Violence In Syria Threatens World Cultural Heritage

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The list of cultural heritage sites under threat from violence in Syria is staggering:

  • One of the first known Christian churches
  • Castles built by Crusaders
  • Four thousand year old temples
  • The city founded by one of Alexander's generals to honor his mother
  • Islamic mosques and Jewish synagogues
  • Temples as old as Babylon
  • The city of Ugarit, where the world's first alphabet was composed
  • A hundred stone villages fully intact from the Roman empire
  • Ancient tablets that may contain the first mention of the Biblical patriarchs
  • Medieval hospitals, including one where music was used as therapy for the mentally ill
  • The mosque marking the spot where, according to local belief, Abraham stopped to milk his goats
  • Two of the world's oldest continuously-inhabited cities
  • Palaces of the early Caliphs and Ottoman Sultans

And that is just a fraction of what's in peril.

"What we lose is probably the best preserved examples of the continuous civilizational exchange in one land from the third millennium all the way to the present," MIT professor Nasser Rabbat told Here and Now's Robin Young.

Rabbat says that everything that we see as our heritage, at least from a Western perspective, is present in Syria.

"There are about 60 sites in Syria that are cities, that are not inhabited today, and that still stand in all of their majesty," he said. "Reminding us how important it is to actually look at the heritage as a lesson of how we should live together: Pagan, Jewish, Christians, Muslims, all leaving their traces on that one land, and it will be a pity if we lose the physical heritage."

One example of some of the recent violence came in March in Hama, when the Ancient Apamea Castle was bombed:


This segment aired on August 24, 2012.


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