The National Mall, Washington D.C., USA
September 26 - 28, 2018
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), both longtime advocates for the protection of global cultural heritage, jointly unveiled a reconstruction of Palmyra, Syria’s iconic Triumphal Arch on the National Mall today. As Mr Engel said during the 45 minute ceremony: “When you look at this beautiful Arch, we are seeing through the eyes of ancient civilizations, and to have it right here, set against the classical columns of the Capitol, is really extraordinary.”
The original arch was infamously destroyed by Islamic State Extremists in August, 2015. The reconstruction, carved from the same Egyptian marble as the original, has become an international symbol of resistance to extremist groups who seek to obliterate world history and heritage in favor of their own social, religious and cultural narratives. “The thugs of ISIS destroyed the physical arch but we will not and never allow them to take that profoundly important piece of human history away from us, away from the people of Syria, away from anyone,” Mr. Engel observed.
The reconstructed arch, created using state-of-the-art 3D scanning, printing and carving technology by Oxford's Institute for Digital Archaeology, had previously been displayed at New York’s City Hall Plaza, London’s Trafalgar Square, the G7 Summit in Florence and Dubai’s World Government Summit, attracting more than 10 million visitors. It was produced at the request of local Syrian residents. As Mr Royce noted: “After 2000 years of what it represented. It had a special place in history and the minds and memories of the people of that region.”
Congressmen Royce and Engel have sponsored key bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting cultural sites and artifacts, including the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (2016), the Rewards for Justice Program Act (2015), the Import Restrictions of Archaeological and Ethnographic Material from Iraq Act (2008), and the Emergency Protection for Cultural Heritage of Iraq Act (2004). These provisions, apart from safeguarding world heritage materials from defacement and destruction, are also aimed at depriving extremist groups of income derived from the sale of looted antiquities, a primary source of their financial support. Together, they form the backbone of the U.S. response to the global attack on cultural heritage – an assault the United Nations classified as “crimes against humanity” in November, 2017.
Mr Engel summed up the proceedings by declaring that “today we stand shoulder to shoulder, our voices as one, we will not let the terrorists erase history, we are in solidarity with the people of Syria, who have been subjected to such unimaginable horror by ISIS and the Assad Regime. We need to stay committed to ending this barbarity. Projects like this recreation of the Arch of Palmyra are a critical way to celebrate these iconic pieces and keep them very much alive and present in our collective consciousness.”
Watch IDA CTO Dr Alexy Karenowska, Executive Director Roger Michel, Ranking Member Eliot Engel and Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee speak at the unveiling of the Triumphal Arch on the National Mall, Sep 26, 2018