tunnel until reaching a slightly larger subterranean space. He swung his flashlight’s beam into the dark.
A fighter opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, Mr. Shibleh was roaming beneath Ebla, an ancient ruin that for several decades has been one of Syria’s most carefully studied and publicly celebrated archaeological sites. He had just made another of his many finds: he lifted something resembling a dried stick, then squeezed it between his fingers and thumb.
It broke with a powdery snap. “This is human bone,” he said.
Across much of Syria, the country’s archaeological heritage is imperiled by war, facing threats ranging from outright destruction by bombs and bullets to opportunistic digging by treasure hunters who take advantage of the power vacuum to prowl the country with spades and shovels. Read more.