Looting of museums and warehouses in Syria

**Warning - October 2013 - Looting of warehouse containing artifacts from Heraqla archaeological site

Sources in Syria report that the warehouse containing artifacts from the Heraqla archaeological site, located near the city of Raqqa in Syria, has been looted by an armed group. Hundreds of objects made of gypsum, mosaics and pottery, the result of many years of excavation missions, and of important historical and scientific significance, have been stolen.

The warehouse had come under repeated attacks in recent months by armed groups determined on looting its contents, but had been successfully repelled by guards and volunteers from the local community, intent on protecting their cultural heritage.

In order to safeguard Syrian heritage, the remaining contents of the warehouse have been moved to a safe place in coordination with local authorities.**

Aleppo © UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

The museums in Syria are a cause for concern. Most of the damage to museums has occurred in the north-western region of the country, where there have been incidences of looting of valuable cultural property, and many works of art are currently unaccounted for. A large number of museums have also had their infrastructure damaged as a result of being caught in the middle of armed conflict.

Raqqa Museum and Citadel of Jaabar

In the city of Raqqa, it is alleged that a group posing as security personnel removed a number of crates containing significant archaeological objects from the museum’s warehouse under the false pretext of moving the crates to a secure storage facility. Several Syrian sources have reported the return of 3 of the crates.

A number of ceramic objects have been stolen from an exhibition hall in the historic Citadel of Jaabar, a short distance to the west of the city of Raqqa

Museum of Hama

Recovered crates from Raqqa Museum © UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

According to sources in Syria, the well-known regional Museum of Hama situated in the town of Hama, north-west region of Syria, has fallen victim to looters. Notably, an intricate gilt bronze statue (see picture), dating back to the Aramaean era, is currently reported as missing, and there are growing fears it may be trafficked out of Syria to international markets.

Bronze statue © UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

Museum of Folklore in Aleppo

To the north of Hama, the city of Aleppo has also seen its cultural heritage fall in the hands of looters. The Museum of Folklore has reported the theft of historical pieces including glassware, Baghdadi daggers, spears and other significant items. Aleppo’s close proximity to the Turkish border, increases the risks of cross-border trafficking in cultural property.

Maarrat Museum

The city of Maarrat, located between Aleppo and Hama, has had its museum, the Maarrat Museum, stormed by an armed group, causing much destruction and stealing more than 30 pieces of art, according to Syrian sources. Pieces, including small clay dolls and statues, are still missing today. Fortunately, all the mosaics in the museum are safe and unscathed apart from structural damage to the museum due to clashes in the region.

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