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Prague to Return Restored Artifacts Damaged in Syria

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Prague to Return Restored Artifacts Damaged in Syria

A group of twenty artifacts temporarily housed at Prague’s National Museum for restoration after being damaged during an armed conflict in Syria will be returned to the country next month.

Among the grouping of items that are being overseen by the Czech museum’s restorers and 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’s 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 the works were intentionally damaged with a metal hammer.

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Two images of the same painting, one in black-and-white and the other in colour.  The painting is an abstraction largely composed of green.

The museum has been working with Syrian government officials overseeing restorations of cultural heritage sites since 2017. In 2022, officials transferred the twenty 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 subce 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.

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