Twenty antiquities damaged during the civil war in Syria and restored by Czech specialists are on display at the National Museum in Prague awaiting their return to their country of origin at the end of May. Among the works on display are three stone funerary portraits from the ancient site of Palmyra that were damaged by Islamic State jihadist fighters when they seized the UNESCO-listed city in 2015. The objects were "damaged by fighting, either deliberately for ideological reasons or by locals looking for something to sell," National Museum director Michal Lukes told AFP. “These portraits were all smashed with metal hammers,” he pointed out.
Syrian government forces regained control of Palmyra in 2017. The city had previously been the scene of public executions and its iconic monuments and archaeological remains had been destroyed by militants from the Islamic State group. Thanks to its cooperation with Sudan and Afghanistan, the National Museum in Prague brought the twenty works from Syria in 2020. Its team of six restorers took a year to restore them. The set includes “metal, bronze and iron objects and the Palmyran funerary portraits,” Michal Lukes added. The exhibition features a gold-covered pin dating from 1600-1200 BC, bronze razors and a knife, as well as copper and bronze statuettes of ancient deities.
The National Museum in Prague has been cooperating with the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums since 2017. “We have started to help them by providing the much needed materials to preserve, store, transport and treat artifacts mainly from war zones,” said explained Michal Lukes. This cooperation resulted in the formation of a joint team of archaeologists working near the city of Latakia in western Syria. At the end of the exhibition, the objects will return to Syria at the end of May, explained the director of the National Museum. “I hope that the situation in Syria will be calm enough so that they are not damaged again,” he told AFP. The exhibition is a tribute not "only to Syria but to all the countries where a war is raging and monuments are damaged", underlined Michal Lukes.