BROKEN

Photos: The senseless destruction of Palmyra after ISIL

In May last year, the ISIL terror group overtook the Syrian city of Palmyra, a site that contains several ancient temples and a museum full of statues and other priceless artifacts. Reports then began to emerge of extensive damage to the antiquities, and in August 2015 Khaled al-Assad, the head of antiquities for the city, was killed by the fighters.

Troops loyal to the Assad regime, with support from the Russian military, re-captured the city this week. They have found mass graves and extensive destruction. The extent of the damage—some less bad than expected, and some much worse—has begun to emerge.

The Roman Theater still appears to be standing:

epa05239843 The famous Roman Theater at the ancient city of Palmyra in the central city of Homs, Syria, 01 April 2016. Journalists were taken in a government-organized tour to Palmyra city, which was recaptured by Syrian troops on 27 March 2016 from the Islamic State. The city contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers worldwide and is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.  EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
The Roman Theater in Palmyra, April 1, 2016. (EPA/Youssef Badawi)

But other large monuments have been badly damaged. The Triumphal Arch was reported to have been destroyed, but the destruction had not been confirmed. One journalist took this video, showing the ruins:

This is what the arch looks like now:

epa05239837 Damages near the Arch of Triumph in the ancient city of Palmyra in the central city of Homs, Syria, 01 April 2016. Journalists were taken in a government-organized tour to Palmyra city, which was recaptured by Syrian troops on 27 March 2016 from the Islamic State. The city contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers worldwide and is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.  EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
Damage to the Arch of Triumph, April 1, 2016. (EPA/Youssef Badawi)

This image from 2010, taken by the same photographer, shows the same area before the ISIL takeover:

epa04963902 (FILE) A file picture dated 12 November 2010 shows a general view of the historic site of the ancient city of Palmyra, central Syria. According to media reports on 05 October 2015, militants of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or IS) have blown up Palmyra's ancient Arch of Triumph. Few months ago, the jihadist group blew up the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, the Baalshamin Temple and some of the famed tower tombs in Palmyra, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. Islamic State extremist militia, which controls large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, has been reportedly destroying building sites with no religious meaning, including the Arch of Triumph. Palmyra, some 240km (150 miles) northeast of Damascus, emerged to become a powerful state after the Romans took control, serving as a link between the ancient Orient and Mediterranean countries.  EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
The Arch of Triumph in 2010. (EPA/Youssef Badawi)

Christopher Jones, a PhD student in ancient Near Eastern history at Columbia University, has been documenting the destruction. He notes that while some buildings like the theater above have survived, others like the Temple of Bel have been almost completely destroyed.

epa05235450 A view of damage to the historical city of Palmyra, Syria, 29 March 2016 after the Syrian army regained control from IS. The Syrian directorate of antiquities and museums reported wide destruction of statues and monuments in the ancient city Palmyra, which was recaptured from the Islamic State jihadist group. Palmyra, which is located in Homs province, was captured by the Islamic State jihadist group on 20 May 2015 and was partly destroyed.  EPA/STR
Another view of Palmyra, March 29, 2016. (EPA/STR)
epa05239709 A general view of the Palmyra Citadel in the ancient city of Palmyra in the central city of Homs, Syria, 01 April 2016. Journalists were taken in a government-organized tour to Palmyra city, which was recaptured by Syrian troops on 27 March 2016 from the Islamic State. The city contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers worldwide and is listed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.  EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
The citadel in Palmyra, March 27, 2016. (EPA/Youssef Badawi)

Inside Palmyra’s museum, the damage is severe. Sculptures and statues had their heads and faces removed. Many were also toppled and broken, according to the Syrian directorate of antiquities and museums:

epa05233448 A handout photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on 27 March 2016 shows damage inside the national museum of Palmyra, Syria. The Syrian directorate of antiquities and museums reported wide destruction of statues and monuments in the ancient city Palmyra, which was recaptured from the Islamic State jihadist group. Palmyra, which is located in Homs province, was captured by the Islamic State jihadist group on 20 May 2015 and was partly destroyed.  EPA/SANA / HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Inside the museum in Palmyra, March 27, 2016. (EPA/SANA/handout)
epa05233445 A handout photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on 27 March 2016 shows damage inside the national museum of Palmyra, Syria. The Syrian directorate of antiquities and museums reported wide destruction of statues and monuments in the ancient city Palmyra, which was recaptured from the Islamic State jihadist group. Palmyra, which is located in Homs province, was captured by the Islamic State jihadist group on 20 May 2015 and was partly destroyed.  EPA/SANA / HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Inside the museum in Palmyra, March 27, 2016. (EPA/SANA/handout)
epa05233446 A handout photo released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on 27 March 2016 shows a damaged statue at the national museum of Palmyra, Syria.  The Syrian directorate of antiquities and museums reported wide destruction of statues and monuments in the ancient city Palmyra, which was recaptured from the Islamic State jihadist group. Palmyra, which is located in Homs province, was captured by the Islamic State jihadist group on 20 May 2015 and was partly destroyed.  EPA/SANA / HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
Damage to the museum in Palmyra, March 27, 2016. (EPA/SANA/handout)
This photo released on Monday March 28, 2016, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows destroyed statues at the damaged Palmyra Museum, in Palmyra city, central Syria. A Syrian antiquities official says demining experts have so far removed 150 bombs planted by the Islamic State group inside the archaeological site in the historic town of Palmyra. Syrian troops captured the town from IS fighters on Sunday after three weeks of intense fighting. (SANA via AP)
A damaged statue, March 28, 2016. (SANA via AP.)
This photo released on Sunday March 27, 2016, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows destroyed statues at the damaged Palmyra Museum, in Palmyra city, central Syria. A Syrian antiquities official says demining experts have so far removed 150 bombs planted by the Islamic State group inside the archaeological site in the historic town of Palmyra. Syrian troops captured the town from IS fighters on Sunday after three weeks of intense fighting. (SANA via AP)
A statue defaced, March 27, 2016. (SANA via AP)

Why so much apparently senseless destruction? “It’s both propagandistic and sincere,” Christopher Jones told National Geographic. ISIL members see themselves as “recapitulating the early history of Islam.”

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