I took this photograph in 2009 not knowing that these unique rosettes would be destroyed when ISIS dynamited Palmyra’s Temple of Baal in August 2015. Fortunately, France’s Musée d’Archéologie is one of the institutes involved in the ancient city’s restoration, and this and other of my photographs of the site are now included in its archive.
PS: If a photograph is the ghost of a moment in time, in this case, it is also effectively the afterlife of these items of cultural heritage.
Temple of Baal; destruction
Syria’s Director of Antiquities Maamoun Abdul Karim stated that ISIS was looking for treasures and “stores of gold” in the city. On 30 August 2015, the Associated Press reported that ISIL had partially demolished the temple by explosives, citing eyewitness accounts. The bricks and columns were reported as lying on the ground and only one wall was reported as remaining, according to a Palmyra resident. The damage was also attested by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syria’s antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim later stated that although there was an explosion within the temple’s perimeter, “the basic structure is still standing”. However, these reports were proved to be incorrect.
On August 31, 2015 the United Nations confirmed the temple’s destruction after reviewing satellite imagery, “We can confirm destruction of the main building of the Temple of Bel as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity” reported by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The BBC issued a video report showing the satellite images and the destruction described by Einar Bjorgo, manager of UN Satellite Imaging.