New high-resolution satellite image analysis: 5 of 6 Syrian World Heritage sites ‘exhibit significant damage’
The AAAS analysis, offering the first comprehensive look at the extent of the damage to Syria’s precious cultural heritage sights, was completed in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Penn Cultural Heritage Centre (PennCHC) and the Smithsonian Institution, and in cooperation with the Syrian heritage Task Force. The National Science Foundation funded the analysis, which provides authoritative confirmation of previous on-the-ground reports of damage to individual sites.
“Only one of Syria’s six World Heritage sites‒ the Ancient City of Damascus‒ appears to remain undamaged in satellite imagery since the onset of civil war in 2011,” said Susan Wolfinbarger, director of the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project at AAAS. Historic structures residing at the other five sites, including ancient mosques, schools, and civilian as well as government buildings, have all been damaged, and in some cases, destroyed, AAAS reported. Wolfinbarger added, however, that “the Damascus site also could have damage not visible in satellite images.”
AAAS released its analysis on the eve of a Smithsonian Institution meeting recognizing the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. That event, organized in collaboration with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield and the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture, will take place 13:00-17:30 September 19th in the Ring Auditorium of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington, D.C. (some public seating will be available, but on a limited basis.)
The AAAS analysis unveils extensive damage in Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating as far back as the 2nd millennium B.C.: “In satellite imagery, massive destruction is obvious throughout the city, and especially at the World Heritage site of the Ancient City,” Wolfinbarger said. Demolished structures include historic mosques and madrasas (Koranic schools), the Great Mosque of Aleppo, the Suq al-Madina, the Grand Serail of Aleppo, the Hammam Yalbougha an-Nasry, the Khusruwiye Mosque, the Carlton Citadel Hotel, and the Khan Qurt Bey caravanseraim as well as other historic buildings located both south and north of the citadel.
Images taken in 2011 and 2014 exposed particularly severe damage to the Great Mosque, the nearby Suq al-Madina, and the surrounding area. AAAS and its partners documented roof damage and a destroyed minaret as well as two craters on the eastern wall of the mosque. While the most severe damage was seen just south of the citadel, destruction was also seen to the north‒ an area comprising of buildings from the late Mamluk to Ottoman periods (13th-19th centuries).
Across Syria’s other World Heritage sites‒ the Ancient city of Bosra; the Ancient Site of Palmyra; the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria; and two castles, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din‒ damage ranged from mortar impacts near an ancient roman theatre in Bosra, to military compounds in previously unspoiled archaeological sites, and new roads and earthen berms cut through the centre of the Northern Roman Necropolis in Palmyra. UNESCO has said that Palmyra, located in the desert northeast of Damascus, “contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world,” bringing together Graeco-Roman art with Persian influences.
At the Crac des Chevaliers castle, one of the most famous examples of Crusader fortification architecture, images captured in 2010 and 2014 showed “moderate structural damage” including a 6-meter gash to its southeast tower and cratering of the grounds, AAAS discovered. In the Jebel Barisha Ancient Village Park, one of Northern Syria’s ancient villages, images taken before and after the inception of war revealed three new military compounds, two of which were within park boundaries.
“From our contacts and sources in Syria, we knew that there was damage to World Heritage sites,” said Brian I. Daniels, Director of Research and Programs, Penn Cultural Heritage Centre, University of Pennsylvania Museum, “but this report surprised us by revealing just how extensive the destruction actually is.”
Corine Wegener, cultural heritage preservation officer for the Smithsonian Institution, said that organizing an international research community to study the primary cases of damage to cultural heritage in times of conflict will be crucial to intervention efforts in Syria‒ a goal to be discussed at the meeting taking place on September 19th. “There is hope, and it lies with our Syrian colleagues because they are the stewards and caretakers of these sites, and they see the value in preserving and protecting them for future generations,” Wegener said. “What they need from their international colleagues is some help to do that‒ training, materials, and other support in the international arena for the notion that it is possible to mitigate and prevent damage to cultural heritage, even in the midst of conflicts.”
Continued AAAS research will examine further the damage to Syria’s World Heritage sites, as well as many other sites of cultural significance, Wolfinbarger said. In 2013, all six of the sites were placed on the “List of World Heritage in Danger,” maintained by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. The United Nations has made an estimate that the Syrian crisis has been responsible for 100,000 lives, as well as millions that have been displaced.
As well as Wolfinbarger, Daniels, and Wegener, the research team included Richard M. Leventhal of the University of Pennsylvania; and Johnathan Drake, Eric Ashcroft, and Katharyn Hanson of AAAS. Images from the Worldview-1 and Worldview-2 satellites were provided by DigitalGlobe.
The AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project, part of the association’s Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program, had previously released reports on the conflict in Aleppo, which included an analysis of damage to the world heritage area there.
Contributing Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Header Image Source: WikiPedia
However, the global deterioration of the 1810s into the coldest decade in the last 500 years began six years earlier, with another large eruption. In contrast to Tambora, this so-called ‘Unknown’ eruption apparently occurred unnoticed, with both its location and date a mystery. In fact, the ‘Unknown’ eruption was only recognized in the 1990s, from tell-tale markers in Greenland and Antarctic ice that record the rare events when volcanic aerosols are so violently erupted that they reach the Earth’s stratosphere.
Working in collaboration with colleagues from the School of Earth Sciences and PhD student Alvaro Guevara-Murua and Dr. Caroline Williams, from the department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin America Studies, began searching historical archives for references of the event.
Dr. Williams said: “I spent months combing through the vast Spanish colonial archive, but it was a fruitless search– clearly the volcano wasn’t in Latin America. I then turned to the writings of Colombian scientist Francisco José de Caldas, who served as Director of the Astronomical Observatory Bogotá between 1805 to 1810. Finding his precise description of the effects of an eruption was a ‘Eureka’ moment.”
In February 1809 Caldas wrote about a “mystery” that included a constant, stratospheric “transparent cloud that obstructs the sun’s brilliance” over Bogotá, beginning on the 11th December 1808 and seen across Colombia. He gave detailed observations, for example that the “natural fiery colour [of the sun] has changed to that of silver, so much so that many have mistaken it for the moon”; and that weather was unseasonably cold, the fields covered with ice and the crops damaged by frost.
Unveiling a short account written by physician José Hipólito Unanue in Lima, Peru, describing sunset after-glows (a common atmospheric effect caused by volcanic aerosols in the stratosphere) at the same time as Caldas’ “vapours above the horizon”, allowed the researchers to verify that the atmospheric effects of the eruption were seen at the same time on both sides of the equator.
These two 19th century Latin American scientists provide the first direct observations that can be linked to the ‘Unknown’ eruption. More importantly, the accounts date the eruption to within two weeks of 4th December 1808.
Dr. Erica Hendy said: “There have to be more observations hidden away, for example ship logs. Having a date for the eruption will now make it much easier to track these down, and maybe even pinpoint the volcano. Climate modeling of this fascinating decade will also now be more accurate because the season of the eruption determines how the aerosols disperse around the globe and where climatic effects are felt.”
Alvaro Guevara-Murua added: “This study has meant delving into many fields of research– obviously paleoclimatology and volcanology, but also 19th century meteorology and Spanish colonial history– and has also needed rigorous precision to correctly translate the words of two scientists writing 200 years ago. Giving them a voice in modern science has been a big responsibility.”
One last question still remains: why are there so few historical accounts of what was clearly a significant event with wide-reaching consequences? Perhaps, Dr. Williams suggests, the political environment on both sides of the Atlantic at the onset of the nineteenth century played a part.
“The eruption coincided with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the Peninsular War in Spain, and with political developments in Latin America that would soon lead to the independence of almost all of Spain’s American colonies. It’s possible that, in Europe and Latin America at least, the attention of individuals who might otherwise have provided us with a record of unusual meteorological or atmospheric effects simply turned to military and political matters instead,” she said.
The research is published this week in the journal, Climate of the Past.
Contributing Source: University of Bristol
Header Image Source:WikiPedia
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Stabilisation work on the historic Severn Princess car ferry has been successfully completed by Chepstow’s Mabey Bridge. The end of this first stage of restoration has been marked with a handover ceremony attended by the Mayor of Chepstow Cllr Ned Heywood, members of the Severn Princess Restoration Group, and management and apprentices from Mabey Bridge.
At the event, Philip Clegg, Production Director of Mabey Bridge handed over a commemorative certificate to Councillor Heywood.
“Mabey Bridge is delighted to have successfully completed this vital first stage of the restoration project,” said Mr Clegg. “We are proud to have been able to lend our expertise as well as the skills of our apprentices, and through our Bridging Time campaign we have donated both materials and time to this project. The Severn Princess is an important cultural and industrial artefact for the town of Chepstow and the company remains committed to its restoration.”
Over a three month period that started in June 2014, staff and apprentices from Mabey Bridge have worked hard to remove critically eroded elements of the hull, as well as various structural items from the deck and wheelhouse. A considerable amount of water was drained from the hull, which is now being given a final layer of protective paint – also donated by Mabey Bridge – to complete this initial stabilisation phase.
Explaining the completed work, Steve Armstrong, Special Projects Engineer at Mabey Bridge said, “It was vital that we arrested the degradation of the Severn Princess. She’s not in a great condition, but she’s held together well considering what she’s been through. Stabilising the vessel allows the Restoration Group to better assess her condition and plan the next stage. The restoration project will take some time and a considerable investment to complete and this work has been critical in preparing the vessel for the next phase.”
Councillor Ned Heywood, Mayor of Chepstow added, “It was wonderful to see the work start in June, and we are immensely grateful to Mabey Bridge, not only for the invaluable experience the company has brought to this project, but for the manpower the company has generously donated. There is a long way to go, but this is a wonderful first step and we are looking forward to continuing with this project.”
Learn more about the Severn Princess project at www.severnprincess.org.uk
Visit the Bridging Time website at www.bridgingtime.co.uk
The post First Phase of Severn Princess restoration completed appeared first on HeritageDaily - Heritage & Archaeology News.
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