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Palmyra’s Baalshamin temple may be restored — expert

July 14, 7:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW
According to preliminary estimates, prior work - in particular, clearing rubble and labeling stones - will demand $10,000
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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, July 14. /TASS/. Palmyra’s ancient Temple of Baalshamin and Palmyra Castle, known as Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma’ani Castle, may be restored as the damage is reparable but the Arch of Triumph and Temple of Bel could be just rebuilt, Grabar Russian Art and Research Restoration Center head, Aleksander Lesovoi told TASS. The expert was in a group of Russian experts who visited the ancient city in Syria, the UNESCO World Heritage site, in July for estimating the damage.

Restoration, reconstruction

"The Temple of Baalshamin is an amazing building. It was blown up but in such a way that all large blocks remained on the surface and we estimate the possibility of new additions less than 25%," Lesovoi said. "It can be restored. If more than 50% is lost, it is not restoration but reconstruction."

According to preliminary estimates, prior work - in particular, clearing rubble and labeling stones - will demand $10,000.

"We will need a crane, a bulldozer and we will need unqualified labor to clear it all, to label and to do prior work," he said. "We should clear the floor and find out where each stone is from. We need to gather them, represent in drawings and only then move ahead. "

Also, Palmyra Castle might be restored but the Temple of Bel and Arch of Triumph are impossible to be restored and might be only created afresh.

"The main monuments are in ruins. Out of three aisles in the Arch of Triumph two were authentic and the third was restored by French (specialists) in 1930s. The middle part fell down and if restored, it will be 70-75% created afresh," the Russian expert said. "The Temple of Bel is impossible to reconstruct. It was blown up falling apart into tiny pieces and just the western colonnade survived. There are spalls at the foundation, it is damaged."

The colonnade is reparable but the temple is not, he said.

Plight of the museum

The experts worked out proposals on restoration of the museum in Palmyra but think it premature to return exhibits into it.

"The situation is very unstable and as of today, given the museum is revived, exhibits are dangerous to be put on display - since nobody will look after them," he went on to say. "At least 30,000-40,000 people used to live in the city but now fewer than 100 inhabit it."

Experts’ proposals

The team embraced Russian experts from the St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum, the Oriental Art Museum and Russian Culture Ministry’s department in charge of cultural heritage protection. An assessment report is expected to be drafted on the basis of the experts’ proposals.

The Culture Ministry’s press service told TASS that the report would be debated by UNESCO experts and then presented at a news conference.

"We have registered everything and submitted proposals to the Culture Ministry, which will make a decision," Lesovoi said in conclusion.

Earlier, Mikhail Shvydkoi, the Russian presidential special representative for international cultural cooperation, told TASS that Russia and Syria were drafting an agreement on restoration work in the ancient city of Palmyra.

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