The efforts devoted to protect the Museum in the city of Maarat al-Numan constitute a testimony of the awareness of the Syrian revolution and the determination of the Syrian people to protect their heritage. This protection experience also illustrates the solidarity of the Syrian specialists with the various components of the Syrian people to protect and preserve the Syrian heritage.

The process of preserving the museum’s objects was achieved through a cooperation between Syrian archaeologists who defected to join the opposition and civic associations that included independent archaeologists who received technical support from Syrian archaeologists and researchers in the diaspora. The preservation process was coordinated with the local community of the city of Maarat al-Numan, who provided an example to follow for their love and devotion to their city. This process would not have been successful without the support and protection provided for the museum by the civilian and military de facto authorities in the city.

In 2012, the armed opposition took control of the city of Maarat al-Numan, accordingly, the people of the city sought to preserve its museum. With the relative stability in the region in 2014, the team of the Idlib Antiquities Center[1] and in cooperation with the people of the city and its activists was able to intervene in the museum to protect the mosaic and stone panels preserved in it, in addition to protecting the artifacts hidden in the museum’s basement. The Idlib Antiquities Center’s team layered the mosaic panels with removable isolation materials before covering them with sand bags in order to protect them from shelling. The implementation of the protection measures came after the team received a training on the emergency safeguarding and documentation of cultural heritage that was organized in the Turkish city of Gaziantep by Syrian archaeologists in cooperation with The Day After organization, the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq project (SHOSI) by the University of Pennsylvania and US Blue Shield, and it was funded by the Smithsonian Institution. Furthermore,

stabilizing measures were implemented to reinforce the damaged parts of the museum’s ceiling, while the artifacts hidden in the basement were kept in place where their protection was met.

On June 15th 2015, the building of the museum was targeted with two explosive barrels by the regime’s air force, which led to partial collapses in the eastern portico and the facade of the mosque in the museum’s courtyard. Several artifacts and some mosaic panels were damaged, but the sandbags that were previously layered succeeded in protecting most of the mosaic panels. The Idlib Antiquities Center’s team responded by documenting the damage and the current condition of the museum at the time of the bombardment. This was the last project for the Idleb Antiquities Center in the museum. The museum was later managed by another association that aspired to stabilize the building of the museum after it was bombarded again in September 5th 2016. The people of the city of Maarat al-Numan continued to preserve the museum in cooperation with the city’s activists until the beginning of 2019. As a result of the military and political changes, the museum’s administration was attributed to the local council of Maarat al-Numan, which preserved the museum’s current condition until its last day in the city while maintaining the previous protection method.
During the recent battles, the Syrian regime succeeded in recapturing the city of Maarat al-Numan on January 29th 2020, and as a result, the entire population was evicted out of the city. Since then, the media outlets managed by the regime have been claiming that the regime’s army has been protecting the Museum of Maarat al-Numan. But in reality, the tanks of the regime’s forces that invaded the city are the very same tanks that were previously bombarding the city from Al-Deif valley.

We at the Idlib Antiquities Center emphasize the importance of the Museum of Maarat al-Numan and we praise the magnificent efforts of the people of the city in its preservation. We thank all those who contributed to protecting and preserving the museum, and those are:

– The people of Maarat al-Numan (the local council – the city’s intellectuals)
– The civil activists of Maarat al-Numan
– Syrian Archaeologists in the Diaspora: (Salam Al-Quntar – Shaker Al-Shabib – Ali Othman – Amr Al-Azm)
– Civic organizations concerned with heritage preservation
– Universities, museums and international bodies (the Smithsonian Institution – University of Pennsylvania – the  US Blue Shield)
– Friends and researchers (Brian Daniels – Corine Wegener)

– Muhammad Sobeih


[1] Heartfelt thanks to the team members for their tremendous efforts, and they are: the archaeologists Ayman Nabo (head of Idlib Antiquities Center), Munir Qasqas, Hassan Ismail, Ahman Anan, Ahmad Khanous, Mowafaq Tweir, Nayef Al-Qaddour, and the engineer Abdulrahman Yahya.

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