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Tuesday 7th December at 6:00pm GMT (English) hosted by Adnan Almohamad

The destruction of cultural heritage in Syria: The case of Shash Hamdan Tomb in the Upper Euphrates, 1995–2020.(English)

The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Syria: The case of Shash Hamdan Tomb 1 in the Upper Euphrates, 1995–2020

Adnan Almohamad

The site of Shash Hamdan is located on the Syrian Euphrates and includes impressive Roman-era rock-cut tombs. This article documents the extent of the damage to one of those tombs, Tomb 1 (T1), by comparing the evidence published by an Australian archaeological expedition in 1998 with images collected between 2006 and 2016, as well as with a new survey that was undertaken in 2020. Interviews with those who live near the site were also conducted to identify the causes leading to the destruction of the tomb. This study explores the factors that have contributed to the damage of cultural heritage sites before and during the Syrian conflict. Our work revealed these unique Roman tombs had all suffered from looting, damage and neglect long before the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. However, damage to Tomb 1, the focus of this study, had increased to alarming levels over the conflict period. The study interviews, conducted with members of the local community, provided helpful insights into local attitudes towards cultural heritage. Although they demonstrated awareness of the importance of cultural heritage and the need to protect it, this awareness was not born out of practice, with the main causes being widespread poverty, neglect, marginalisation and unemployment, added to which the absence of educational and protection programmes and corruption, over the 50 years of the Assad family’s rule. This, coupled with ignorance of the laws and religious teachings on cultural heritage, have all served to weaken the relationship between the local communities and their cultural heritage.