A Syrian archaeologist representing the Syrian Arab Republic’s Culture Ministry pleaded for international help for the preservation of his country’s cultural treasures during the 4th International Conference of the European Centre of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments currently held in Thessaloniki.
Archaeologist Hammam Saad said that the archaeology of northern Syria is in danger of obliteration unless the international community offers funding and other support.
"Universities and agencies in Damascus are short-staffed (...) and we cannot access them or record the damages." Archaeologists rely on witnesses to call in with information, he added.
"There are sites that have been levelled and the remaining monuments are used to train guerrillas. Some monuments were blown up and the (materials of the) monuments are being used to build new homes. Byzantine- and Roman-era mosaics have been broken off and smuggled mostly abroad through Turkey and Lebanon," he noted. "Local looting gangs are out of control. Some copy the broken-off monuments and sell imitation mosaics and statues as originals and war booty."