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.