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Russian archeologists return from another expedition to Syria’s Palmyra

A Russian expert team is working on a 3D model of Palmyra

ST. PETERSBURG, October 3. /TASS/. A group of Russian archeologists and architects has returned from Syria, where they examined the condition of the ancient monuments of Palmyra, Hermitage Museum Director Mikhail Piotrovsky said at a conference dubbed "200 Years of Diplomatic Assistance to Russia’s Presence in the Middle East: The Creation and Activities of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Asia Department" in St. Petersburg.

"Today, a group of our colleagues returned from Palmyra. Archeologist Natalya Solovyova and architect Maxim Atayants have done a great job, completing two digital projects that will be handed over to the future museum of Palmyra. It was done in accordance with an agreement reached with Syria’s Department of Museums and Antiquities," Piotrovsky pointed out.

A Russian expert team, headed by Deputy Director of the Institute for the History of Material Culture at the Russian Academy of Sciences Natalya Solovyova, is working on a 3D model of Palmyra. They first went to Syria in September 2016, after government forces had liberated the city, in order to record the scale of the destruction, take photos and create a 3D model, which presents the most complete and up-to-date information about the city’s condition.

Another group, led by architect Maxim Atayants, is working to create a digital model of Palmyra’s Temple of Bel that would represent the monument’s condition before its destruction in 2015.

These models will be handed over to the museum of Palmyra as the Hermitage is taking an active part in its establishment. "All that’s left to do is sign an agreement and ensure the Foreign Ministry’s support," Piotrovsky noted.

Palmyra’s heritage

Palmyra used to be one of the richest cities located in an oasis in the Syrian Desert, 240 kilometers from Damascus. Along with the ancient architectural monuments of Damascus, Aleppo and Bosra, the Krak des Chevaliers castle and the Castle of Saladin Ed-Din, the ruins of Palmyra are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

During the Syrian war, members of the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) seized Palmyra twice. They held the city between May 2015 and March 2016, and between December 2016 and March 2017. Under their occupation, Islamic State terrorists killed one of the most prominent researchers of Palmyra, 81-year-old Syrian archaeologist, Khaled al-Asaad. Islamic State members also looted the national museum and stole numerous antiquities to sell them on the black market. They deliberately destroyed many ancient monuments, including the Lion of Al-lat statue, the temples of Bel and Baalshamin, the Monumental Arch, the central part of the Roman Theater and three tower tombs.