Islamic State destroys temple at Palmyra ruins in Syria

Islamic State militants have destroyed a temple at Syria's ancient ruins of Palmyra, activists said Sunday, realizing the worst fears archaeologists had for the 2,000-year-old Roman-era city after the extremists seized it and beheaded a local scholar, AP reported.

Palmyra, one of the Middle East's most spectacular archaeological sites and a UNESCO World Heritage site, sits near the modern Syrian city of the same name. Activists said the militants used explosives to blow up the Baalshamin Temple on its grounds, the blast so powerful it also damaged some of the Roman columns around it.

Barbaric killing of Syrian Archaeologist!

The news that a prominent Syrian scholar has been brutally murdered by Islamic State terrorists has hit the arts community hard -- and has been condemned by Syria's antiquities chief, Maamoun Abdul Karim, as a "cowardly and criminal act of appalling brutality."

But the beheading of the 82-year-old Khaled Asaad , an archaeologist and researcher who for half a century has served as guardian of the exquisite ancient ruins at Palmyra, also demonstrates the great uncertainty facing the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site, Los Angeles Times reported.

Asaad's barbaric killing  is not a good omen for the future of this singular ancient city, an important Silk Road hub that bears Greco-Roman, Persian, Indian, Chinese and other influences -- some of which date back more than two millennia. Scholars around the world have been on edge about its future since May, when Islamic State militants invaded the area, killing hundreds of local residents. The terrorists are known as much for their violence against humans as for their destruction of historic sites -- from pre-Islamic pagan temples to Muslim shrines -- under the pretense that they are idolatrous.

Mosaic Tablet Found in Barada Valley

DAMASCUS, (ST) - A specialized team representing the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums said that the people in the town of Burhliya located in Damascus countryside at Wadi (River) Barada had found a mosaic tablet by accident and informed the authorities about its existence. The tablet has been documented  and transferred to the National Museum in Damascus where it will be restored, studied and qualified to be displayed in the museum.

Ancient parasite egg found in Syria

London, (ST) In a new finding, the egg of a parasite that still infects people today was found in the burial plot of a child who lived 6,200 years ago in what is now known as Syria.

"We found the earliest evidence for a parasite (that causes) Schistosomiasis in humans," Piers Mitchell, biological anthropologist at University of Cambridge in Britain, was quoted as saying.

The parasite's egg was found in the area around Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where some of the first irrigation techniques were invented about 7,500 years ago.

Symposium on “Syria’s Ancient Ruins and Civilization”

The Arab Cultural Centre in Jaramana recently hosted a symposium on “Syria’s Ancient Ruins and Civilization” with the participation of researchers Iman al-Hourani and Mu’taz Rafe’i. The two researchers cast light on some important sides of Syria’s great civilization and its crucial contribution to human civilization in various domains.

Researcher al-Hourani underlined the importance of Syria’s history and its geographical location referring that Syria’s civilization dates back to 10.000 years. She stressed that most archaeological studies proved that Syria is the cradle of human civilization, pointing out that the development of agriculture in Syria meant settled communities. Tribes and peoples began to prefer agriculture to hunting and with the appearance of bronze and copper tools, agriculture developed quickly. Along with the development in agriculture came a development in trade, as urbanized communities began to engage in various economic activities. In this land, Man discovered the secrets of Agriculture and Metallurgy, and invented the very first alphabet.  The lecturer added that religions, Philosophies, language of trade, systems of urban development, of diplomatic and cultural exchange; all these germinated in geographical Syria.  She reviewed Syria’s main contribution to human civilization, especially the discovery of the first alphabet and the first music piece. 

In turn, Rafe’i talked about Mari Kingdom and its diverse contributions to human civilization in various spheres. He also shed light on Ebla’s kingdom and its civilization. The Great Kingdoms of Ebla and Mari are the sites of where the invention of writing began. Found in both are tablets of Cuneiform writing, the royal archives that contributed to unveiling important information about social, economic and political life in ancient times. These kingdoms lasted about 1000 years due to their cultural development, their rising trade with both Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean, and due to the irrigation of the Euphrates. Both of these kingdoms were taken over by the Acadians from Mesopotamia and then by the Amorites at the end of this period. This period also saw the rise of Ugarit where the oldest written alphabet in the world is believed to have been developed. Ugarit and Byblos grew to become powerful commercial centres.

One part of his lecture was devoted to Palmyra and its fundamental trade role between the East and the West. The lecture  talked about Queen Zenobia who assumed power on regency of her son after the death of her husband Oedenthius. She defied the Romans and achieved several victories against them expanding her empire eastward and westward. But in the end, the Roman emperor Aurlien achieved victory against Zenobia taking her a captive to Rome. Many legends and stories have been woven around the fate of Zenobia in Rome, one of them is that Aurlien himself admired her character and married her.

He also talked about Damascus seven gates, the Umayyad Mosque and the ancient churches of Damascus, referring to the interaction between Muslims and Christians in Syria over various ages and the peaceful co-existence Syria enjoys since time immemorial.

K.Q.