ISIS fighters couldn’t convince a beloved Syrian archeologist to give up the location of valuable antiquities, but they can blow up everything still nailed down—and according to reports, they are: on Sunday operatives exploded a 2,000-year-old temple in the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra.
The group reportedly placed explosives around the ruins of the temple of Baalshamin, which dates back to 17 AD, destroying the inner area, called a cella, as well as some exterior columns. The temple was, according to the BBC, one of the best-known buildings located in the ancient ruins of the city, which is a Unesco World Heritage site. From the BBC:
Emma Loosley, a professor at Exeter University who lived near the ancient city for three years, said the temple’s cella was “pretty much perfect”.
“I can’t think of another temple as beautifully preserved as the temple of Baalshamin, and what was special about Palmyra was that it was a unique culture,” she told the BBC.
“It had its own gods, its own form of art and architecture that you don’t get anywhere else.”
According to the New York Times, watchdog groups are in agreement that ISIS fighters destroyed the building but disagree on when the actual demolition took place. The Syrian Observatory says the building came down last month; Maamoun Abdul-Karim, the head of Syria’s Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, tells Reuters the explosion occurred Sunday.
The terrorist group has destroyed a number of historical sites around Palmyra since overtaking the city in May—according to the Times, they’ve also blown up two tombs and smashed half-a-dozen ancient statues with sledgehammers.
Even so, some of the city’s history is safe—for now. Immediately before the invasion, many of the city’s smaller artifacts were smuggled to a safe location, the exact coordinates of which Khalid al-Asaad, the city’s long-time chief of antiquities, reportedly died last week to protect.