Even though I’ve been wandering along the internet superhighway for a couple of decades, I still marvel at the communication opportunities it offers which would have boggled the minds of folks even three decades ago. Outside of several instances of me watching assorted international sporting events from my comfy chair in Southern Ontario while chatting about same with fellow-Classicist Terrence Lockyer in South Africa, yesterday’s events are a prime example. As folks know, I had mentioned the looting of 18 mosaics depicting scenes from the Odyssey in my Explorator newsletter and here at rogueclassicism (Odyssey Mosaics Stolen!!!) . In the latter format, I noted how it was rather strange that none of the reports (and the AFP item spawned quite a bit of coverage) mention where or when these things were looted. So after posting all that, I went out to run some errands prior to visiting my mother in hospital (she’s fine) and was sitting down for a hamburger lunch and was reading through my twitter feed. Our friend Dorothy King (of PhDiva and Lootbusters fame) is currently sojourning in Istanbul and mentioned that the stories of looting at Hamas were less-than-accurate. And so began a twitter/email conversation between two Classics/Archaeologist bloggers, neither of whom were in their ‘home port’ about some mosaics in Syria.
As Dr King mentioned, these mosaics don’t seem to have been recently stolen. They are already in Interpol’s database and were taken from the Hama museum in Apamea last year, it seems (if I’m reading Interpol’s news release from May of 2012 correctly). There are several pages of photos at the Lootbusters site …
An article in Time magazine last September was one of many news reports suggesting antiquities were being sold to fund the rebels (Syria’s Looted Past: How Ancient Artifacts Are Being Traded for Guns). That said, however, the clearly deliberate vagaries of the most recent announcement suggest that Syria’s ‘official’ channels are clearly playing up the looting aspect to gain political points in the Western media and as such, cause me to genuinely wonder who is doing the looting, the extent of it, and for what purposes. Indeed, in yesterday’s post we mentioned that many of the articles about this ‘Odyssey’ incident were accompanied by a photo of rebels sitting under a Roman mosaic … here’s the photo:
… what is being implied? The France24 coverage also includes this one:
Some poking around suggests these photos come from the Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man, which appears to have been shelled, like many museums in Syria. There’s a very interesting facebook page: Le patrimoine archéologique syrien en danger which has a number of other photos of this particular museum, e.g., this page from three months ago: Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man … and this one: Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man, which includes a photo of the museum six months ago prior to the shelling (and it includes a photo of the mosaic the rebels are sitting beneath). The photos are also at the facebook page of the Musée de Ma’aret el-Nu’man. Some photos from ‘more peaceful times’ are available here. Clearly, this museum is full of mosaics. Has it been looted? Or have the rebels been actually protecting it? I really don’t want to venture an opinion on this, but we’re clearly not getting the full story and judgement must be suspended on what’s being pillaged, when, and by whom.
UPDATE (a few hours later): here’s Dorothy King’s views: Syria … Looting?
Just this a.m. in our Explorator newsletter we were mentioning how looting of antiquities was funding the revolution in Syria … and now my spiders bring in some horrible news from AFP via the Global Post:
At least 18 ancient mosaics depicting scenes from Homer’s “The Odyssey” have been stolen in northern Syria, the culture minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.
“These mosaics were stolen during illegal excavations” on archaeological sites in the war-torn country’s northeast, Lubana Mushaweh said in an interview published on Sunday by the government daily Tishreen.
“We have been informed that these mosaics are now on the Syrian-Lebanese border,” she said without elaborating.
As the nearly two-year Syrian revolt has morphed into an armed insurgency, experts say fierce fighting and deteriorating security have left the country’s extraordinary archaeological heritage susceptible to damage and prey to a rising number of looters.
The minister said that an Aramaic gold-plated bronze statue was stolen from the Hama museum, a raging front in the war between loyalist troops and rebels.
Mushaweh admitted that her ministry faced great difficulties in “safeguarding 10,000 historical sites scattered around Syria,” cautioning against illegal excavations “which could damage some sites and buried cities.”
But she insisted that museums across the country were “well guarded” and “their prized possessions for all humanity have been archived and placed in very secure locations”.
… I can’t track down from what museum or site these were stolen from (“illegal excavations”) and if they were already known or not … the only photos that seem to accompany articles are some rebels sitting under a Roman mosaic that I don’t think (or hope) is related …
This one from Sify/ANI is annoyingly lacking in details … I can’t find a name for al-Bahred in ancient times, but it seems to be the right distance away from Apamea to be a mansio at least …:
Archaeologists have unearthed an archaeological temple dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
They have also found a stone-made bridge dating back to the Roman era.
The findings were uncovered in the village of al-Bared River, 20 kms to the west north of Apamea, central Syrian Province of Hama, reports the Global Arab Network.
According to Director of Hama Antiquities Department, Jamal Ramadan, the temple was built in Hellenistic architectural style, of 210-centimeters long and 170-cenetimeters wide stones inscribed from their internal side.
The unearthed stone-made bridge dates back to the Roman Era, and is 10-meter long and 3-meter wide with three asymmetric arches.
Not quite enough details in this one for my liking:
Idleb Antiquities Department has unearthed a Roman-era cemetery dating back to the 3rd century AD in al-Massasia Valley, north of Darkoush town, in the northern Province of Idleb (Northern Syria).
Head of the Syrian Archaeological Excavations Department Musstafa Kaddour said that the cemetery consists of three sarcophaguses, two of them are two-meter long by half a meter wide and another smaller.
All were covered with stone slabs inside the cemetery.
Excavations indicate that the cemetery belongs to one family as many clay and glass jars and some precious stones were discovered.
A flat seal which belongs to the cemetery’s owner was also found.
Darkoush is a very important tourist site in Idleb Province. It contains a number of archaeological monuments in addition to a Roman bridge over River Orontes.