In DepthArchaeology

Tallying the losses in Palmyra

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Science  08 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6282, pp. 130-131
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6282.130

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Summary

Archaeologists are getting their first look at how a nearly year-long occupation by the group known as the Islamic State (IS) has affected the World Heritage Site of Palmyra in Syria. Government forces retook the historic city late last month, and although satellite images and recent photos show substantial damage to the city's ancient art and architecture—some of it deliberate—researchers are encouraged that the destruction was not worse. "I'm cautiously optimistic," says Michael Danti of the American Schools of Oriental Research, a scholarly organization based in Boston, which this week released an assessment of the damage. Officials are already discussing plans to restore damaged sites to their former glory. But some experts disagree about how restoration should proceed, whereas others worry that such talk is premature given that the IS group still poses a threat to the city and that there is no end in sight to the 5-year-old Syrian conflict. "Things in Palmyra went from frying pan to fire, and now it's back to frying pan," Danti says.

  • * Zach Zorich is a journalist based in Fort Collins, Colorado.