A digital register of sites and monuments for Syria

(Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (DAI), Berlin, Germany)

Keywords: Syria, heritage preservation, digital record

Syria counts among the world’s outstanding cultural landscapes. Since the outbreak of the current civil war, however, the dense distribution of monuments in Syria and the unusually good state of preservation of many sites is acutely threatened or already lost. It is against this backdrop that the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), in cooperation with the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin (SMB-SPK), has been pursuing the “Syrian Heritage Archive Project” (SHAP) since 2013. It is supported by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office as part a cultural preservation programme.
With the creation of a digital record of Syrian cultural assets, the project aims to digitize and preserve primary research data for long-term access, and is gradually generating the basis for future work in the area of heritage preservation. The Syrian Heritage Archive Project is carried out within and provides an indispensable basis for the broader project “Stunde Null – A Future for the Time after the Crisis”, under the umbrella of ArcHerNet.
Since 2013, extensive archival records and museums holdings have been digitised and systematically captured in the databases of the DAI. More than 120,000 datasets have thus far been integrated into the DAI’s digital research environment (iDAI.world) and administered according to a standardised methodology. It is precisely the information generated by the DAI’s longstanding research activity in Syria that is documenting the cultural heritage of the region in a substantial way. Numerous images and plans of historic monuments and archaeological artefacts from almost all key periods of Syrian history provide valuable data to those working on the urgent problems of preservation in Syria and contribute to international efforts for the protection of cultural heritage.