According to residents of the Syrian town of Palmyra, the site of one of the largest trade emporiums of the ancient world,* the Syrian army has occupied the town’s ancient citadel and is firing into the ruins where they believe government dissidents are hiding. Many of the town’s 60,000 residents have fled to neighboring towns or countries, and some are reporting that the army is destroying the many gardens and orchards that surround the site. “The gardens in the ruins were hit the hardest,” reported one resident. “People will have to plant again and wait for 10 years before they see a good season again.” Until Syria’s recent unrest, Palymra was one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980, the site’s well-preserved ruins provide a unique collection of Greco-Roman art and architecture fused with ancient Syrian and Near Eastern traditions.
* See Expeditions, Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1997, and Destinations, “The Valley of the Tombs, Palmyra, Syria,” Archaeology Odyssey, July/August 1999.