“I am deeply concerned by the situation at the site of Palmyra, the fighting is putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East, and its civilian population.“

–Irina Bokova, Director General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2016.

On 27th March the ancient city of Palmyra was recaptured from the Islamic State (IS) fighters by Russian and Syrian troops. While the soldiers are busy clearing mines and other bobby traps, one thing is obvious, the city – which contained the sprawling ruins of the Palmyrian kingdom capital have been consistently and extensively destroyed. The conscious destruction of the city is in accordance with the IS policy of cultural genocide – but this atrocity might be the greatest one yet.

The wealthy trading city was a marvel of the ancient world – mixing aesthetics from Greece, Rome and Arab cultures. Its wealth allowed it to construct monumental projects, such as the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs in the surrounding hills. Such wonders had survived sacking by the Romans and the Timurids, but it speaks volumes about the brutality of IS that the greatest sacking it received was not from the Mongol hordes, but a group of radical fighters.