Byzantine mosaics discovered in Idlib during the Syrian conflict

The province of Idlib is well known for its archaeological sites, in particular, the sites dating back to the Roman and Byzantine periods; many are also registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Well preserved mosaics are found on several of these archaeological sites. Mosaics are a particularly important archaeological resource because of their iconography, durability and excellent survival rate providing insights into human work and creativity through the ages. It reflects the cultural and religious situation that prevailed in the area and provides important information about the sites and places where it was discovered, such as the history of the building and its function. During the war, and due to the absence of authorities protecting archaeological sites, illegal excavations and excavations spread widely, which resulted in the discovery of many mosaics in different locations. Security conditions prevented them from being documented and studied until now, and they are still at risk of looting and vandalism. This research aims to study six scenes from three unstudied mosaic floors that were discovered in Idlib province during the Syrian war, one of which was stolen, while the rest of the mosaics are still under threat and remain exposed to the same fate unless the necessary measures are taken to protect them. In this work we will examine the iconography of the mosaics, and we will compare the 3 mosaics with a number of mosaics discovered in the area, we will carry out a comparative analysis with mosaics from the area across a wide chronological range to see how they fit in the local context and compare mosaics of similar iconography from a wider geographical region. By focusing on the mosaics, this work also aims to highlight the divergent attitudes of local communities in northwest Syria to protect artifacts from looting and smuggling.

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