According to a recent report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), five out of six of Syria’s Unesco World Heritage sites have been significantly damaged by the country’s civil war. Based on analysis of satellite images by the researchers historic structures across the country, including ancient mosques, government buildings and castles show signs of destruction with some reduced to rubble. According to the report the only site that appears to remain relatively unscathed is the ancient city of Damascus.
The city of Allepo is perhaps one of the worst sites of destruction. The northern Syrian city, which dates back to 2,000BC, has seen some of the heaviest fighting of the civil war. By analysis of images captured in 2011 and then again in 2014, reveal damage to the city’s Great Mosque – one of Aleppo’s most famous cultural sites, researchers have reported the major destruction.The Masque’s 50m-tall Seljuk minaret, dating from 1095 which was considered one of the most important monuments of medieval Syria, collapsed as a result of shelling in March. There are also two large craters along the mosque’s eastern wall. In addition, there is also significant damage to the south of Aleppo’s citadel, the location of many historical government buildings. Between December 2011 and August 2014, the city’s Khusriwiye Mosque was demolished and the Grand Serail – the former seat of the Aleppo governor – was heavily damaged as reported by AAAS and BBC.
Other sites which have been destroyed include the dome of the 15th Century Hammam Yalbougha an-Nasry which was one of Syria’s finest bathhouses, as well as the the ancient city of Bosra, located in the southern Daara governorate which contains ruined buildings from the Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods.
Palmyra’s Greco-Roman and Persian ruins, located in the middle of the Syrian desert, were one of Syria’s main tourist attractions before the conflict. Satellite image analysis has revealed how the site and its surrounding area including its Roman theatre have suffered from the effects of shelling, activity by snipers as well as the presence of rocket launchers and tanks. There are also persistent reports of looting as BBC reports. The ancient sites of northern Syria, comprising eight parks and a total of 40 villages, have suffered due to their close proximity to a key Turkish border crossing, used as the entry point for supplies.
For satellite images and analysis, visit the American Association for the Advancement of Science report page.
As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, Kanazawa University has started working on a project helping to conserve the world-famous Ifugo Rice Terraces in the Philippines from further degradation. It is believed that the World Heritage site is at risk because few local people understand what is entailed to keep the terraces pristine.
Kanazawa University initiated joint training sessions with the University of the Philippines and Ifugao State University. The spectacular rice terraces in the northern Philippine island of Luzon were created some 2,000 years ago. But an exodus of young people to the cities left the area with few people to preserve the complicated agricultural system, making it difficult to find successors for the older generation who can no longer work in the fields.
The terraces located in remote areas of the Philippine Cordillera mountain range in Ifugao province cover about 20,000 hectares, making them among the world’s largest. The sight of tens of thousands of terraces built on mountain slopes at elevations of between 700 meters and 1,500 meters are so impressive that the site became known as “stairs to heaven.”
The rice terraces were inscribed in 1995 on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list as “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.” But soon after that the terraces fell into a state of dilapidation as land development projects expanded in surrounding areas and local people spent less and less time attending to the delicate agricultural ecosystem that makes the site the marvel it is today. As a result, the terraces were included on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the agency in 2001. However, thanks to subsequent conservation activities by the local administrations and universities, the terraces were removed from the danger list in 2012. But there is still more work to be done and more local people are needed in order to continue to take care of terraces.
Kanazawa University has now decided to set up a three-year to train local people interested in learning and acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge on how to sustain the rice terraces.
As reported recently by AllAfrica website, in a ceremony attended by government officials as well as UNESCO World Heritage official for the Africa region, the registration was announced.
As stated by the secretary of State for Culture, Cornélio Caley, that the project to register the capital city of the northern Zaire province with UNESCO’s World Heritage list aims, among other purposes, at the rescue of Angola’s African-ness and cultural identity.
The secretary headed a delegation comprising national experts and UNESCO officials for the Africa region stressing that the project “Mbanza Congo” intends to disclose the historical past of this ancient capital of the Congo Kingdom. Secretary Caley spoke at the end of the ceremony of handover by the Government of a facility to serve as an office for the drafting of the application for Mbanza Congo as a World Heritage to be submitted to UNESCO in January 2015.
He added that once the phase of archaeological excavations are completed, the next step will be to gather the elements for all specialists involved like historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and architects, to contribute with ideas to the drafting of the application. At the same time, the foreign experts were asked to help with the discovery of documents related to the history of Mbanza Congo.