Sam Dagher, The Wall Street Journal
April 25, 2014
ALEPPO, Syria—One must dodge sniper bullets these days to get to the Aleppo National Museum, located on the edge of the historic center of this war-torn northern Syrian city.
Inside, the place looks more like a bunker than a cultural institution housing treasures from archaeological excavations across northern and eastern Syria over the past 100 years.
In the courtyard, a massive basalt stone lion from Arslan Tash—the site of an Iron Age kingdom east of Aleppo conquered by the Assyrians in the 9th century B.C.—is now almost completely covered with bags filled with sand and pebbles to protect it from mortars and rockets that often crash into the museum's courtyard.
Nearby statues of goddesses, kings and warriors are similarly cocooned and camouflaged or completely entombed inside freshly made concrete blocks.
Exhibition halls are bare and glass display cases empty, covered in thick layers of dust. Artifacts like the prized second millennium B.C. cuneiform tablets from the ancient city of Mari have either been locked in the basement or shipped to the capital, Damascus.