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Worldview revealed destruction of Palmyra`s most prized archaeological sites

by Pubali Mukherjee

Recently the all the news headers were flooded with the news of the capture of the city of Palmyra, Syria by the Syrian army from the Islamic state.This ancient city holds the most prized archaeological monuments of ancient civilization some of which dates back to the pre-Islamic period. Archaeologists consider the city as the “Venice if sands”.Last year satellite images capture by Worldview sensors revealed the destruction of the ancient temple of Bel; this 2000 years old temple was the best-preserved site of the influence of Roman culture. Brutalities of the militant group ISIS have been destroying Syria`s archaeological sites for long but to confirm the extent of the damage was not possible.Last year satellite images capture by the worldview sensors confirmed the destruction of the temple of Bel and many other archaeological sites. After the capture of the city by Syrian Army archaeologists were eagerly running towards these archaeological ruins.Syrian antiquities chief mentioned that his department would require 5 years to restore what ISIS had destroyed within 10 months.

Satellite imagery showing the remains of the Temple of Bel in Syria. It was captured by DigitalGlobe`s WorldView sensor. (Image courtesy: The Guardian)

The Temple of Bel as seen in the satellite images captures by the DigitalGlobe`s WorldView sensor before it was destroyed by ISIS

Satellite images also revealed mass destruction throughout Syria which includes major roads of transport and bridges which made difficult for the Syrian people to take refuge. Following image is of the Dier al- Zour region of Syria where a bridge had been blown up.

Before the attack satellite image dated February 13, 2013. (Image courtesy: The Washington Post)

Satellite imagery showing the same bridge blown up by the ISIS militants dated November 25th, 2014. (Image Courtesy: The Washington Post)

Satellite archaeology had been gaining attention for the last few years.Satellite imagery has been proven to be immensely helpful to study the extent of damage in war-torn Syria.Satellite imagery confirmed destruction of the main temple of Bel as well the columns in its vicinity. Archaeologists are of the opinion that it was an intolerable crime against the ancient civilization and the perpetrators should be punished.High-resolution images are proving their worth not only in scientific studies but also to analyze and strategize situations in Civil war-torn regions of the world. High-resolution satellite imagery has been proven to be helpful in Nigeria as well where the Islamic militant group Boko- Haram has torn apart the country with their torture. Satellite archaeology is gaining popularity to track the looting going on in different archaeological sites around the world and it has been proven to be a very cost-effective way to curb down such activities. Satellite imagery had allowed United Nation`s UNOSAT to document the mass destruction Syria without having to visit the war Zone. It has been reported that Scientists at the Oxford and Harvard have planned to install 5000 3D cameras in war zones.This would enable them to restore the artifacts of the ancient civilization and the Idea is named “The Million Image database”. Roger Michel a member of the Institute for Digital Archaeology is of the opinion that recording and preserving the digital copy of these million dollars’ worth artifacts would help them to preserve the remains of ancient civilization better.

SATPALDA is a privately owned company and a leading provider of satellite imagery and GeoSpatial services to the user community. Established in 2002, SATPALDA has successfully completed wide range of photogrammetric and Remote Sensing Projects.

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