Italian restorers fix Palmyra artefacts destroyed by Isis

Italian restorers fix Palmyra artefacts destroyed by Isis
The busts will be returned to Syria towards the end of February. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
Sculptures salvaged from the national museum in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra after it was destroyed by the Islamic extremist group, Isis, in 2015, are being restored in Italy.

After a complex cross-border mission, the two funerary busts are now temporarily in the hands of restorers in Rome.

Both artefacts, from the 2nd-3rd century AD, were damaged by hammer blows by Isis militants as they captured the city in May 2015.

The museum’s chief, 81-year-old Khaled al-Asaad, was beheaded by the extremists as he tried to protect the site’s treasures in August of that year.

The two busts, a male and a female, were brought to Rome as part of an agreement between Incontro di Civiltà (Meeting of Civilisations) and the Directorate of Antiquities in Damascus.

The female bust is being restored fragment by fragment, while sophisticated 3D print will help restore the aristocratic features of the male one. Until recently, they were on display at an exhibition at the Colosseum.

The artefacts will be returned to Damascus later this month, where they will be stored in the vaults of Syria’s central bank.

“In my memory, there hasn’t been another case where sculptures which escaped a theatre of war have been restored in another country and then returned. It’s a small miracle,” said Francesco Rutelli, the president of Incontro di Civiltà.

Isis controlled the city until March 2016, when it was forced out by pro-Syrian government forces. But the group managed to recapture the city in December.