Heritage in the Crossfires:
Pioneering New Approaches to Protecting Stone Heritage in Conflict Zones
Ongoing conflict in the Middle East has given heritage an unexpected and tragic spotlight. The targeted destruction of heritage sites across the region has given rise to widespread condemnation and increased legislation to protect these sites which represent our common history of humanity. In addition to increased incidents of looting—often for the sake of funding further hostile activities—numerous sites have been deliberately damaged and destroyed on religious grounds or purely out of malice. Recent examples of these are the destruction of Palmyra, Mosul and the Great Mosque of al-Nuri.
Stemming from a diverse range of backgrounds, including geomorphology, archaeology, and even zoology, the project team deploys a suite of methods to understand how modern bullet damage differs from more natural weathering processes. We identify several key factors that predict the extent of damage caused by gunfire, including the prior condition of the rock and the weaponry itself. We hope this research will inform both the conservation strategies of rock art sites specifically, and those of other Middle Eastern heritage sites caught within conflict zones.