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July 2014

Nephilim

I quote five translations whose returns, in my opinion, have changed the text and therefore the meaning of Genesis 6:4.

New Living Translation
In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.

International Standard Version
The Nephilim were on the earth at that time (and also immediately afterward), when those divine beings were having sexual relations with those human women, who gave birth to children for them. These children became the heroes and legendary figures of ancient times.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Now giants were upon the earth in those days. For after the sons of God went in to the daughters of men and they brought forth children, these are the mighty men of old, men of renown.

Good News Translation
In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.

NEW WORLD TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES (2013 REVISION)

The Neph′i·lim* were on the earth in those days and afterward. During that time the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men, and these bore sons to them. They were the mighty ones of old times, the men of fame.

The concept of the verse, as it appears in these translations are similar. Connecting  the Nephilim  as the offspring of the fallen angels. Other translations may think the same, but leave the text intact.

the ancient Greek text with interpretive performance –
(the hermeneutics performance belongs to John T. Kolitsara
οἱ δὲ γίγαντες ἦσαν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις· καὶ μετ᾿ ἐκεῖνο, ὡς ἂν εἰσεπορεύοντο οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ πρὸς τὰς θυγατέρας τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ ἐγεννῶσαν ἑαυτοῖς· ἐκεῖνοι ἦσαν οἱ γίγαντες οἱ ἀπ᾿ αἰῶνος, οἱ ἄνθρωποι οἱ ὀνομαστοί.
The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
Almost all other translations are in the same pattern with the above two translations. The sticking point and question is the part of the sentence that says …” and also after that”.
It seems that Nephilim was existed before the Fallen Angels.
Here we have some interesting Commentaries and their analysis.
Pulpit Commentary
Verse 4. – There were. Not became, or arose, as if the giants were the fruit of the previously-mentioned misalliances; but already existedcontemporaneously with the sons of God (cf. Keil, Havernick, and Lange).Giants. Nephilim, from naphal, to fall; hence supposed to describe the offspring of the daughters of men and the fallen angels (Hoffman, Delitzsch). The LXX, translate by γίγαντες; whence the “giants” of the A.V. and Vulgate, which Luther rejects as fabulous; but Kalisch, on the strength of Numbers 13:33, accepts as the certain import of the term. More probable is the interpretation which understands them as men of violence, roving, lawless gallants, “who fall on others;” robbers, or tyrants (Aquila, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Luther, Calvin, Kurtz, Keil,. Murphy, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’). That they were “monsters, prodigies” (Tueh, Knobel), may be rejected, though it is not unlikely they were men of large physical stature, like the Anakim, Rephaim, and others (cf. Numbers 13:33). In the earth. Not merely on it, but largely occupying the populated region. In those days.

Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
There were giants in the earth in those days,…. That is, in the days before the sons of God took the daughters of men for wives, in such a general manner as before declared, or before the declension and apostasy became so universal; even in the times of Jared, as the Arabic writers (n) understand it, who say that these giants were begotten on the daughters of Cain by the children of Seth, who went down from the mountain to them in the days of Jared, see Genesis 5:20 the word “Nephilim” comes from a word which signifies to fall; and these might be so called, either because they made their fear to fall upon men, or men, through fear, to fall before them, because of their height and strength; or rather because they fell and rushed on men with great violence, and oppressed them in a cruel and tyrannical manner; or, as some think, because they fell off and were apostates from the true religion, which is much better than to understand them of apostate angels, whom the Targum of Jonathan mentions by name, and calls them Schanchazai and Uziel, who fell from heaven, and were in the earth in those days:

and also after that, which shows that the preceding clause respects giants in former times:

when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, came into their houses and chambers, and lay with them:

and they bare children unto them, or giants unto them, as may be supplied from the former clause; for the sense is, as there were giants before this general defection, so there were at this time, when there was a mixture of the Cainites and Sethites; which were the offspring of the sons of God, or posterity of Seth, mixing with the daughters of men, or the posterity of Cain; for this is not to be understood after the flood, as Aben Ezra, Ben Melech; and so they are described in the following words:

the same became mighty men; for tallness and strength, for power and dominion, for tyranny and oppression:

4. The Nephilim] i.e. giants. It is natural to refer to Numbers 13:33, “And there we saw the Nephilim (Or, giants), the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” The tradition that the Nephilim existed at the time of the Exodus was therefore quite strongly held. The precise meaning of the name has been lost. The passage in Numbers shews clearly that it denoted men of gigantic stature. The etymology very probably goes back to primitive times; and its origin is lost with the dialects that disappeared when the Israelites finally occupied Palestine. It was natural to connect the word with the Hebrew naphal, “to fall”; hence arose the renderings of Aquila, οἱ ἐπιπίπτοντες, “the assailants,” and of Symmachus, οἱ βιαῖοι, “the violent,” while among Patristic commentators the word was connected with “the fallen angels.” But these are merely guesses; and we must be content to leave the etymology of “the Nephilim,” like that of “the Rephaim” and “the Anakim,” unexplained.

and also after that] These words are introduced very awkwardly; and were very probably added as a gloss, in order to shew that the Nephilim existed not only in primitive ages, but also at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, as would be implied by Numbers 13:33. The continuance of the Nephilim in later times seems to contradict the account of the destruction of all the dwellers on the earth by the Flood. This contradiction is to be explained on the supposition, mentioned above, that the present passage is a fragment of a tradition in which the Flood was not recorded.

the mighty men, &c.] That is to say, “the well-known giants of old-world time,” familiar personages in Israelite folk-lore. To this class belong such names as “Nimrod,” Genesis 10:8, and “Og,” Deuteronomy 3:11.

Two classes of men, with strong hand and strong will, are here described. “The giants,” the well-known men of great stature, physical force, and violent will, who were enabled by these qualities to claim and secure the supremacy over their fellow-men. “Had been in the land in those days.” In the days when those intermarriages were beginning to take place, the warriors were asserting the claim of might. Violence and rapine were becoming rampant in the land. “And after that.” The progeny of the mixed marriages were the second and subsequent class of leading men. “The sons of God” are here contradistinguished from the “nephilim, or giants,” who appear therefore to have belonged to the Cainites. The offspring of these unhallowed unions were the heroes, the gallants, the mighty men, the men of renown. They were probably more refined in manners and exalted in thought than their predecessors of pure Cainite descent. “Men of name,” whose names are often in men’s mouths, because they either deserved or required to be named frequently on account of their influential or representative character. Being distinguished from the common herd by prominent qualities or memorable exploits, they were also frequently marked out by a special name or surname, derived from such trait of character or deed of notoriety. “Of old” (מעולם mē’ôlām). This has been sometimes explained “of the world,” in the sense of αἰών aiōn; but the meaning is too late for the present passage. The phrase uniformly means “of old,” covering a more or less extensive length of time. This note of time implies a writer probably after the deluge, who could speak of antediluvian affairs, as happening of old.

The Greek Septuagint also suggests that both the “Nephilim” and “mighty ones” are identical by using the same word gi′gan·tes (giants) to translate both expressions.

Reviewing the account, we see that verses 1 to 3 tell of “the sons of the true God” taking wives and of Jehovah’s statement that he was going to end his patience with men after 120 years. Verse 4 then speaks of the Nephilim proving to be in the earth “in those days,” evidently the days when Jehovah made the statement. Then it shows that this situation continued “after that, when the sons of the true God continued to have relations with the daughters of men,” and describes in more detail the results of the union of “the sons of the true God” with women.

Genesis 6:4 
HEB: הַנְּפִלִ֞ים הָי֣וּ בָאָרֶץ֮
NAS: The Nephilim were on the earth
KJV: There were giants in the earth
INT: the Nephilim were on the earth

 

By Historian

God’s Wife Asherah

 

Asherah (/ˈæʃərə/; Ugaritic: 𐎀𐎘𐎗𐎚 : ‘ṯrt; Hebrew: אֲשֵׁרָה‎), in Semitic mythology, is a mother goddess who appears in a number of ancient sources. She appears in Akkadian writings by the name of Ashratum/Ashratu, and in Hittite as Asherdu(s) or Ashertu(s) or Aserdu(s) orAsertu(s). Asherah is generally considered identical with the Ugaritic goddess ʼAṯirat.

Asherah is identified as the consort of the Sumerian god Anu and Ugaritic El, the oldest deities of their respective pantheons. This role gave her a similarly high rank in the Ugaritic pantheon. The name Dione, which like ‘Elat means “Goddess”, is clearly associated with Asherah in the Phoenician History of Sanchuniathon, because the same common epithet (‘Elat) of “the Goddess par excellence” was used to describe her at Ugarit. The Book of Jeremiah, written circa 628 BC, possibly refers to Asherah when it uses the title “Queen of Heaven”, stating: “pray thou not for this people…the children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the Queen of Heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.”(Hebrew: לִמְלֶכֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם‎) in Jer 7:18 and Jer 44:17–19, 25. (For a discussion of “Queen of Heaven” in the Hebrew Bible, see Queen of Heaven.)

In Israel and Judah

Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BC, polytheism was normal throughout Israel; it was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BC) that monotheism became universal among Jews. Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah at one time was worshiped as the consort of Yahweh, the national God of Israel. There are references to the worship of numerous gods throughout Kings, Solomon builds temples to many gods and Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh. Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh had erected this statue. (2 Kings 21:7) Further evidence includes, for example, an 8th-century combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert  where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and an inscription that refers to “Yahweh … and his Asherah”. The inscriptions found invoke not only Yahweh but El and Baal, and two include the phrases “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah.” There is general agreement that Yahweh is being invoked in connection with Samaria (capital of thekingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom); this suggests that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, and raises a question over the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god ofEdom. The “Asherah” is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of El, is unclear. It has been suggested that the Israelites might consider Asherah as a consort of Baal due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic History at the later period of Monarchy.

Further evidence includes the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, supporting the view that Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as theQueen of Heaven.

Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Bible.

From Wikipedia

The Hebrew God Yahweh is conceived of biblically as a male deity, with the covenant relationship between him and Israel often portrayed as that of a marriage between husband and wife.

(The other name by which the deity is most often referred to in the Hebrew Bible is Elohim [translated “God”], an originally plural form meaning “gods.” “The LORD” in English versions translates Yahweh–the assumed pronunciation of YHWH [a name of uncertain meaning], there being no vowels in the original Hebrew text.)


The perception of God as masculine is of course not surprising in a patriarchal or male-ruled society. As noted by Susan Ackerman, there are some feminizations of Yahweh in Isaiah (e.g., “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you” [66:13]; see also 42:14 and 49:15).

But then Isaiah also refers to kings as “nursing fathers” (49:23) and to daughters who “shalt suck the breasts of kings” (60:16), words that cannot be taken literally. In any case, Yahweh outside of some Isaianic imagery is masculine in the Hebrew Bible.

In the New Testament, “God” translates the Greek Theos, with God remaining a male deity. Thus Jesus regularly uses the word Father (Greek Pater, in Jesus’ Aramaic Abba) for God (e.g., Matt. 6:8-9; Mark 14:36; Luke 10:21; John 17:1; see also Paul’s use in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6).

Elaine Pagels points out that some Christian Gnostics thought of the divine in both masculine and feminine terms, with Jesus referring to the Holy Spirit as his Mother in the Gospel of Thomas and in the Gospel to the Hebrews, and with the Apocryphon of John describing the Trinity as Father, Mother, and Son.

As Pagels notes, however, such views were suppressed as heretical, with none of the Gnostic texts included in the New Testament canon. (The Nag Hammadi Library)

There is archeological evidence that at least some ancient Hebrews perceived of Yahweh as having a consort or female companion. This could be the origin of the mysterious Lady Wisdom found in Proverbs and the Apocrypha. (She is in some of the Gnostic texts as well.)

Wisdom (Hebrew hokma, a feminine noun) is personified in Proverbs not only as a woman but as a preexistent entity with Yahweh.

“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way,” says Lady Wisdom, “before his works of old,… and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”

(Prov. 8:22,30).

It was through Wisdom that Yahweh “founded the earth” (3:19), she is “a tree of life” to those who lay hold of her (3:18), and she offers to reward all who seek her:

“I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (8:17).

In the Apocrypha, Lady Wisdom is identified with the Torah or biblical law (Sirach 24:23; Baruch 4:1). In the New Testament, the preexistent Word (Greek Logos) at the beginning of the Gospel of John is reminiscent of Wisdom, and in 1 Cor. 1:24 Paul calls Christ “the wisdom of God” (Greek Theou Sophia).

The metaphor of Yahweh and the Hebrew people as husband and wife is found first in the book of Hosea, and continues in the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. It is a troubled marriage, for despite Yahweh’s “love toward the children of Israel,” they “look to other gods” (Hos. 3:1).

The wife’s infidelity is thus a metaphor for the Israelite people’s idolatry.

“Thy maker is thine husband,” Isaiah tells Israel, yet she beds down with others (Isa. 54:5; 57:7-8).

“Turn, O backsliding children,” Yahweh pleads in Jeremiah (3:14), “for I am married unto you.”

At one point Yahweh divorces Israel for her adultery, only to have “her treacherous sister Judah” commit adultery also (Jer. 3:8). Ezekiel 23 allegorizes Samaria and Jerusalem, the Israelite and Judahite capitals, as two sisters with a host of foreign lovers while both are married to Yahweh.

Particularly disturbing to feminist commentators are the biblical passages that describe Yahweh’s brutal punishment of the women who symbolize Israel’s unfaithfulness. As noted by Kathleen M. O’Connor, the portrayal of physical abuse by the divine in such passages implicitly condones such behavior in humans. Yahweh strips “the virgin daughter of Babylon” in Isa. 47:1-4, and helps the Babylonians rape Jerusalem in Jer. 13:26.

In Lamentations, Yahweh trods “the virgin” Jerusalem “as in a winepress” (1:15), and in Ezekiel he tells his wife Oholibah (Jerusalem),

“I will raise up thy lovers against thee,” and they will “strip thee out of thy clothes”; they will take away not only “thy sons and thy daughters” but “thy nose and thine ears,” and “thus will I make thy lewdness to cease from thee”

(23:22-27)

Needless to say, the thought behind these metaphors of Yahweh the husband physically abusing his wife presents a challenge to modern biblical interpreters. Through such imagery “the Bible,” writes Sharon H. Ringe in The Women’s Bible Commentary,

“seems to bless the harm and abuse with which women live and sometimes die.”

The brutality seems hardly ameliorated by Yahweh’s assurances to his mutilated wife of a brighter tomorrow, for they make God sound like the stereotypical wife beater who minimizes what he has done and promises not to do it again:

“In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee… Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel,… and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry”

(Isa. 54:8; Jer. 31:4).

ASHERAH –  The Lord God’s Lady?


The goddess Asherah was the consort of El (“god”), the supreme god of Canaan and father of the popular Baal.

In the Bible her name often appears as ha asherah, meaning “the” asherah. In such instances the reference is not to the goddess but to a symbol of her, an object (in the plural asherim) that was apparently a sacred pole, tree, or group of trees (hence the translation “groves”) at Israelite sanctuaries or “high places” as well as by altars of Baal. The erecting of asherim was among the “evil” deeds of kings like Ahab and Manasseh, and cutting the things down was a regular chore of “right” kings like Hezekiah and Josiah.


The presence of Asherah or her symbol at places where Yahweh, the biblical God of the Hebrews, was worshipped raises the question of whether the Canaanite goddess was considered also to be the consort of Yahweh.

We know from references to,

  • “the sons of God” (Gen. 6:1-4; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7)
  • “the host of heaven” (1 Kings 22:19)
  • “angels” (Gen. 19:1; Ps. 103:20)
  • God’s statement “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26),

…that Yahweh was not alone in his heaven.

We know also that Yahweh supplanted the Canaanite El to the extent that God’s other names in the Hebrew Bible include El, El Elyon (“God Most High”), El Shaddai (“God Almighty”), and the (originally) plural form Elohim (as in Gen. 1:1).

But did Yahweh take El’s woman too?

The answer may well be found, appropriately enough, in some graffiti, inscriptions dating from the eighth century B.C.E., found on walls and storage jars at two sites, Khirbet el-Kom and Kuntillet Ajrud, in Israel. (See Dever’sRecent Archaeological Discoveries and Biblical Research.)

The graffiti includes blessings such as,

“I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and by his asherah,” and “I bless you by Yahweh of Teiman and by his asherah.”

Does this mean by Yahweh and by his goddess? Or is it saying “by Yahweh and by his sacred pole”?

All we may safely assume at this point has been well put by the French epigrapher Andre Lemaire:

“Whatever an asherah is, Yahweh had one!”

by Ronald L. Ecker

Who Were the Essenes?

Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 02/07/2013

Who Were the Essenes?

In a recent study about the Essenes of Qumran, archaeologist Eyal Regev used the tools of social archaeology to answer the question, “Who were the Essenes?” Photo by Zev Radovan.

A recent study has sought to determine by sophisticated new methods whether Khirbet Qumran was home to a Qumran community of sectarian Jews, the Essenes of Qumran.

The new study by Eyal Regev of Bar-Ilan University examines the architectural plan of Qumran and applies so-called “access analysis” to map the site’s spatial organization in order to uncover the social ideology of the Essenes of Qumran.

Regev characterizes this approach to studying the Qumran community as social archaeology, “now an established field of research which uses archaeological records to reconstruct the belief system and social organization of past societies.”

By physically dividing up and demarcating spaces—walls, doorways and entrances that are used on an everyday basis—the architecture thereby classifies and controls the movement of people and the spaces they inhabit. Studying these spaces can help archaeologists answer the question, “Who were the Essenes?”

In a detailed analysis of the physical spaces of the Qumran community, Regev finds the occupied area is divided into different space segments, “each connected to a controlling central passage with minimal connections between segments.” The spaces within segments are also “minimally connected.” Access to most spaces is therefore “limited, and several boundaries must be crossed to reach most spaces from any starting point on the site.”

The large rooms (such as the dining room and the so-called scriptorium) used by the Essenes of Qumran “were not easily accessible and were out of view of casual entrants.” This, says Regev, means that “social encounters between the inhabitants were quite uncommon.”

From such analyses, Regev concludes that the spaces of the Qumran community reflect “an ethos of social segregation, not only between the inhabitants themselves, but, more importantly, between the inhabitants and the outside world.”

The organization of space at Qumran thus “reflects sectarian organization and ideology.” Moreover, all this is consistent with the ideology of the famous Community Rule, one of the original intact scrolls. While this does not prove that the sectarian Qumran community was Essene, together with much other evidence, both from the architecture and the finds from the excavation, the Essene identification, says Regev, is “extremely plausible.”

Syrian Archaeology, ‘Scale of the Scandal’

By : Michel Al-Maqdissi

Introduction

The Syrian crisis has recently become noticeably more serious, and has turned into one of the most alarming situations in the Near East since the end of the Iraq War. The consequences to archaeology will be seen in the short and long term.

Apamea, 20 July 2011

In the short term, damage is occurring due to the increasing number of thefts of antiquities, illegal excavations, paralysed and wrecked museums and a halt to fieldwork. In the long term it will be affected by the massive exodus of trained archaeologists at the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées (DGAM) and at the Musée National. Their absence will generate dramatic problems when archaeology in Syria returns to normal.

There is a deep fear of a brain drain, as a consequence of the emigration of researchers and the decline of scientific infrastructure. This is a disastrous phenomenon, which in both quantitative and qualitative terms effectively implies the disappearance of the DGAM as a scientific institution. This will impede the correct management of the post-war phase.

This is an authentic nightmare. Meanwhile, what can the DGAM do?

Apamea 4 April 2012, showing looting holes.

There are at least two points that escape foreign observers. First, is the DGAM’s inability to act on the ground in order to assess the damage that has already been done. The organization’s archaeologists receive no support, and have to be satisfied with diverse sources of information in order to write their reports.

Second, the absence of guards at the archaeological sites exposes them to vandalism and trafficking of antiquities, carried out by quasi-organised bands, formed by both by poor individuals and professionals who systematically export the objects outside the country. It should be made clear that certain groups are linked to international centres in Europe, the United States, even Arab countries and Israel. In this way, Syria has become an important source of increasing illegal trade, about which indirect information is beginning to amount.

Dura Europos, satellite view, 28 June 2012

This matter is completely out of the control of the archaeological authorities and the DGAM does even not possess the means to access the lists of the collections that are hidden in the country or in foreign deposits.

It should be added that, as often occurs in this type of situation, the traffickers keep well ahead of the responsible institutions. The most urgent need is really to find the necessary support and specialised teams to draw up lists of traffickers and, above all, to create an inventory of the antiquities that have been stolen.

Current situation: Factors and results

To ensure we achieve good results, we should base ourselves on tangible realities to create efficient networks of cooperation to address common objectives. These must be defined freely with no political influences.

Dura Europos, 2 April 2014 showing looting holes.

We need to act rapidly against a situation that is becoming noticeably worse. In fact we are faced by a volcano in permanent eruption with a mixture of hate and horror. It is breaking down Syrian society and its values through the violent and systematic destruction of its heritage. The situation is comparable to a boiling crater of lava. Around this volcano, archaeological heritage is suffering eruptive blasts, with the population hovering between expectation, anguish and hope.

Archaeological heritage in danger

After more than three years of civil war, we have reached a point that can be classed as catastrophic as regards the current state of Syrian archaeological heritage. What can be said about the numerous reports of the organised plundering of Apamea, Dura Europos and Palmyra, to cite only the most famous sites, and the robberies at the Museum of Raqqa and the antiquities storehouse at Qal’at Ja’bar?

Neo-Assyrian statue from Tell Ajaja flanked by ISIS members. Photo courtesy Michel al-Maqdissi.

Looted funerary bust from Palmyra flanked by two Syrian soldiers. Photo courtesy Michel al-Maqdissi.

Finally we must mention the latest outrage against humanity to destroyed the Neo Assyrian sculpture statue from Tell Ajaja (ancient Saddikanni) by a Salafi group in the region of Deir ez-Zor.

Without any clear objective, with no strategy and with numerous, indecisive and quarrelling leaders, the people of Syria are forced to entrust the management of the crisis to the military. This reasoning is working perfectly at the present time; the gods of war seem more comfortable with military management, they decide with lucidity and determination to unleash the destruction with the approval of the great world powers, risking the lives of men and women and at the same time, destroying the cultural and archaeological potential of a region with the same macabre scenarios and the same vocabulary full of hate and avarice.

This is the scale of the scandal. It will have to be accepted that, to combat an uprising of the people, the logic of war must be applied and in which our memory, our inheritance and our heritage are destroyed. We have seen that the history of conflicts in the region shows how, in many places like Iraq and Afghanistan, archaeological sites and historical monuments are destroyed forever.

Conclusion

I will finish this overview with a statement that should guide our thoughts: that for three years we have witnessed in Syria a profound, unprecedented archaeological upheaval and, for the first time in our history, the question of Syrian identity is really under threat.

Neo-Assyrian statue from Tell Ajaja being hammered by ISIS member. Photo courtesy Michel al-Maqdissi.

We are in the midst of a dramatic and absolutely heart-rending and inhuman situation. At the same time, we must stress that the authorities with responsibilities for Syrian antiquities are paralysed because of the lack of means. The DGAM is impotent to protect Syria’s priceless archaeological heritage, which has almost become a painful burden. This is a crucial point, although it has been repeated in all the deadly conflicts in the region.

It is therefore important to plan our efforts clearly in order to provide real help to the DGAM and, above all, cross the frontiers that now divide the country, reaching both sides. With such a plan, it might be thought that the problem is practically solved. However, other obstacles await us, even before starting the real task.

The ideal combination of actions must be carried out at the same time inside and outside Syria, the land being looted and the lands purchasing the loot. But most difficult of all, we must also offer to lend a hand both to the DGAM and to the people operating in areas under the control of the opposition. We must take action that would help lead each of the two sides to cultivate the notion of respect and protection for our mutual ancestors’ creations.

Michel Al-Maqdissi is a researcher at the Louvre Museum, teaches at the Université Saint-Joseph, Beirut, and until 2012 was Director of Excavations for the Direction Générale des Antiquités et des Musées, Damascus.

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