According to the Russian Ministry of Culture, on the cessation of hostilities in Syria, it will be imperative to launch restoration of the ruined Palmyra site damaged by ISIL. Russian archeologists have now gathered data for creating a unique 3D map of the antique city that will help with the restoration of ancient monuments in the ancient Syrian city.
Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, who is Director-General of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, visited Palmyra back in May, to witness what he described as a “situation there was awful”. Dr. Piotrovsky’s recommendation to the Culture Ministry to initiate the setting-up of a commission that will coordinate the restoration efforts at Palmyra:
“A very big number of people are taking part in an effort to remind the world, to raise alarm in the whole world in order to rally some sort of assistance to the restoration of Syrian monuments. A necessity to coordinate efforts is already ripe and that’s why I’d like to start off with an initiative to set up a special commission that will steer assistance to the restoration of monuments in Syria. It should include the archeologists who have already worked in Palmyra.”
For those unfamiliar, Palmyra (Tadmur in Arabic) was a significant oasis city at the crossroads of ancient trading routes in the Syrian Desert. At its zenith (from 1st century BC to the first three centuries AD) Palmyra was of significant commercial, military and religious importance. Archaeological finds in and around Palmyra date back to Neolithic times, while the city itself dates to the early second millennium BC. Like most ancient sites, Palmyra changed hands on a number of occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the Roman Empire in the first century AD. The wealth of the people of Palmyra allowed for the building of monumental projects, like the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs.
Islamic State militants destroyed and/or severely damaged many parts of Palmyra from May 2015 through to March 2016 when the city was under their control. The Syrian Observatory announced that on 30 August 2015, ISIL destroyed the Temple of Bel. Only the exterior walls of this and other extraordinary monuments exits now.
Today, Russian scientific and museum communities, and particularly the experts working for the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg offered assistance to the Syrian government and UNESCO in restoring the Palmyra monuments almost immediately after the IS had abandoned the place.