by: Ammar  Kannawi.

Documentation of Perils in Calcareous Block on the World Heritage Sites The Park Number /8/ – Alwastany Mountain[I]

The archaeological villages which is in the north of Syria was recorded on the world civilized Heritage list that it is “a natural cultural sight “and this a result of the joint reaction between the man and the nature. It shows the development and the established of the society throughout the time with influenced living types for the national inhabitants with material abilities which their natural framework provides. The calcareous block includes space its length is between 20-40km from the east to the west and 120km from the north to the south and extends from the Turkish limits to Apamea the Archaeological city in the south.

The northern limits coincide with Cyrrus/the Prophet Hooray/in a distance 70km to the north of Aleppo in the middle of the road between Antakya and zogma on the Euphrates. The calcareous block considers a Karstyh (lime) area from the central mountain which spread around Mediterranean Basin. The northern west of Syria which known with the lime hill gains a special importance for its forming across many years a traditional natural unique reserve and the region is famous for scarcity of flowing water in it unless in the depth of some valleys, this region; the region of the central mountains and a series of wavy and varies in height. Its height ranges between 400m and more than 900m. Two main blocks control upon this area which they are AlZawya mountain and Samaan mountain, Khalkees fertile plain separates between them and it ties the Orants Valley with a range from the smallest mountains which are Alwastany, Alaala, and Barysha. The region was settled in the early 1st century by inhabitants came from neighboring plains and practice an agricultural activity which it depends mainly on farming the vine and olives in addition to breeding cattle(sheep) Figure 1. The recoded site consists of eight independent regions and unrelated between them. And it takes a form of recording a range includes many main sites without geographic continuity but the whole belongs to the same cultural archaeological group and to the same style of edifices which distinguishes this area. The identification of this region or the eight parks was after analysis sections for archaeological and natural characteristic, and to be taken into account that the value of this range must be bigger than the value of another region if it is taken alone in accordance to the convention 1972.We find inside these region which its stretch differs but its space doesn’t exceed about tens of kilometers. Main known sites (Syrjela and Samaan citadel) and sites less famous but they are as

important as them and small isolated uninhabited sites and ones is returned its using partially by the modern housing and natural agricultural areas cover the eight regions all the main ranges which consist the calcareous block and present samples to the complexity of the site and its richness.

[1] – A project of documentation to the Archaeological park in the Alwastany mount has been done under a scientific supervision by the D. Abdalrazzaq Moaz and Sponsored by Gerda Henkel Foundation.

The Alwastany Mountain

The Alwastany Mountain which is the last range of the mountain towards the west with 32km long 6km wide and covers an area of about 173 square kilometers, has a strong existence at natural level through its different structure and terrain. And less openness with its keeping a group of characteristic of the natural and agricultural sight, for the calcareous Blok. It is bordered by Adwily mountain to the north, Algab plain to the south, and to the east the fertile plain of Alrooj, to the west Orontes. The mountain belongs administratively to Idlib governorate. The place consists of wide valley, its bottom is flat to 700m through following terraces surrounded by karstyh mountain shoulders covers with woods from the eastern side. The soil is deep and agricultural and allows to grow plant cover more richness than other karstyh block areas. It includes the aromatic trees, the laurel and oak trees. The site includes about 75 archaeological Roman Byzantine villages. 52 villages are occupied in the present time. The inhabitants in this region kept the old agricultural traditions; in addition to planting the tobacco which is an imported farming from Latin America. And it covers a big part of the planting lands in the mountain and also breeding the cattle (sheep) as a main craft for the inhabitants of the mountain … Image /1/

The aims of studding

And we wish by studding these perils in park number/8/Alwastany to document the current state of the ruins and special environmental framework of the region as a first step from documentation project of the recorded archaeological parks.

And identify the causes of the damage and working to find future solutions that aim to stop the extractions and repair the possible damage in the site and we seek through this project to intend a plan of work to form a mechanism to document  the rest of the archaeological parks in later stages to get finally a complete imagine about the state of all archaeological parks and create a vision including the current situation and put the organizations and the international community in their responsibilities to preserve these world heritage sites[II].

Park No/8/mount Alwastany – Figure (2)

The park includes three villages: AlFasouq. Bonasra and kafer Okab, located on the ancient raod which known as (Antonina) which connects Apamea with Antakya across the mountain.

Across the Toreen, AlFasouq, Khrab Soltan and Kafer Oukab where there is a part of it until today. This region stayed very far away from the documentation works and watching through the period in 2012 and until this time as a result for the circumstances which passed by this region and because of far and isolation of these archaeological villages. They never receive any mention interest and the information about them was too little, and through the first viewing of the area and doing documentation rounds appears that the park exposed to major damages which differ from one village to another and most of these damages cause of human’s action and they can label as following.

[2]  – The team of Idlip Antiquites Center participated in a process of documentation of the archaeological park, which represented by Ammar Kannawi – Ayman Al Nabo – Abdulslam Alhmoo – Munir Kaskas – Hassan Alasmail.

 First: Kafer Oukab

It is located in the middle way between AlFasook and Bonsra and its local known by Kafer Toakab and it is the biggest site in AlWastany mount and probably it was the old Bykaba site (important military site) one of Roman corps was in it. The village includes many buildings returns to the Roman period, and the biggest part of the architecture returns to the Byzantian era and many of these buildings still keep high levels from the walls, Arches and columns. The ruler’s palace is considered the most important building in the site and kept a big part from the fence’s walls and the internal parts in spite of the messy state. There is Basilica inside the fence returns to the end of 5th century AD. And a hall was changed into a mosque in the Islamic era and the site also includes a group of floor reservoirs, the most important one is located about 1km from the village beside the mount. In addition to that many cemeteries engraved in the rock surround the site and there is also cemeteries built over the ground as a shape as a tower above the lower parts of the cemetery engraved in the rock. These cemeteries concentrate in the perimeter of the site and on the neighborhood foothills. There are also many housing complexes. Figure /3/

1-secret digging (illegal drilling)

The random digging caused great damages in Kafer Oukab’s site and it spreads on the whole site. It was used machine and heavy digging equipment such as bulldozer and it made deep holes destroyed the sequence stratifications, and the archaeological levels some of the holes destroyed the walls and the grounds and there is a destruction of the decorative elements.

And the architecture and some holes too which reached to engraved water reservoirs and most of the random digging concentrate in the western part of the site and in the middle part, in spite they are less in the other sectors. And we note using of electronic devices to discover metals and cavities inside the layers of the site by some illegal explorers. Image (2)

2-Deportation the stones of the site.

The working of the random digging showed in appearing walls and rocky foundations which were built by small, medium stones, they are used by the local inhabitants who live in neighbored camp to use in the building process and modern paving. And they are now a source for building to the inhabitants of the camp, and we still see in the site the sorted piles which specialized for transfer later to use or to sell in the modern building and you can see several buildings in the site surrounding and the camp were built by these archaeological stones and some building are under construction, the matter that considers the continuity of the process to transfer the stones from the inner site. Image (3)

3-Cutting the stones

In addition to transport the stones there is a process of cutting to the big stones from the archaeological buildings inside the site to suit the modern building. Image (4)

4-Modern buildings surrounding the site

Many of modern buildings surrounded Kafer Oukab site influence on the natural view and taking the cultural sight what specialize this site of Kafer Oukab. And these buildings were built by stones which transported from the site where we observe four buildings from six were built by the archaeological stones in the north east of the site. They are small buildings consist from one room or two suitable for temporary housing to the new arrivals. Image (5)

5-The Erosion of the site and reclamation for cultivation

Processes of reclamation happens for spaces that surrounded by the site and the edges including the housing complex and cultivation to plant it with shallow farming’s, in addition to plant olive trees and these fields are new and don’t take regular shapes but according to available space of the land. Expansion was made by the Erosion stones and the archaeological walls. This extraction is too new backs to the current agricultural season and it is observed the keenness of the beneficial for benefit as much as biggest space of land to plant. The olive fields spread mainly in the north of the site and the north west, while the fields which are planted with shallow farming’s spread mainly in eastern part of the site. Kafer Oukab. Image (6)


 6-Housing inside the site

There are evidences about new housing inside the site in the western part through of being cement terraces as floors for the tents were set up in the site in the previous years by displaced persons. And being some facilities like baths but they are left recently and the cement floors stayed inside the site. Image (7)

Second: AlFasouq

It is located in the south of kafer oukab village and it is an archaeological smaller than the previous site. The village is rich in natural plant cover especially Laurel and frosty oak. This site was being since the Roman era and even before that, the number of residential buildings in this site is estimated by 69 buildings and engraved tombs. And also the grouping includes many archaeological buildings which are the most keeping from between them the church twin which are still there until now. Figure (4)

In addition to many of residential homes which built with huge stones engraved well. There are mills, cemeteries and feeder show raising animals. The site is relatively rich with ornamental elements and architecture like capital of the columns and decorative linters. The site specializes of being local inhabitants including small rural grouping used some buildings, caves and cemeteries in raising cattle, but also it is changed some of the old caves and cemeteries to shelters for protection from possible bombing processes and this housing preserved the identity of the site and give it distinctive through keeping the old inherited in the living method and using the same economic and agricultural styles. Image (8)

Current state

 1-the secret digging (illegal drilling)

There are few extractions in specific places of the site especially in the church where was discovered a water reservoir at the bottom of the church and some archaeological buildings. It witnessed illegal holes but they didn’t cause big damages in the shape and structure of the site and these extractions back to previous period since 3 years where the inhabitants of village migrated the site as a result of bombing military works in the region and with comeback the native inhabitants to their village these extractions stopped. Image (9)

2- The modern building

The modern village still keeps its old chart and didn’t witness urban expansion where there isn’t any sign of overpopulation in the village, most of the inhabitants migrated through the last period because of the difficult living positions and security to the limit regions and to abroad of Syria. In spite of that we find some modern buildings or some additions to the old houses, also using some archaeological buildings engraved in the natural rock as temporary house or for breeding cattle and until now they don’t form danger on the general evaluation of the site Image (10)

3- Cracking Stones Site

There are a few examples about that kind of extractions especially in the twin church’s building and it also backs to previous period and doesn’t spared on the complete archaeological site. The stones are not used in the modern building. Image (11)

Third: Khrab Bonasra

It is a small from the calcareous mass village belonging to the Roman Byzantine era. It is located to the west of AlFasouq village in mountain region, rugged and in isolated site. It can be reached to it by walking on foot and it sat on above rocky cliff looking up on a valley surrounded with severe rocky slopes, poor in plant cover. Figure (5)

An idea about the religion life and the paganism worship for the old Syrian people and it was suggested that the coexistence between the individuals of these religious groups with the development Christianity was existed. It can be found caves dedicated to worship the Gods of Syrian society, and votive chapels .The first Basilica was built in middle of the 4th century and the second which shared its yard across the 6th century and the last one gives unique details in the north of Syria where we find that the columns are twins with shared Kornathy capital. And this double church is the lonely one which we know with AlFasouq church. In the southern part of the site there are rocky hillocks and tens of mills for olive and wine were on them. The residential homes rise on the edge of the cliff which its parts engraved well and formed parts of walls whereas the opposite parts were built with big stones also engraved well and some of these buildings were of two story’s or more, some buildings sat on the surface of the hill which rise the rocky cliff. Image (12)


It can be watched some of archaeological cemeteries engraved in the natural rock in the opposite side of the cliff separates from the site the formed valley between the two slopes. The site is empty from the modern living except only one home. It was built in the middle of the site since a long period, one family live in it. They work in grazing cattle and this building adapts with the archaeological surround in significant way and it was built in traditional architecture style of the region. Image (13)

The current state

The site keeps itself well until now, in spite of watching some of few random secret digging works and which didn’t cause great damages for the site, in addition to exist simple razing on the side of the site for reclamation small land to plant. And the current living in the site doesn’t influence on the general view and the chart of the site. Image (14-15)

Types of infringements

Through of studding the three sites, we could specific the types of damages which followed with the archaeological sites and we can label them according to the size of damages and spearing as following:

1-Secret digging (random drilling.

2-Breaking the archaeological stones and transported from the sites to use them in the modern building.

3-Razing inside the archaeological site and using the curette spaces for shallow planting and olive trees.

4-Spreading the new building in the archaeological compound of the site.

5-Using the archaeological site for housing and breeding cattle. In addition to the extractions on the sites and the archaeological objects, we find extractions reached to the plant cover in the region through the wrecking on the forestay trees (oak and laurel) and depending on its wood in warming in the winter season. We observe this matter mainly in Kafer Oukab’s site, whereas AlFasouq kept the plant cover and forestay trees which spread in the site and its surround due that there isn’t overpopulated in the region. The wrecking process on the plant cover and replaced the forestay trees with olive trees influence on the natural framework of Kafer oukab site and change the specialty and characteristics of the site which was a reason in recording it on the World Heritage Site List.

 Causes of infringements

The main factor in spreading these extractions is the absence the of the archaeological authority in watching the archaeological sites and unavailable executive authority for the organizations of the civilian society and at the head of/ Idlib Ruin Center. Incriminating violations towards the ruins and the councils represent somewhat the local authority.

don’t have a low that authorize them preventing the extraction, these retreat in protection ruins file belongs to reasons such as lack of secure in general, spread the mess and for there is no awareness at all spectrum of the society with the role of ruins and importance of keeping them. The absence of united authority in management the regions which located in the western north of Syria and spreading of the different military factions and multitude the corps and courts form a great obstacle in our face to put a phased low to protect the ruins in the region and must be societal agree on necessity to protect the cultural property and acknowledging with the public property to the cultural Syrian heritage. In addition to that we find in the demographic change process and change the population composition of the region and changing to a shelter for the displaced and migrants from different regions in Syria, and reside the random camps and what attendant to a dangerous humanitarian crisis reflected greatly on the different areas of life including keeping and safety of the archaeological sites

The subject of the forced displacement led to disastrous results on the humanity standard and the living position for the inhabitants especially the new arrivals who found in the archaeological sites a temporary shelter for housing and protection and found in the archaeological stones a cheap material for building exploited the lack of authority and absence of executing law.

The result

Comparing the damage in the three sites; we note the size of the great extraction in the isolated and the uninhabited site of Kafer Oukab, whereas the extraction is very drib in AlFasouq site despite local groupings still live in the village adapted with the site peacefully and apparently provided relativity protection. Whereas the extraction is almost not influenced in the isolated site in Bonasra and the dimension from the roads and modern human groupings. The local groups from the villagers and the sons of AlFasouq village secured partially protection to the site. They are the owners of the land which the archaeological site is located, but the whole residents in the village are from the native inhabitants. AlFasouq village wasn’t a destination for the displaced and migrants. And for that it didn’t witness new urban and population expansion. And also the local inhabitants are in close connection with their heritage and preserved greatly on their living styles and economic resources which the surrounded environment provided to them as farming and grazing. Image (16)

For the isolated Bonasra site, the isolation soured a protection to the site especially there are no easy roads to arrive the site and living near it. In addition to that the land which surrounded Bonasr site belongs mostly to private property. A family have it and they live neighbored village (Alhaj Nayef’s farm). This family prevents the strangers even the migrants and displaced to set up tents in this region for keeping their property and their right in breeding and grazing cattle in the neighbored hills. That matter reflected positively on the safety of the site. Figure (6)

Whereas Kafer Oukab site exposed to the biggest amount of damage as a result in the presence of a camp for refugees near the site at a distance 2km almost to the eastern north which is resided by the displaced from AlGab plain region in Hama Governorate, the residents from Apamea region which witnessed the great amount of extraction on the archaeological Apamea site in 2012. Those new arrivals, who worked in stealing the ruins in previous years, found in Kafer Oukab site a suitable place to practice their illegal activity especially that the property in Kafer Oukab is a public property. Image (17)

And because of, that there is no private property for the neighbored land of the site, encouraged on spreading the extraction greatly and the absence of the authority doesn’t provide a local authority to defend the site. In addition to that, the new arrivals found in the stones of the site a cheap available material depend on them in building modern buildings, where they are the substitute from the tents, which they live in them in the site, and insure them a protection and reside more easy and comfortable from the living in the tents[III]. Figure (7)

[3] – Preparing diagrams for the damages and transgressions on the archaeological sites were achieved by Abdulslam Alhmoo.


These treatises must be studied and analyzed to arrive at a real view for the whole of the current archaeological reality in the Middle Mountain region in particular, and the area of lime stone mass in general in the north western of Syria. We need other studies in the area of the lime stone mass to confirm these results, especially that the mention region shares one political destiny. It is a part of the unstable region in Syria, which is witnessing a great deal of bombing, battles, displacement movement and resettle, groups of arrivals from various provinces of the country, meet. At the Idlib center, we are seeking to obtain a temporary law for protection the cultural property and circulating this law on the local councils in the archaeological sites to prevent extraction through the participation of the local community in preservation and protection processes.

But we need to international support to reach to the perfect protection for the archaeological sites through stand up the international organizations and corps in front of their responsible  towards the Syrian Heritage, and at a head of these organizations, UNESCO organization, which is  absent from the space completely, especially in what regard to the Archaeological sites on the World Heritage List in Idlib and Aleppo provinces.


[I] – A project of documentation to the Archaeological park in the Alwastany mount has been done under a scientific supervision by the D. Abdalrazzaq Moaz and by financing from Girda Hankle the Germany foundation.

[II]  – The team of Idlip Antiquites Center participated in a process of documentation of the archaeological park, which represented by Ammar Kannawi – Ayman Al Nabo – Abdulslam Alhmoo – Munir Kaskas – Hassan Alasmail.

[III] – Preparing diagrams for the damages and transgressions on the archaeological sites were achieved by Abdulslam Alhmoo.

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