The destruction of antiquities and ancient monuments has, sadly, been making the headlines rather frequently. Although there probably are more appalling issues in the world, the loss of history and heritage is heart-breaking. And it isnâ€™t new. Ancient buildings and artefacts which had survived thousands of years have often found an unseemly demise in times of war, especially in the Middle East, even though measures have been taken regularly. Contrary to the legend, however, the Great Sphinx of Giza did not lose its nose to one of Napoleonâ€™s cannonballs!
During the First World War, when many an army was marching through the Middle East, Djemal Pasha, in command of the 4th Ottoman Army, tasked German archaeologist Theodor Wiegand with the setting up of a special monument protection unit, the Deutsch-TÃ¼rkisches Denkmalschutzkommando. Created in November 1916 on the model of a project being carried out in Belgium and France, this unit was responsible for the preservation of the ancient monuments scattered on the path of the 4th Army, notably in Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Wiegand later wrote that Djemal Pasha had hoped to raise awareness of the glorious past of these regions, but itâ€™s likely that the German archaeologist also performed an intelligence-related role and took advantage of his position to make notes about monuments which could be excavated after the war. Continue reading »