These satellite images document the scale of destruction that looters continue to inflict on archaeological heritage sites during the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Looting at archaeological sites destroys irreplaceable evidence of life and society in the ancient world. In the case of Syria, this evidence has helped researchers understand important historical developments such as the beginnings of agriculture and cities, the rise and fall of empires, and the development and spread of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Syria’s rich archaeological corpus includes several ancient settlements on the UNESCO World Heritage List and Tentative List and many others that help us understand the mosaic of human history. Dura Europos This unique Classical-period site, founded in the 3rd century BC and occupied until the 3rd century AD, demonstrates the diversity of the ancient Middle East. One of the world’s earliest churches was discovered here, as was one of the oldest preserved synagogues and numerous temples devoted to polytheistic deities. This important site of approximately 150 acres (60 hectares) is now covered by looters’ pits.
Mari Mari was an important city in the Early and Middle Bronze Ages (ca. 3000-1600 BC). Excavations have recovered cuneiform archives as well as the remains of the famous “palace of Zimri-lim,” which was destroyed by Hammurabi of Babylon in the mid-18th century BC. Looters here have sunk several pits in the area of Zimri-lim’s palace and at other places in the city center.
Tell Sheikh Hamad In the late 2nd millennium BC (beginning around 1350 BC), this site served as the regional capital of Assyria’s western provinces; in the 1st millennium BC, it was an important administrative center in the Assyrian empire. Looting here has focused on the citadel area, as well as parts of the lower town.