The head of UNESCO sounded an alarm about widespread illegal archeological excavations across war-ravaged Syria on Friday, saying the U.N. cultural, education and science arm has warned auction houses, museums and collections about the problem.
More than 100,000 people have died in Syria’s 2 1/2-year civil war, which has forced millions to flee their homes and created a massive humanitarian crisis. In addition to the loss of life and destruction of property, UNESCO says Syria’s cultural heritage - and reporters trying to the cover the war - are increasingly under threat.
"The biggest danger there, apart from the destruction we have seen of the world heritage sites … is the illicit archeological excavations," Irina Bokova, head of Paris-based UNESCO, told reporters. "This is something that is not very high on the radar of the international community." Read more.
A victim of its own success and fragility, the World Heritage site of Petra is currently under assessment to limit the safety risks it poses to both tourists and its local population.
A two-and-a-half year UNESCO project, which was launched in July 2012 to monitor the slopes in the Siq as a response to the instability of its sandstone rocks, unearthed other underlying challenges facing the site, according to UNESCO.
Monitoring devices have been installed to identify and document the most unstable areas in the Siq, the 1.2-kilometre path leading to the iconic Treasury, and will result in the creation of a set of guidelines to better manage the site and mitigate risk. Read more.
The theatre stage in the ancient city of Hierapolis in the western province of Denizli is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, perceived as one of the beautiful traces left today from Roman times. The excavations in the area are still revealing ancient artifacts.
The head of the excavations Raffaello D’Adria, an academic in the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy, said that the excavations in Hierapolis started in 1957 and the theatre was found in 1974. D’Adria added that he had been the director of the excavations for 13 years and the renovations that were started in the theatre were only completed last month. Read more.
Islamic radicals destroyed 4,000 ancient manuscripts during their occupation of Timbuktu, according to the findings of a United Nations expert mission.
The damage amounts to about one-tenth of the manuscripts that were being stored in the fabled northern city. The majority of the documents dating back to the 13th century were saved by the devotion of the library’s Malian custodians, who spirited them out of the occupied city in rice sacks, on donkey carts, by motorcycle, by boat and by 4-by-4.
Officials are currently trying to determine how many of those documents were digitized prior to their destruction or disappearance, said David Stehl, program specialist in the cultural section of UNESCO, the U.N. body that added Timbuktu’s monuments to its list of World Heritage sites in 1988. Read more.
With UNESCO urging the Italian government to speed up repairs in Pompeii, the country’s culture minister assured the United Nations organization that the country will not be abandoning the long-neglected Roman city and efforts are being made to restore it.
Giovanni Puglisi, head of the UNESCO National Commission in Italy, on Saturday warned the government that it “has until December 31 to adopt suitable measures for Pompeii,” before a progress assessment by the organisation next February.
In a January report, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization documented structural shortcomings and light damage at the 44-hectare (110-acre) site in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, where collapses have sparked international concern. Read more.
Qatar’s Archaeological site of Al Zubarah town and its cultural landscape was inscribed on the World Heritage List on Saturday during the 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) here.
It is the first Qatar property being added to the World Heritage List.
According to the UNESCO’s document, the archaeological site of Al-Zubarah town is the largest area of early human presence in Qatar. It is located in the northwest of the peninsula, between the Zubarah fort and the sea and consists of an old fortified coastal town.
Now completely abandoned, the site has cast light on the history of the country and its people, showing evidence of a long- standing community where rich oyster banks and trading connections in and beyond the Gulf ensured prosperity, the document said. Read more.
UNESCO on Thursday added six ancient sites in Syria including a fortress of Saladin and a Crusader castle to the endangered World Heritage list, warning that more than two years of civil war had inflicted heavy damage.
"Due to the armed conflict situation in Syria, the conditions are no longer present to ensure the conservation and protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the six World Heritage properties,” UNESCO said.
Syria has six World Heritage Sites: the ancient cities of Damascus, Bosra and Aleppo, the oasis of Palmyra, the castles of Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din—which counts as one site—and the ancient villages of northern Syria. Read more.
PHNOM PENH - Iran’s ancient citadel of Bam, almost completely destroyed by a major earthquake in 2003, has been removed from the UNESCO list of “World Heritage in Danger”, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee, which began its annual session in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on Sunday, said there had been improvements in the site’s management and conservation.
The “remains of the desert citadel, which reached its apogee from the 7th to 11th centuries, had been sufficiently stabilized and its management was sound enough for the site to be declared safe,” UNESCO said in a statement. Read more.