A group of 20 artifacts temporarily housed at Prague’s National Museum for restoration after being damaged during armed conflict in Syria will be returned to the country next month.
Among the items repaired by the Czech museum’s restorers and currently on public view are limestone funerary portraits from the ancient site of Palmyra. The area suffered damage in 2015 during an invasion by Islamic State group militants. Syria regained control of the territory in 2017.
Prague National Museum director Michal Lukes told AFP, which first reported the news, in a statement that “fighting,” “ideological reasons,” and “local people looking for something to sell” are common ways artifacts are damaged in conflict zones. Lukes said the museum believes these works were intentionally damaged with a metal hammer.
The museum has been working with Syrian government officials overseeing restoration of cultural heritage sites since 2017. In 2022 officials transferred the 20 artifacts from Syria to be restored by a conservation team of six.
Palmyra’s relics have been the subject of diplomatic efforts by cultural experts before. The region was retaken from Islamic State militants by the Syrian army with support from Russia in 2017. Restoration work around the site, located in central Syria’s Homs Governorate province, has been ongoing since Russian specialists were called on to help rebuild the site in 2018.
The museum has carried out similar restoration partnerships with cultural officials from Sudan and Afghanistan. The Syrian artifacts, others of which include metal and bronze objects, are on display at the Prague museum’s current exhibition, “Restored Face,” that is slated to close in May.