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Announcing the Forthcoming Publication of Lamb’s “Syria’s Endangered Heritage An International Responsibility to Protect and Preserve”

The past four years of war in Syria have taken a toll-upon a people and a nation, as well as upon an inordinately rich cultural heritage that has come under attack also. Churches, mosques, historical neighborhoods and monuments, archaeological sites_ all have been hit, and in some cases quite hard, Dr. Franlin Lamb, writes in his forthcoming book.

 Lamb’s “Syria’s Endangered Heritage”, scheduled for publication in early 2015, looks at the past four years of war from two unique perspectives. It documents destruction at heritage sites throughout the country, the ruin and devastation wrought by thieves, religious extremists and black marketers. Yet it also examines the resolve of the Syrian people, many of whom have come together in concerted efforts to preserve the past. The book, for instance, tells the story of a group of Syrian students, supervised by two trained archaeologists, who worked  to restore a 1400-year-old mosaic hit by a mortar shell, and it relates also efforts by the courageous staff of DGAM, the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums, to safeguard ancient artifacts in some of the most dangerous areas of country. And perhaps most importantly of all, the book outlines concrete steps the international community can, and must, take-nay the very genuine obligation it bears-to assist the Syrian people in curtailing the onslaught upon their national heritage and identity.

The following are excerpts from Dr. Lamb’s coming book:

We exerts more than a human cost. Since the outbreak of hostilities in Syria in the spring of 2011, the country’s cultural heritage sites have sustained repeated attacks, depredations and deliberate defacements. Museums have been pillaged, historical monuments have been damaged or destroyed, while archaeological sites in areas of the country outside of government control have been gouged and lacerated with illegal excavations, often carried out  by mafia-like gangs using heavy equipment, resulting in the plunder of artifacts_artifacts that in turn are smuggled out of the country, ending up in many cases in auction houses in places like London and New York.

Blatant violations of international laws occur, while officials in the countries of transit or final destination often turn a blind eye. The result is a grievous and ongoing assault upon Syria’s cultural heritage, which is the world’s cultural heritage.

So writes the book’s author, Dr. Franklin Lamb, in the opening chapter.

Syria cultural heritage is indeed the world’s cultural heritage, and Lamb himself a longtime resident of the Middle East_notes the rather exceptional, almost unique position the country holds among nations as keeper and steward of humanity’s collective past:

For many centuries the people of Syria and their institutions of government have been the protectors and custodians of much of our world’s heritage. Sites exist throughout the country containing antiquities, priceless treasures, from ancient Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman civilizations, dating back millennia. But today this rich heritage is under serious threat. In the vies of Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, damage to the heritage of a country “is damage to the soul of its people and its identity”. Yet heritage destruction in Syria affects us all. If we think of human history collectively as a lepidopteron, drifting lazily from the flower of the Neolithic past, into the age of proto-writing, and finally early recorded history, then Syria and the Fertile Crescent stand out perhaps unique among regions of the earth. And damage to its soul is damage to our entire identity as a species.

Maher taki