Born between the Tigris and the Euphrates, ancient Mesopotamia, “the land between two rivers”, is considered the cradle of human civilization or, at least, one of its main birthplaces. Archaeological discoveries place in this fertile crescent the earliest origins of agriculture, the birth of writing and the first religions, governments and social orders.
This historical land corresponds to most of the current Iraq and Kuwait, as well as to smaller parts of Syria, Turkey and Iran. Not only these countries, but the whole Middle East in general, is place to invaluable ancient treasures. However, a great number of the cultural sites there are faced with major threats, as they have been caught up in the middle of ongoing conflicts that are ravaging the region. As a consequence, UNESCO included several sites to the List of World Heritage in Danger, in the hope that the international community could join efforts to save these endangered properties.
Every year, the International Day for Monuments and Sites is celebrated on April 18th, with the aim to raise awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage and the importance of its conservation. Created in 1982 by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), it was later approved at the UNESCO General Conference in 1983. To celebrate this day, we have released satellite images of six World Heritage sites in danger in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Space technology at the service of cultural heritage
Many historical sites have been damaged and destroyed, not only in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, but all over the world, while many others remain at risk. Preserving our cultural heritage is key not only from a humanistic point of view, but also to enhance sustainable development and prompt post-conflict economic regeneration through tourism. However, monitoring these sites is a complex task, given their location and the danger they pose to people on the field.
Very high resolution satellite images ensure reliable and timely monitoring over heritage sites located in areas affected by ongoing conflicts and threats, without the risks and costs associated to having people on the ground and where it’s difficult to verify potential damages otherwise. Moreover, satellite archive imagery provides a unique opportunity to compare and assess the damages these sites may have suffered over time.