The view from space of a country’s disappearing culture

Documenting the destruction of Syria’s cultural fabric is a daunting task for archaeologists. “We always say it can’t get any worse, and then it does — and that’s the hardest part,” says Allison Cuneo, project manager for the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiative (CHI), which documents the loss of Syrian heritage.

CHI reported 851 incidents of damage to cultural heritage between September 2015 and August 2016, mostly concentrated in areas of northern Syria controlled by forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

With such extensive damage, there “is so much data on destruction to report, it’s like holding the ocean back with a broom,” says Michael Danti, the academic director of CHI.

In Syria satellite archaeology, the use of high-resolution satellite images to identify historical and archaeological features on the ground, has “shifted from the discovery of new sites to predominately monitoring sites we cannot physically go to or are

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