Due to ongoing violence and conflict in country, guards are no longer able to protect the area
Damascus – George Al Shami
Archaeological sites in Syria have suffered a recent spate of robberies and illicit digging. In the northern Deir Ez-Zor province, the Halabiye site was robbed and thieves carried out secret digs at the Dura-Europos
and Mari sites. Boukmal's only Armenian church has meanwhile been destroyed, but the Maarat al-Nu'man Museum curator has been reported as saying the museum's treasures are "untouched."
A report published on the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria's (DGAM) website reveals that archaeologists and locals in the Deir Ez-Zor province reported that antiquities thieves have been carrying out illicit digs and plundering the Halabiye site for days. They are said to have cleaned out the tickets room of all its contents and stolen the equipment belonging to the Syrian-French joint archaeological expedition operating at the site as well as the towers' large, iron gates.
As guards no longer protect the area due to the deadly violence raging there, the site is the subject of constantly illegal digs. The efforts of the nearby village community to stop the plundering have been fruitless as the thieves are armed. The locals had kept the site safe from until the end of January, but illicit digging appears to have intensified in Deir ez-Zor recently, as evidenced by developments at the, Halabiye, Dura-Europos and Mari sites.
Archaeologists have also indicated that Boukmal's only Armenian church — an early 20th century building made of stone, mud and plaster — has been destroyed.
The Aleppo Directorate of Antiquities and Museums has reported the departure of militants who had broken into the Aleppo Museum of Folk Traditions and stayed inside briefly until the Syrian army returned to the premises. The directorate says it is waiting for its employees to come back to the site to take a thorough inventory of the pieces, but it is certain the items are still secure in their hiding places.
A previous report by the directorate had revealed that a wall at the Eastern Museum had sustained damage from an explosive package and the iron gates had also been blown up.
The Deir ez-Zor Directorate of Antiquities and Museums meanwhile said antiquities thieves were still carrying illicit digs at the Dura-Europos and Mari sites. The report published on the government body's website and dated January 30 2013 said violence made detailed studies difficult and admitted to relying on guards' reports and sources in the local community.
On the conflicting reports in Idlib province that the Maarat al-Nu'man Museum had been robbed, the Maara antiquities authority told Arabstoday that the museum's curator had successfully arranged a visit to the museum with the help of contacts among city elders. He apparently said the precious antiquities' hiding places had been "untouched."
The curator said he could neither confirm nor deny reports that some ceramics and statuettes had been stolen from the museum as inventory needs to be carried out first, which he said is currently impossible. "Alternatively, these pieces may be seized, proving they had been stolen" he concluded.