Intentional destruction of cultural heritage: Evidence in Syria and Iraq

Author(s): Katharyn Hanson

Year: 2015


The current conflict in Syria and Iraq serves as a dramatic case study of intentional damage to cultural heritage during conflict. This paper details examples of damage that can be detected using high-resolution satellite imagery in coordination with local ground documentation and verified media reports. These examples are part of the analysis done by the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Geospatial Technologies Project "Developing a Research Community and Capacity for the Study of Cultural Heritage in Conflict" funded by the National Science Foundation and in connection with the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center. The type of damage varies according to the site, location, and degree to which it has seen active conflict, sectarian strife, and population displacement. As the extent of destruction caused by ISIS (ISIL or Da’ash) increases, and the violence in Syria and Iraq expands, it is vital to better understand the link between ethnic or sectarian violence and damage to cultural heritage sites. This paper illustrates this link using satellite imagery coupled with traditional and social media reports of incidents to contribute to the much-needed systematic documentation of human rights violations in this conflict.

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Cite this Record

Intentional destruction of cultural heritage: Evidence in Syria and Iraq. Katharyn Hanson. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397274)


Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;