Archaeologists Train "Monuments Men" to Save Syria's Past

Amid the devastation and danger of civil war, Syrian archaeologists and activists are risking their lives in the battle against looting.

The ancient city of Dura-Europos sits on a bluff above the Tigris River a few miles from Syria’s border with Iraq, its mud-brick walls facing a bleak expanse of desert. Just a year ago the city’s precise grid of streets—laid down by Greek and Roman residents 2,000 years ago—was largely intact. Temples, houses, and a substantial Roman outpost were preserved for centuries by the desert sands.

“It stood out for its remarkable preservation,” says Simon James, an archaeologist at the U.K.’s University of Leicester who spent years studying the site’s Roman garrison. “Until now.” Read more.


Archaeological Remains of the Synagogue at Dura Europos, near present-day Al-Salihiyah, Syria. x 

The Dura Europos synagogue is one of the oldest and best preserved synagogues in the Jewish diaspora discovered.  It was dated to between 165 and 200 CE, when Dura Europos was under Roman control, and served as a synagogue until Dura Europos was conquered by the Sassanid king Shapur I in 257 CE and its population was enslaved.  Its brightly colored walls depicted scenes from the Torah, such as Moses being fetched from the River Nile.  What remained of the synagogue has likely been destroyed with the rest of Dura Europos by ISIS in the ongoing Syrian Civil War; a conflict that has also killed over 250,000 Syrians.  The whereabouts of the paintings on the walls of the synagogue, which were last held in Damascus, are unknown.

To read more about the significance of the discovery of the synagogue in Dura Europos, click here.


Looting in Dura-Europos

Dura-Europos is an Ancient Roman Military city located in Syria along the Euphrates river. The site is best known for its multicultural population. The city had temples dedicated to Roman and Palmyrene gods and many multilingual inscriptions have been found throughout the site.  Additionally, the city contains a Jewish synagogue and the oldest Christian church in existence. Both structures date to the 3rd century CE.

In 2014 ISIS took control of the area and the site was severely looted. As of April 2014 it is estimated that over 76% of Dura-Europos has been damaged through mass looting. 


Moses and the Burning Bush, Moses receives the Tablets of the LawMoses reading the TorahMoses at Mount Nebo - Dura-Europos synagogue, Syria, c. 244 CE. Tempera over plaster. One of the oldest synagogues in the world, the Dura-Europos synagogue preserves some of the most precious and unique examples of Jewish art in history. These four portraits of Moses are found on the center of the synagogue’s western wall, above the Torah niche. Note his depiction with a square halo.

Dura-Europos painted wooden shield undergoes new analysis

Painted with scenes from the Trojan War, a Roman shield is being examined in great detail, 80 years after it was excavated. Dating back to the mid-third century A.D., it was discovered by Yale archaeologists at the site of Dura-Europos, in present-day Syria. The shield is one of three that were found stacked together at the excavation site, all of which are in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG).

The three oval painted shields “are extraordinarily rare examples of ancient painting techniques on wood,” says Anne Gunnison, assistant conservator of objects at YUAG.

Gunnison, Erin R. Mysak, associate conservation scientist at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH), and Irma Passeri, associate conservator of paintings at YUAG, have been analysing the materials used to make the shields, as well as identifying treatment materials used in the field to stabilize the objects following excavation. Read more.
It's time to end the EuroZone

This has to be the best analogy I’ve ever heard too. 

The EuroZone was doomed to fail from the beginning. 

Never mind Spain or Italy or even Belgium; the euro crisis has spread to Germany, which is struggling to sell its bonds. The Corner’s Mark Steyn likes to say that, if you take a quart of ice cream and a quart of dog faeces and mix ’em together, the result will generally taste more like the latter than the former. It’s true of international organizations (the context Mark uses) and it’s true of what’s happening in the euro zone.

EU leaders have spent the past year issuing sententious bromides about “avoiding contagion.” It’s an odd metaphor, since the usual defence against contagion is quarantine. Eurocrats, however, have insisted on taking Italy and Greece’s problems and making them everyone else’s. Result? The only economic havens in Europe are those outside the single currency: Switzerland, Scandinavia, and (oddly, when you consider that our deficit is higher than Portugal’s and almost as high as Greece’s) the United Kingdom.

From the beginning, the Brussels elites made it clear that, to adapt Abraham Lincoln, their paramount object was to save the Union. Never mind if that meant imposing epochal poverty and emigration on the southern members, and unprecedented tax rises on the northern. Never mind if it meant toppling the elected prime ministers of Italy and Greece and replacing them with Eurocrats (respectively a former European Commissioner and a former vice president of the European Central Bank — two perfect specimens of the people who caused the crisis in the first place). They were prepared to pay any price to keep the euro together — or, more precisely, to expect their peoples to pay, since EU employees are generally exempt from national taxation.

The alternative policy — an orderly unbundling of the euro — has never been seriously considered. Had it happened two years ago, a great deal of pain might have been avoided. If it happens now, there will be a cost, but it is still patently the least bad option.

Europos Parkas world of art

Huge open-air art museum made by young sculptor about 25 years ago is an amazing “to-see” destination. Coming here you should rent a bike and discover 50 hectares of park zone that are covered in pieces of art. Lithuanians made a very useful museum! It helps to lose some weight and get inspired at the same time!