First Published: 2017-03-01

Palmyra busts returned to Syria after restoration in Italy
Two funeral busts recovered by Syrian troops had been badly disfigured by Islamic State jihadists with what appeared to be hammer blows.
Middle East Online

Restorer shows 3D printed replica of missing part of limestone male bust, dated between 2nd and 3rd century A.D.

DAMASCUS - Two rare busts rescued from the Islamic State group in the ancient city of Palmyra and restored in Italy have been returned to Syria, the country's antiquities director said Wednesday.

"The two statues were returned to Syria on Tuesday and added to the 400 artefacts that were rescued from Palmyra," Maamun Abdul Karim said.

IS jihadists seized Palmyra in May 2015 and began to systematically destroy the city's monuments and temples, while also looting its many archeological treasures.

They were driven out in March 2016 but recaptured the town last December.

Recovered by Syrian troops, the two funeral busts had been badly disfigured with what appeared to be hammer blows. They are perhaps the only such artefacts to have left the desert site without being stolen.

Modern technology was used in their restoration, which is also being hailed as a tribute to Khaled al-Assad, former head of antiquities at Palmyra who was murdered by IS in 2015 at the age of 82.

AFP reporters saw the two statues -- one of a woman and the other of a man -- being transported from the Damascus museum to an undisclosed location on Wednesday.

Abdul Karim said the restoration of the busts "is the first real, visible positive step that the international community has taken to protect Syrian heritage".

"This is part of cultural diplomacy, which does not prevent coordination among the people of different countries to combat extremism and barbarism," Abdul Karim said.

"In the end, Syrian heritage is human heritage," he said.

The busts date to the second and third centuries and were transferred to Rome via Lebanon.

A team of five specialists worked on the restorations for a month, focusing in particular on the faces.

On one, the upper part of the face had been destroyed, but the team managed to recreate the missing portion using a synthetic nylon powder and a 3-D printer, a technique that had never been used for such a restoration.

The new piece was attached to the bust with powerful magnets, "which makes it completely removable, in line with the principle that all restoration work must be completely reversible", said Antonio Iaccarino, one of the restorers.

"What the Islamic State has destroyed, we have rebuilt," he said. "Through culture, we also wage an ideological battle."

 

Kurds ready for contentious vote in Iraq

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Iran defies US, tests missile

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The Sahara Forest Project, Jordan’s innovative water scheme

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US

A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia?

Saudi intercepts missile fired from Yemen

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq

US, Iranian top diplomats confront each other for first time

Air strikes kill 22 civilians in northwest Syria in 48 hours

Iranian supreme leader lashes out at Trump UN speech

Thousands of Huthi supporters mark 3 years since Sanaa takeover

Iraq attacks all remaining IS territory at once

Moscow accuses US of hitting Syrian regime forces

Turkey jails lawyers representing hunger striking teachers

Turkey, Iran and Iraq make joint threat against Kurd vote

Syrian Kurds to hold first local elections in federal push

Qatari expats lauded as statesmen by Arab critics

Shipwreck off Libyan coast leaves over 100 migrants missing

Will Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish state translate into action?

US ups the ante on Iraq Kurds

Macron: Iran nuclear deal no longer enough

Trump’s mind made up on Iran but refuses to divulge