‘We should do nothing!’ On the history, destruction and rebuilding of Palmyra

Eurozine-Beltempel-Schmidt-ColinetAndreas Schmidt-Colinet and Andrea Zederbauer at Eurozine:

AZ: For some time now, there has been talk about reconstructing antique sites destroyed by IS. The German art historian Horst Bredekamp has spoken of ‘combative reconstruction’. In his opinion, the art of reconstruction must triumph over the destruction wrought by IS: as a show of resistance against its iconoclasm.

ASC: There is a neo-colonial undertone in this discussion that I don’t like at all. According to this argument, it is the temples excavated by ‘our’ archaeologists for ‘our’ tourism that are supposed to be reconstructed. In a sense, we have prepared a skeleton – for example the Temple of Bel in its 2015 state – and put it on display. And it is above all the West and its scholars that have done this. Today, neither archaeologists nor any institution responsible for cultural heritage would do it the same way. To then speak of reconstructing the temple is in some way perverse. This will not return the skeleton to life. No. I think, we should do absolutely nothing! We can only make suggestions, perhaps create 3D animations, but above all, we can provide funding and perhaps specialized personnel.

But first, precise records have to be made of everything, and the destruction must be recorded exhaustively. We archaeologists know how to create detailed architectural documentation of a destroyed building and how to reconstruct a temple or to rebuild it. It will take years just to identify all the stones that are lying there. Furthermore, why should one rebuild the temple as it looked between 1929 and 2015? That was the shortest phase of its life. During the longest phase, it was a mosque. One could leave the ruins as they are today. One could even carry out more excavations.

more here.