Epilogue and Prospect
Epilogue and Prospect
Since Syria’s descent into civil and proxy war of appalling savagery, like so much of its living infrastructure and cultural heritage, Dura has been devastated. Initially, in 2012, the expedition house was systematically looted and stripped of everything including doors and window frames. Satellite imagery shows that then, at some time between July 2012 and April 2014, a campaign of systematic looting of the unexcavated portions of the city interior and the adjacent necropolis was undertaken, on an industrial scale. The result was hundreds of huge holes all over the city, which at first glance looks like it has been subjected to intensive artillery bombardment—except that the holes do not impinge on the road lines, kept clear to allow vehicles in and out. The destruction is so devastating that it is no exaggeration to call it the second destruction of Dura-Europos. And if it did not involve the slaughter which accompanied the first destruction of the city c.256, it seems this new onslaught was not bloodless. The region found itself in the midst of Daesh’s self-proclaimed territorial ‘Caliphate’, and it has been reported that, on taking control of the ancient city and surrounding villages, they murdered the site guardian to make clear who was now in charge. Most of the looting comprised a highly organized professional criminal enterprise requiring a major, sustained logistics effort; at its height in 2014 up to 400 people were involved, using mechanical excavators and metal detectors, concentrating especially on easily saleable coins. It was sanctioned by Daesh, which reportedly took 60 per cent of the proceeds from sales on the illicit antiquities market to fund their war (Brodie and Isber 2018, 77–9). In part, the looting was likely conducted by local people, under direct duress from Daesh or others, or simply finding themselves desperate to feed their families in dangerous times. In such circumstances, whether in the second, third, or twenty-first centuries, people do what they can, and do what they must, to survive.
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