“Jihadists looting ancient archaeological sites, including 244 BCE synagogue; officials warn 5,000 years of history being erased.”
An Israeli news website has shared an AP report that ISIS (Islamic State) has taken over a number of archaeological sites in Syria and Northern Iraq, including the famous site of Dura Europos, which is known for the discovery of an ancient Jewish synagogue there.
The report states:
Much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria, which is rich in the archaeological remains of numerous ancient civilizations, is now under the iron fist of ISIS…
Aside from destroying pagan statues from the Assyrian period in Tell Ajaja, Abdulkarim noted the 2,300-year-old city of Dura Europos has come in for particularly intense looting.
The ancient city lies near the Iraqi border on a cliff overlooking the Euphrates River, and has fallen into ISIS hands; satellite imagery from April shows numerous holes from looter digs littering the site.
Images show hundreds of people, including gunmen, taking part in the excavations from dawn until night in many cases. Abdulkarim notes dealers are present, and “when they discover an artifact, the sale takes place immediately. They are destroying entire pages of Syrian history.”
One of the earliest known Jewish synagogues is located at Dura Europos along with numerous pagan temples and churches, making the digging particularly troubling.
The fate of the synagogue, which was discovered in 1932 and dated by an Aramaic inscription to 244 CE, remains unknown.
The synagogue at Dura Europos is of great significance for the study of early Judaism. The murals painted on the walls of the synagogue provide rare and valuable insight into Jewish thought in the early centuries A.D. regarding matters such as the afterlife, resurrection, and ideas associated with temple, priesthood, ritual and more.
Some have argued that the murals represent a presentation of the Jewish “mysteries” — with which LDS readers may see many parallels to concepts found in modern LDS temple worship. A great article related to this topic was recently written by my good friend, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, entitled: “The Ezekiel Mural at Dura Europos: A Witness of Ancient Jewish Mysteries?”
You can access this article at BYU Studies: https://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=8516
Or you can read a free version at Jeff’s Temple Themes website: http://templethemes.net/publications/BradshawFinal.pdf
Anything lost from the precious artifacts discovered at these sites is a great tragedy and needs to be stopped.