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Syrian Cultural Heritage in the Crossfire: Past, Present, and Continuity

  • 13 Mar 2013
  • 12:30 PM
  • Penn Museum, Philadelphia, PA
Abstract: Syria’s cultural heritage has fallen prey to conflict between regime militias and armed rebels taking place across the country. Damage to cultural heritage sites, including WHS, museums and cultural landscape has been documented by several associations/organizations. Both the regime army and the Free Syrian Army have exchanged accusations of the destruction of Syria’s heritage sites and used it for propaganda purposes. The regime blames the “terrorists” of the FSA for the looting, while the opposition emphasizes the military’s indiscriminate use of heavy artillery against historic sites where rebels are hiding. Despite the vocal condemnation for the destruction in the media, yet, a main concern for cultural heritage at this tragic time is considered by many ordinary Syrians as indifference to the losses of thousands of lives.

    While the destruction of the ancient past may seem insignificant compared with present-day atrocities, the irrecoverable damage to cultural heritage might have a severe impact on the cultural identity of the Syrians who survive this war. In this presentation I demonstrate how the damage to the Syrian cultural heritage is not merely the loss of magnificent historical monuments but rather an acute disruption of a dynamic past with its living historical places and traditions. With the end of the active combat and the start of recovery, there will be a psychological need to restore cultural heritage and re-establish the fundamental identity ties of the Syrian people to this heritage.

Speaker Bio: Salam Al Kuntar is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2009. Her research interests centre upon the archaeology of the Near East exploring a wide variety of themes such as ancient economy and urbanism, human mobility and cultural boundaries, forced migration, archaeology and cultural heritage. She has long worked for the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria and participated in numerous archaeological projects. She is the co-director of the Tell Hamoukar Project in northeast Syria.

For more information, email Sasha Renninger <sashafr@sas.upenn.edu>.

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