In a side wing of the now-closed National Museum in Damascus, two dozen young archaeologists are working quietly and methodically. They catalogue, photograph and then finally delicately pack artifacts that are thousands of years old into wooden crates to be stored in top secret storage facilities in Damascus and elsewhere.
They are part of the 2,500-person team from Syria’s Department of Antiquities that has spent the past three years evacuating pieces from the country’s national museums amid Syria’s devastating war, now in its fifth year.
An estimated quarter of a million people have been killed and nine million have been forced to flee their homes. But also caught in the crossfire are ancient relics of Syria’s heritage, the cradle of civilization that gave birth to the roots of western culture.