ASOR Undertakes Humanitarian Heritage Work in Idlib Governorate
Restoration Efforts at Al Ma'ra Museum—$5,000 in Matching Funds Sought
Northwestern Syria’s Idlib Governorate has been particularly hard-hit over the last six years of civil war, and the region and its people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. A recent cessation of hostilities in Idlib has largely reduced aerial bombardment over the area and local residents have begun clean-up and repair efforts throughout the northern governorate, home to some of country’s premiere cultural sites such as the renowned “Dead Cities” region and historic mosques, caravansarays, churches, and medieval castles. Basic humanitarian assistance in the form of food, housing, and medical supplies is critical, but humanitarian assistance in the form of cultural heritage support is also needed as part of collective relief efforts. Such cultural aid not only demonstrates the concern and compassion of the international community towards the Syrian people and their collective cultural identity, but also provides crucial jobs and income to the civilian population.
The Al Ma'ara Museum (aka Murad Pasha Caravansary), located in the town of Maaret al-Numan, represents one of the premiere cultural sites in the region. The Museum comprises four sections with cross-beamed ceilings connected by arched hallways to service facilities. A mosque and a restaurant are found in the center, and a marketplace, a bathhouse, a bakery, grain storage area, and a water station that supplies the whole facility are occupy the west side. The caravansary (built 1565 CE) was converted into a museum to preserve and display the historically significant collections of mosaics from the nearby Dead Cities, a landscape of famous Roman and Byzantine standing architecture.
The museum sustained heavy damage after being targeted with airstrikes in June 2015 and May 2016. The heaviest damage was in the bathhouse area of the caravansary and in the ‘fourth wing’ on the west side of the site. Site monitors from the Heritage Preservation Center, in conjunction with The Day After - Heritage Protection Initiative (TDA-HPI), conducted a physical assessment of the site and documented structural damage. Site monitors noted that the right/east wall of the hallway leading to the lavatories (modern era) had deviated by 32 cm. They also noted severe damage due to weather erosion and heavy snowfall. As a result of the site visit, the Heritage Preservation Center and TDA-HPI recommended immediate repairs to prevent further damage.
Damage to the Al Ma'ara Museum
The Al Ma'ara Museum has been repeatedly damaged during the conflict. On June 16, 2015 ASOR CHI sources reported that a Syrian regime helicopter dropped a barrel bomb onto the museum on the evening of June 15, 2015, causing massive destruction. The damage included collapsed domes, ceilings, and walls. On May 9, 2016 ASOR CHI sources reported that Syrian regime airstrikes had struck the museum for a second time, causing severe damage, particularly in the bathhouse area. Mosaics, previously covered by sandbags in previous preservation efforts, were covered in rubble. The exterior of the northwestern wall, which separated the market area from the bathhouse, collapsed into the narrow corridor.
Beginning on June 20, 2017 the Day After Heritage Protection Initiative (TDA-HPI), in partnership with the Syrian Heritage Center (SHP), began a mitigation project to repair the deviated wall. The wall was dismantled and reconstructed in order to protect the building from collapse. The project lasted 11 weeks, ending on August 27, 2017.
Following the initial deviation of the east wall, it was temporarily reinforced with two installments of crafted wood beams to stop further damage. Swedish whitewood was used in the creation of the beams because it does not absorb moisture, expand, or contract with changing weather conditions.
This was done in the following steps: Following the temporary reinforcement of the wall, the stones in the wall were numbered in sequence for later dismantling. Skilled workers then began the painstaking effort of carefully dismantling the wall in sequence in order to preserve the original order of the stones.
With extensive documentation of the wall, including topographic maps, photographs and sketches, workers began reconstructing the wall in the same manner as it was originally built. The bricks were relayed with mortar and the wall has now been secured.
*All photographs courtesy of TDA-HPI
ASOR in partnership with TDA-HPI is currently raising funds for emergency mitigation efforts to occur at the Khan As'ad Pacha (ca. 1753), a museum complex located near the Al Ma'ara Museum. Ongoing aerial bombardment over the course of the Syrian conflict has heavily damaged the the site. TDA-HPI plans to develop an emergency intervention study to assess the damage. Using that study, and similar methodology featured in rehabilitation efforts at Al Ma'ara Museum, TDA-HPI hopes to restore the Khan As'ad Pacha. You can help support these efforts by clicking on the 'Donate Here' button seen below. Your generous contribution will help to restore this historic site for future generations of Syrians.
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