Monday, August 31, 2015

Temple of Bel in Palmyra blown up

PALMYRA WATCH: Wiping yet more history off the face of the earth: ISIS blow up 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel in Palmyra in latest outrage at the ancient Syrian city ( TIM MACFARLAN, Daily Mail)
  • Cultural atrocity reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
  • It was feared it would be next to be blown up at Unesco World Heritage Site
  • Temple of Baal Shamin, also from Roman era, was dynamited last week
  • It has been claimed Islamic State will take Palmyra down piece by piece
A Palmyra resident, who goes by the name of Nasser al-Thaer, said IS militants set off a huge blast at 1.45 pm on Sunday.

'It is total destruction,' he said of the scene of the explosion. 'The bricks and columns are on the ground.'

'It was an explosion the deaf would hear,' he added.

The resident said only the outer wall surrounding the Temple of Bel remains.

Constructed in 32AD, the temple was dedicated to gods worshipped by the Semites - a group of different cultures in the Ancient Middle East including Assyrians, Phoenicians, Hebrews and Arabs.

It stood on an artificial hill which dates back more than 2,200 years and lavish carvings of the then-known seven planets, zodiac signs and Makkabel the fertility god adorn the monolithic ceiling of its northern chamber.

The remains of a basin, altar and even a dining hall can be made out inside the temple. On the north-west corner is a ramp where sacrificial animals were once led into the building.

This is potentially a little confusing. The term "Baal" is the name of one of the high gods of the Canaanites (Phoenicians), the storm god, but the name itself just means "Lord." "Baal Shamin" is Aramaic for "Baal of the heavens." The name "Bel" is the Akkadian equivalent of Canaanite "Baal" and Bel was the title of Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonians, and also a storm god. So at Palmyra there were two temples to the "Lord," the storm god, in two different ancient Near Eastern religious traditions.
Dr Robert Bewley, Project Director at the School of Archaeology at Oxford, has predicted Palmyra will be razed to the ground 'monument-by-monument' by ISIS to wring every last propaganda opportunity out of the destruction.

He claimed the terror group is determined to destroy Palmyra piece by piece, known as 'the oasis in the desert' was a jewel of the ancient world and is revered because its Greco-Roman ruins are so well preserved.

Dr Bewley told MailOnline this week: 'One fear is that ISIS will do piecemeal damage over the coming weeks to keep the publicity machine running, so it will be a slow but equally destructive approach.'

It doesn't sound good, does it?

Related news item here: Satellite images confirm Palmyra temple razing. UN training and research agency photos show ancient Baalshamin site vanished after Islamic State demolition (AFP).

Background here and links.

UPDATE: Palmyra's Temple of Bel 'still standing.' Palmyra's ancient Temple of Bel is still standing despite an attempt by Islamic State (IS) militants to blow it up, Syria's antiquities chief has said. (BBC).

Maamoun Abdulkarim confirmed there was a large explosion within its perimeter but said the basic structure of the 2,000-year-old site was intact.

But the extent of the damage is unclear with witnesses unable to get close to the temple. [...]

Hmmm ...